October 14 – Day 1 in Kobe, Japan
Our first time in Japan and we are not sure what to expect, but really looking forward to the adventure. We had a day and a half scheduled here, but due to the following seas and winds from the Typhoon south of us, we arrived 10 am instead of 4 pm – bonus! So far the late season typhoon in the area has been a help, not a hindrance.
Kobe is the sixth largest city in Japan, home of the famous Kobe Beef. As we pulled alongside the pier at Kobe, we were greeted by a brass band playing American march tunes and a crowd of well wishers, including local news coverage.
We cleared Japanese customs and immigration and headed into town on the shuttle, which dropped us in the middle of town, across from the entrance to Chinatown, a popular shopping street. These local (or maybe national?) politicians were speaking to the crowds from the top of sound trucks, and candidates rotated their trucks into the spots all day. Even though we couldn’t understand them, I am sure they were like politicians everywhere, promising goodies. My friend and business partner, Gary Williams says you can tell when they are lying, because their lips are moving – it is the universal political language!
We spent a couple of hours strolling through the shopping area. About half way through, Sally asked a woman if she could give her young son one of the Amsterdam pins we get on the ship, which are just the name and picture of the ship on an enamel pin – she agreed and you would have thought, based on the reaction of both mother and son, that she had bestowed the crown jewels on him. They appeared to be upper middle class folks, just out shopping, certainly not people in need – they are genuinely polite courteous folks! A little later, the boy chased Sally down, tugging on her sweater, so he could proudly show her he was wearing the pin.
One more pass by the politicians (a new group this time) and then back to the ship, as we have booked a night tour up the mountain.
After a quick supper, we boarded a bus for a tour up to the top of Mt. Rokko, overlooking Kobe. The trip up the mountain was about an hour and half, up narrow switchback roads, I am just glad I wasn’t driving. We had a really pleasant, entertaining guide named Yuko.
The view from the top was spectacular – far better than my little camera could portray.
Back down off the mountain for a quick drink at a hotel. We were seated randomly in the bar, and across from us sat a woman named Liz Graham (whom we had not met before). After the normal “where are you from” chit chat (which is the obligatory conversation opener on board a cruise ship-similar to “what’s your major” in college) we learned that Liz, from New Hampshire is the sister in law of General Chuck Graham, one of my best friends in Sun City Texas, and a man I admire greatly. It really and truly is a small world.
Back on board by 9:30, and we were entertained by two groups from Kobe: A very imaginative “twirling”group, plus these guys who were traditional Japanese Drummers – quite loud, energetic, and stirring. I am absolutely sure that if my late Father were here, he would ask to sit in with them.