Monday, 11 October 2010

Osaka-Nara-Kyoto-Kobe-Okayama-Hiroshima trip – 11 Oct 10

We woke up super early at 6am today as we have to catch a train to Sannomiya in Kobe. As we couldnt purchase the JR West Kansai 1 day pass when we first arrived at Kansai airport, we just purchased the normal train ticket to Sannomiya. The train ticket to Sannomiya is a day pass with no train timing indicated on the ticket and the train ride can be taken at anytime of the day.
Kyoto JR train station
Train ticket to Sannomiya in Kobe
Inside the train

The direct train ride to Sannomiya station takes about 63min. I choose to stay at Sannomiya as it is the hub of many transportation systems in Kobe. JR West, Hankyu Railway, Hanshin Electric Railway, Kobe Municipal Subway, and Kobe New Transit use Sannomiya Station as their core station.

After we exited the station, we took quite a while to figure out the direction to our hotel as there are so many exits at the station and the map to the hotel did not indicate which exit. ><" I managed to figure out the direction by identifying Sogo departmental store.
Sannomiya station
Sogo departmental store
At first glance, the name looks simliar to Toyoko inn
Toyoko inn is hidden beside this building 
Toyoko Inn Kobe Sannomiya No.2

I choose to stay at Toyoko inn as it is the cheapest ensuite room which I can find in Sannomiya. This is the only hotel in our Japan trip which provide breakfast. As the check in time is 4pm, we left our luggage with the front desk. 

Hotel front desk
Free internet access
Dining area for breakfast

From JR Sannomiya station, we took train to JR Maiko station which is 20min ride away.  It is the nearest train station to Akashi Kaikyo Bridge Bridge Exhibition Center.
View from one of the station located along the coast

I wanted to visit Akashi Kaikyo Bridge as it is the longest suspension bridge in the world. While doing my research for this trip, I discovered that there is a tour to Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and includes visit to one of the tower. I have make reservation online at "Bridge World" guided tour prior to the trip. The tour is in Japanese only and held twice a day from Thursdays - Sundays. The tour duration is 2.5 hours.

The fee for the tour is ¥3,000 ~ S$63 per person and payable when attending the briefing session. All enrolled in the tour are Japanese except 3 of us (Fredrick's mom & relatives didnt join the tour as it involves a lot of walking). There is a staff who can speak simple English who verified our name and we have to sign a indemnity form before the start of the tour.
Listening to the briefing
Watching the documentary

We have a tour inside the Bridge Exhibition Center where the history and technology of the bridge are shown. I don't bother to follow the guide as he speak in Japanese. I walked around on my own as the description of the displays are written in Japanese and English.
Model of Akashi Kaikyo Bridge
Foundation of the tower
Comparison with the height of Tokyo tower
Model of full size anchor bolt which is use to fasten the concrete foundation
Actual scale of cable strand and socket

Akashi Kaikyo Bridge 明石海峡大橋 is the world's longest suspension bridge. It spans the Akashi Strait (Akashi Kaikyo) between Kobe and Awaji Island and is part of the Kobe-Awaji-Naruto Expressway, one of the three expressways which connect Honshu with Shikoku. The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge was opened in 1998.
  Akashi Kaikyo Bridge
Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall
Start of the tour
1km walk to the tower
Definitely not for those wearing high heels
Lift to the top of the tower
Inside the lift
Access to the roof
 View of Kobe
View of Awaji Island on the other side
The cars look like minature
I'm at 289m above sea level
Group photo
Vending machine selling bread
Akashi Kaikyo Bridge Mascot

After the tour, we met up with Fredrick's mom and relatives. They went to a supermarket nearby to buy souvenirs when we were touring Akashi Kaikyo Bridge. We then took a train to Motomachi station.

Nankimachi 南京町 is one of the 3 chinatowns in Japan. The other 2 Chinatowns are Nagasaki and Yokohama. Nankimachi is few minutes walk from Motomachi station.
Entrance to Nankimachi
T-shirts for dogs
Buns and dumplings
Roasted duck
A pavilion in Nankimachi

As it's almost lunch time, we decided to have our lunch in Nankimachi. I wanted to try the dumplings but Fredrick's mom and aunt wanted to have a proper meal for lunch. Hence we splitted and I went to search for dumplings on my own.

I went into a restaurant which sell dumplings and one of the staff could speak Chinese. However the dumpling is not nice at all. =(

I felt that Chinatown is more of a gimmick to attract tourists. Don't bother to try Chinese food in Chinatown as they ain't authentic at all.
Restaurants in Nankimachi

Then I saw another restaurant with long queue and I also join the queue. The dumplings are sold for ¥90 each and minimum order is 3 dumplings. The dumplings are delicious!
Long queue = good food?
The pig is so kawaii
The staff are so busy as the order never stop
I eat rubbish
Another gate in Nankimachi
Everything is expensive in Japan, including fruits
Shopping arcade near Nankimachi
Bridal shop
Sewage cover
Streets in Kobe
Parking is so expensive! ¥100 ~ S$1.50 for 10min

Next, we went to Meriken park which is 10min walk from Nankimachi. I mentioned on the first day that it turn out to be blessing in disguise when we couldn't puchase the JR West Kansai 1 day pass. We wouldnt utilise the pass fully as we skipped the rest of the itinerary and return back to hotel. All of us are tired as we only have couple of hours sleep yesterday.
Meriken Park
Kobe earthquake memorial park 
Remains from the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake
Kobe tower
Daimaru departmental store

By the time we reached Toyoko inn, it's 4.30pm and we proceed to checked in. I fall asleep soon after having my bath. I woke up at around 7pm when Fredrick's mom called.
Double room

We walked around the streets near Toyoko inn to search for dinner. In the end, we have dinner at Matsuya. Matsya is a 24hr fast food chain selling Japanese food.
Inside Matsuya

I ordered pork rice 豚めし and to my surprise a raw egg was given to me. I saw some customers cracking the egg into the miso soup and drank it. I pointed to the poster to exchange for soft boil egg since I couldnt converse with the staff.
Soft boil egg in exchange for the raw egg

After the dinner, we head back to the hotel and rest for the day. I skipped few attractions such as Rokko mountain, Sake breweries and Kitano-cho as we ended the day early.  I find that 1 day in Kobe is rush and I would recommend spending at least 2 days here.

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