No Beef with Kobe: Eat, See, Enjoy!


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I took a day trip with K-san (unnamed for privacy) to Kobe during my week-long Japan vacation. We took the direct JR line (around 50 minutes) from our Osaka accommodation to Kobe’s central station, Sannomiya Station. Check out Japan Guide for a detailed travel guide between Osaka and Kobe!

Wagyu immediately comes to mind when Kobe is mentioned, and I am so excited because we planned to visit a good wagyu restaurant, and do some leisurely sightseeing. The area leading to our first stop, Mt. Maya, was covered in beautiful sakura blooms lining a river. There were also many sakura trees outside the Art Center of Kobe. Appreciative remarks about the sakura made by the hanami viewers could be heard as we enjoyed our walk through the area.

Tsubaki flower on the rail
Tsubaki flower on the rail

After many kirei desu ne (綺麗ですね, it’s so beautiful) the pair of us finally reached the bottom of Mt. Maya. Mt. Maya is one of the smaller peaks of the Mt. Rokko chain, and is highlighted for its scenic and natural beauty! There were already a few hikers heading up the mountain before us.

A word of advice: wear comfortable shoes! The bottom steps of the mountain were oddly shaped so it can be difficult to climb. The hike up to the waterfall was steep but I really enjoyed the serenity of the place. Hiking never really appealed to me, but the experience is really meditative. You either introspect, admire nature, or talk to your companion. I highly recommend this for either pairs/couples or individuals. 🙂

Can you feel the energy from the waterfall?
Can you feel the energy from the waterfall?

The waterfall we saw wasn’t that majestic or big, but still beautiful nonetheless. Visitors and hikers alike were quietly talking amongst themselves, keeping the peace of the place. Perhaps they are bathing in the negative ions of the waterfall!

We decided to climb a little higher towards the observation platform, which promised a skyline of Kobe city. The platform was also surrounded by sakura trees! Few people were in this area so we could take as many pictures as we liked at our leisure.

 

 

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A hidden shrine on the way up to the observation platform
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More beautiful sakura await at the observation deck!
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The Kobe skyline. The air was so fresh and rejuvenating! Singapore was so hazy when I left. ):

Finally, it was time for our lunch reservation at Wakkoqu, a restaurant famous for quality Tajima wagyu! You definitely have to make an early reservation either at their website or call them directly because they are very popular. They also have English speaking staff and a website in English, so reservation is fuss-free and easy. Do double-check that you have chosen the right store as they have two locations.

The A4 wagyu steak that went into our bellies. :D
The A4 wagyu steak that went into our bellies. 😀

We were ravenous for some yummy wagyu after our workout, so we ordered the Lunch Wakkoqu Course: 150g sirloin, six kinds of grilled vegetables, soup of the day (potato soup), salad, rice and Japanese pickles, dessert, and coffee. I think “heavenly” is the best adjective here.

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In midst of preparation. Can’t wait!

We could not stop gushing about how scrumptious the food was. The course started with the potato soup, which was creamy but light with small bits of potatoes. Meanwhile, the chef brought out the A4 sirloin, while we were served the salad. We were rather disappointed that the sirloin was divided between the both of us instead of being served one each.

The chef prepared the sauces and condiments-salt, pepper, garlic, mustard, and soy sauce-before grilling the garlic and the steak. If you have eaten good quality steak before, you will know that each piece of meat just melts in your mouth. The first piece was sprinkled with salt and pepper, the conventional way of eating steak. I really loved the meat juices that melded with salty flavour. The next piece was paired with pepper and garlic. The sweet garlic and fragrant pepper really complemented the steak. This must be what people call a medley of flavours dancing in your mouth. The third piece was quite unusual-soy sauce and mustard. I really loved the spiciness of the mustard but I felt that the soy sauce was a little underwhelming. Out of these three styles, I preferred the very first. Of course, you are always welcome to eat the steak in any way you like!

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Beansprouts and wagyu fat!

The chef had also cut the strip of fat and cooked it with some beansprouts. It was delicious because of the added beef flavour but I probably would have just liked it the same attached to some meat. Even so, the different textures of the wagyu can really be enjoyed to the fullest. I really want to go back.

After the starters and main course, we were served some delightful yuzu sorbet and coffee. The portions were slightly small but the food was certainly delicious. Gochisousama deshita! (Thank you for the meal!)

 

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UCC Coffee Museum Tasting: Blend coffee (left) and 100% Brazil origin coffee (right)

We headed to the UCC Coffee Museum on a whim as it was in the area. Unfortunately, coffee tasting was over so we didn’t get any. I am slightly disappointed because UCC’s drip coffee smells really good and the kokumi (こくみ, richness or depth of flavour) is just rightnot too acidic or bitter.

Different parts of the coffee seed
Different parts of the coffee seed

So now you know, coffee tasting is held at specific times! The museum’s website (in Japanese) explains that for the month of April 2016 visitors can compare blend coffee (Brazilian base) and 100% Brazilian coffee at 4 designated times.

