Kobe (addendum)

Did I mention that Kobe is the hometown of my favouritest Japanese actress? Okay maybe it isn’t really, since Wiki says she’s from Kakogawa, Hyogo-ken. I could’ve sworn she said she was from Kobe in an interview though.. Anyhow! Presenting —

Ueno Juri

上野樹里

一人暮らしから、私の家政婦になってくれない?

Looking beautifully contemplative

Ueno Juri (上野 樹里)! She’s well-known for playing the titular character in Nodame Cantabile, which is a great manga by the way, and Ruka Hashimoto in Last Friends (which in hindsight, was way too melodramatic). She’s also well-known for being too gorgeous for words, and cute, and funny, and everything awesome. You can read up on her via her Wikipedia page, and if you understand Japanese, her official website. Even though the drink(s) that she advertises may not be as tasty as she looks, she’ll forever have my support! \o/

じゃ、またね!

じゃ、またね!

Kobe

Kobe Port

Kobe Port

After talking to more people and doing more research, I’m gradually getting more and more excited about being posted to Kobe!

Where Kobe is in relation to the rest of Japan.

Kobe (神戸市 Kōbe-shi), is the fifth-largest city in Japan and is the capital city of Hyōgo Prefecture on the southern side of the main island of Honshū, approximately 30 km (19 mi) west of Osaka on the north shore of Osaka Bay. With a population of about 1.5 million, the city is part of the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area along with Osaka and Kyoto.

The earliest written records regarding the region come from the Nihon Shoki, which describes the founding of the Ikuta Shrine by Empress Jingū in AD 201. For most of its history the area was never a single political entity, even during the Tokugawa Period, when the port was controlled directly by the Tokugawa Shogunate. Kobe did not exist in its current form until its founding in 1889. Its name comes from “kanbe” (神戸), an archaic title for supporters of the city’s Ikuta Shrine.Kobe became one of Japan’s 17 designated cities in 1956.

Kobe was one of the cities to open for trade with the West following the end of the policy of seclusion and has since been known as a cosmopolitan port city. While the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake diminished much of Kobe’s prominence as a port city, it remains Japan’s fourth busiest container port. The city is the point of origin and namesake of Kobe beef as well as the site of one of Japan’s most famous hot spring resorts, Arima Onsen.

If you feel anything close to the way I feel towards meat, you’ll understand how I feel about the prospect of Kobe beef.

Arima Onsen

Summer Festival (夏祭り)

Ferris Wheel in Kobe Harbourland

Lots to look forward to, but the weather appears to be a little on the warm side. Makes sense, since Kobe lies more on the Southwestern side of Japan. It’s also not too far away from Kyoto or Osaka, the latter of which is the starting point of many a budget flight within and out of Japan – if I manage my finances properly, I foresee being able to take trips to surrounding areas! Hokkaido, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea – anyone?

Kobe's climate chart from Wikipedia

Kobe’s climate chart from Wikipedia

Average monthly temperature – Summer is not going to be my friend

Guess it’s time to shop for Wellingtons?

Before our most recent trip to Japan, Jan shared with me some gorgeous pictures taken in abandoned places (haikyo). Apparently there’s one (of many I don’t know yet, I’m sure) in Kobe! Would definitely love to check that out some time. I’ve copy-pasted the history of the Maya hotel from the blog linked below, which also has photos and an account from the author of the blog. If you’re interested, Google more and check out the blog! Photos are from Flickr, with links back to their original pages.

The Maya Hotel is located (fittingly) halfway up Mt. Maya. Maya is the second highest peak in Kobe, part of the Rokko mountain range which bisects the city. Built in 1929, the Maya Hotel is a perfect example of Japan`s pre-WWII craze for Western art-deco architecture. During the war, the hotel`s roof was loaded up with anti-aircraft guns and used in the defense of Kobe. Kobe city, like Osaka and Tokyo, was heavily fire bombed and mostly destroyed. The hotel, as a converted military target, was damaged in the raids.

After the war, the city decided to sell the hotel to a private owner. The hotel was repaired and reopened for business 1961. However, in 1967 a typhoon and mudslide greatly damaged the building once more and its doors were shuttered again.

The hotel got one last chance in 1974 when it was repaired (again) and rechristened the “Maya Student Center.“ It never took off as a student center, though. It was rarely used and the final nail in the coffin came in 1995 when the Great Awaji Earthquake – which killed more than 6000 people in Kobe – badly damaged the grand old building once more. The hotel was sealed up, the hiking trails leading to it were sealed up, and no more business would be done there.

However, a beautiful building with such a tumultuous history wouldn’t stay forgotten for long so, of course, the Maya Hotel became one of Japan`s most famous haikyo (abandoned place). Since then it has been used as a filming location for various music videos and TV episodes. One of which, in fact, brought in an authentic B-29 Superfortress tire for a war scene and left it there. The tire can still be found today.

Mongolia to the Moon

Maya Hotel

Maya Hall

Doors

View from outside

Pretty exciting stuff! Before I go over, though, I need to learn self-defence.. against the likes of cockroaches (my ultimate nemesis) and other assorted bugs which my brother has been so keen to share with me about. Lovely. And cook! And a bunch of other miscellaneous life skills. I would also like to spend more time with the people I’m close to, but that depends more on their hectic schedules than mine so we’ll see about that. Oh there’s JLPT N2 to sit for in July as well, hmm.

It doesn’t seem like I’ve all that much time left anymore.

Placement Information

My graduation trip in Japan ended yesterday, as I took a 7-hour flight overnight to touch down home at approximately 7AM. I have many feelings about the trip, but they’re not particularly relevant to this post.

I was checking my phone on the train to Roppongi from Shimokitazawa in the afternoon when I received news of my placement come August 4th.

Congratulations. I am writing to confirm that you have been selected as an ALT participant for this year’s JET Programme. You are assigned to Kobe-shi. Please be informed that the assigned placement cannot be changed.

Mixed feelings of relief and trepidation followed those few words – relief that I will be placed in a city, in one of the best placement positions possibly available, actually, but also trepidation because while my impression of Kobe included things like the ever-famous Kobe beef, castles, and it being Ueno Juri’s hometown (shoot me, I’m a fan), what loomed even bigger was the fact that it was where the main devastation occurred in the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. Such feelings of uncertainty rumbled in my mind and collided with those about other matters closer to the heart, and it was with great relief that I collapsed asleep on a garden in Roppongi.

I have since made contact and done more research about Kobe, and it is now clear to me how incredibly lucky I am to have been placed there, with a huge network of fellow JETs to fall back on for support even as I leave the friends I’ve known for a decade, and family members I’ve had all my life. The excitement hasn’t really hit – I’m not the kind to be excited easily, I think. More of a worrywart and wet blanket as I mull over the difficulties I’ll face there and the challenges I may encounter, but this is tempered with a confidence I have in myself of being adaptable to new surroundings, and of being capable of taking care of myself. Taking care of myself well is a different matter altogether. Someone reminded me today that just because you’re in a new place with new friends doesn’t mean that you’ll become, or be able to become, a completely different person, and that it is important to understand the effects of what you do on the people around you.

This trial by fire into adulthood (dramatic, I know) is a good chance for me to change and grow up, to understand and push my limits, and perhaps to usher new people into my life who can show me things both wonderful and different to what I’ve known up to now.

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
– 
Mahatma Gandhi

Watch over me, support me, and see how I’m going to change.