Sunday, June 03, 2007

Kobe Seminar

My first year as an ALT in Japan comes to a close, but fret not dear readers, I re-contracted in full. And I will probably do so for several more years. As such all JET Program ALTs who re-contracted were required to meet up in Kobe last week for our major 're-contracting seminar'. Over 600 ALTs from the southern half of Japan attended the conference, allowing many of us to glimpse the beautiful port city of Kobe Japan for the first time. Granted we spent most of the three day business trip in meetings, we did get our evenings to ourselves. I took advantage of the extremely limited free hours and went out on the town snapping shots of everything I could... starting with the famous Kobe tower. Kobe is also famous for its expensive Kobe beef, an impressive 'earthquake' memorial, and last but not least... the most beautiful women in Japan. Yes, Kobe boasts a big boast, but after checking it out for myself... it was all spectacular!

In Japan most restaurants put out picture menu displays showing the main courses. This makes it easy to walk in and order what you want, especially if you don't know how to read kanji 漢字. But most 'food' is written in katakana, so it's quite easy to get around. While this restaurant only had a photo menu many other places have full displays of lifelike food made out of plastic and wax. It's just all part of the larger food sensation that people can enjoy on an island nation such as Japan. You can find any variety of cuisine hailing from all four corners of the globe. The only downside is that it's always difficult to figure out what you're in the mood for.

Don't be fooled... these aren't kimonos. Rather they are the lighter cotton summer version of a kimono called yukata 浴衣. They are very beautiful, and a lot cheaper than a regular kimono. They are worn casually for summer festivals and after bathing at an onsen 温泉. It's very lovely to see, and this time of year many of the young women are putting on the sandals and light yukatas and going shopping. This is one of the reasons I love Japan so much, because you get to see stuff like this.

Japanese cities are great for shopping, but even better still are the port towns. Most Japanese cities are port towns, so it makes Japan one of the leading countries on cutting edge fashion. Any shopping strip will have a few hundred shoe stores displaying their products ready for purchase, such as the image below. The nice thing about these stores is they sell their shoes for slightly cheaper than the big department stores so girls can stalk up. They also have a much wider variety, since brand names tend to be limited to 'seasonal' or 'popular' styles. But here, down in the market place, you can shop until your heart is content.

There's something for everyone:

While shopping around I found a figurine/toy store. Japanese toy stores are really fun and a lot different than American toys. Mostly these toys are made for adults... unlike action figures which are meant for kids. Anyway, I saw a real life Lolita Girl walking around in the store. She was all dolled up (literally) and I was going to take a picture, but her angry looking boyfriend told me to put the camera down. She only smiled at me. But oh well, I'll catch a shot of a cute Japanese Lolita fashioned girl aware on the street some other time. For now enjoy the figurines (which by the way your also not supposed to take pictures of, but once again I played my dumb 'tourist' gaijin card... and once again it worked!)

This is the 'Portopia Hotel' in Kobe (where I and all the other ALT JETs stayed). If you didn't notice, the hotel is on a small man-made Island and has a transit going right to it. At night time this thing is lit up and looks like a massive Imperial Star Destroyer or some kind of futuristic space ship ready to take off. Pretty impressive, although, quite a fancy hotel. A little too expensive for casual sight seeing as rooms began in the low $250/per night and went up from there.

Here is a good shot looking out across the cove at Kobe city from the hotel's south wing.

Well, that concludes my Kobe trip. I really hope to get back in the near future, since I didn't have time to do all the fun touristy stuff. See you around... Japan that is.


Anonymous said...

Hey, sorry this is un-kobe related comments...but I'm looking into teaching English somewhere in Japan. I was wondering if I could talk to you so I can learn more about it.
If you get a chance, please email me at

Anonymous said... the way my name is Leela.