If you miss the coffee tasting, you can always either buy some from their cafe or the museum shop. Coffee aficionados should definitely visit at least once, even if to try the coffee or out of pure interest for the  technical details of coffee plant seasons to the interactive exhibits.

 

The coffee belt of the world. The red line is the equator.
The coffee belt of the world. The red line is the equator.

There were so many interesting facts I never knew about the coffee plant, i.e. the flowers of the coffee plant are white. You can challenge the quiz they have in the museum to get a Dr. Coffee Certificate. Not to worry, they have the questions in English as well.

I think the most interesting fact I’ve learned that day is about the coffee belt. The coffee plant is grown only between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, which points to warmer countries – but does not include Japan! The coffee plant is also rather sensitive to climate changes, so coffee may become scarce in the future. 🙁

 

What volume of coffee beans can be harvested from a single coffee tree? Click the photo for an answer!
What volume of coffee beans can be harvested from a single coffee tree? Click the photo for an answer!

 

Want More Kobe? 

These were some of the places we wanted to visit but couldn’t fit in our schedule. They shall be on our itinerary for our next trip to Kobe!

1. Nunobuki Herb Gardens

Nunobiki Herb Garden Glasshouse | Source
Nunobiki Herb Garden Glasshouse | Source

This place comes highly recommended by nature lovers due to the sheer volume of stunning flowers in the greenhouses. The area is really big so I reckon I can easily spend a hour or two strolling in the flower fields.

2. Handmade Nada Shop

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Chewy Crunchy Cacao | Source

Like its namesake, the pastries are all handmade! This shop serves delicious pastries and sweets which you can either get as a takeaway or indulge at their cafe area. The images on their website looks irresistible! Give me some now!

3. Rokkosan Pasture and Kobe Cheese House

The cute sheep you'll get to see at the farm | Takuya
The cute sheep you’ll get to see at the farm | Takuya

You should definitely visit this place if you love animals and nature! You can pet them at designated parts of the farm. There are also many hands-on activities where you can make ice cream, butter or engage in wool craft. You can also observe the cheese-making process at their factory.

  1. Mt. Rokko
The night view from Mt. Rokko | Charlie Brown
The night view from Mt. Rokko | Charlie Brown

I didn’t get the chance to scale Mt. Rokko but someday, I really want to see the nightscape in person at the top of this mountain! You can also build a musical box at the Rokko International Musical Box Museum, or enjoy a leisurely walk through the Rokko Alpine Botanical Garden.

  1. Kobe Animal Kingdom
Rock eagle owl | No
Rock eagle owl | Noppawat Charoensinphon

This place is basically an interactive zoo suitable for animal lovers and families. Their main feature though, is the largest collection of owls! Seasonal flowers also grace the zoo making it one of the highlights for visitors.

  1. Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum
Hakutsuru Brewery Museum | Source
Hakutsuru Brewery Museum | Source

Sake is known to be a Japanese alcoholic beverage but do you really know how it’s made? In addition to observing the sake-making process, you can also acquire some special sake at their museum shop!

Read the original article on WAttention Singapore.

Onsen Oasis: Arima Onsen

1,400 years of history hidden in the outskirts of modern Kobe

After introducing two of Japan’s three oldest hot springs (Dogo Onsen in Ehime Prefecture and Nanki Shirahama Onsen in Wakayama Prefecture) it is now time for the last one.
Last but not least, here is Arima Onsen of Hyogo Prefecture.

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Starting from Nihonshoki (a book of classical Japanese history) in 631, there are many ancient documents that mention Arima Onsen. From these documents we can learn that a monk in the 7th century helped develop Arima Onsen.
The connection between Arima Onsen and monks goes on in the 12th century, when the monk Ninsai came to rebuild Arima Onsen which had suffered from a natural disaster in 1097. He also established and ran 12 monk accommodations in the area, which is why a great number of the ryokan at Arima Onsen today have the word Bo (坊, monk) in their name.

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Onsen-ji (Onsen temple) with sakura blossom in spring

Arima Onsen can be found in the outskirts of Kobe city, hidden behind Mt. Rokko, away from the city center’s hustle and bustle. Given the fact that it is located in the mountains, the narrow roads in town can be quite steep.

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You can find the two public baths (Kin no Yu and Gin no Yu) on a short distance from Onsen-ji (Onsen temple) which marks the town center. Kin no yu, or golden bath has yellow-brown colored water from iron and salt. Gin no Yu, or silver bath, has transparent water and contains radium and carbonate. All of the other baths at Arima’s ryokan and bathing houses share either the same characteristics of Kin no yu or that of Gin no yu.

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Since the area is rich in carbonate, Arima Onsen is known for cider, carbonate rice crackers and cakes which can be purchased at the souvenir shops of traditional facade in the town center.

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Most of the luxury ryokan can be found in the mountains on a short distance from the town center. Enjoy tranquility, wonderful scenery and a fantastic warm bath!

*Click here for an explanation on how to take a Japanese bath for beginners!

Arima Onsen

Location: Higashimonguchi 1401, Arimacho, Kita, Kobe, Hyogo

Access: Get off at Arima Onsen Station (Kobe Electric Railway Arima Line)