Kobe

2016 was my second Christmas away from home and it’s always a tricky time. It never quite feels like Christmas without being in Far North Queensland with my family – sticky heat and barbecue and swatting flies away from the excessive amounts of food. It was certainly surreal to be cold for Christmas. I was fortunate to be surrounded by lovely people (and fellow Christmas orphans).

On Christmas Eve we went to the city of Kobe, about 30km west of Osaka. Japan’s sixth-largest city, it is famous for its beef (of little interest to me, obviously) and was home to the first settlement of foreigners when Japan re-opened its borders in the mid-19th century. It was also an important port for Japan’s earliest trading days with China, perfectly positioned on the side of a hill overlooking the bay. Access to the top of the hill is via  ropeway/cable car or, Lonely Planet tells me, a thirty minute walk from Shin-Kobe station.

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We arrived at the more central Kobe station of Sannomiya and, since it was a lovely day and we were reluctant to pay for subway tickets, decided to walk to the base of the hill and climb from there. We passed through a number of beautiful shrines along the way, until we found what seemed to be the beginning of the path upward.

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The views on our ascent were spectacular – a panorama of the port, and way away to either side. It was hard to say where Kobe ended and Osaka began.

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As usual, I was reminded how unfit I am not through common sense, but by trying to climb a mountain. The supposed thirty minute walk became a three-hour hiking adventure in an attempt to keep climbing toward the top of the ropeway, which we could see from our position but somehow struggled to reach on the path that we were on. It was an excellent day nonetheless – peaceful surroundings and good company more than made up for slight anxiety about being lost in the forest.

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The sun was setting (and I was quite certain my legs were going to fall off) by the time we made it to the top (with me lagging particularly far behind). At the top of the ropeway is a little collection of shops and cafes/restaurants, all sparkling with lights on Christmas Eve. We drank hot chocolate and watched the bay light up by night, then took the cable car back down because the walking track was closed after dark.

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After a long day of walking we soaked our tiredness away at the Kobe onsen, looking out over the bay, and relaxed. 1am ramen back in Osaka was a great way to start Christmas Day.

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It was a very excellent adventure.

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