Sojourn in Kobe
I’ve been rather preoccupied with finding work lately, so now I get a good opportunity to catch up with my posts and correspondences. On December 1st, I was still spending all my time poring through classifieds online, when I decided I really needed to get out. I had spent the previous day in my hotel room, not even leaving to get lunch. Enough of that nonsense, time to get some air. Where?, I thought. How about a city I haven’t gone to so far, and one I barely got to see during my Kyoto days? How about Kobe?
Unlike Osaka, established as one of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s fortresses, or Kyoto, meticulously planned out to be the imperial capital, Kobe more or less grew up spontaneously as a significant port town in the age of antiquity. It was a decent sized town by the standards of the Shogun’s days, but really grew into one of Japan’s largest cities in the late 19th century after the Meiji revolution.
It’s currently the same size as Kyoto at a million and a half people, but the city has a completely different character. Kobe, unlike Kyoto, has suffered widespread damage in the last century, first as the target of intense bombing by the United States, and recently by the Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. So it’s a city with a lot of new construction, and little in the way of recognizably old sites. Because it doesn’t have Kyoto’s regulations on building height, there’s a lot more high-rise construction.
Kyoto has a downtown that is actually very dense for for a Japanese city of its size, despite its lack of skyscrapers. Comparatively, downtown Kobe feels a bit more open, with more space in between its buildings. It’s a very long and narrow urban area, tucked between the mountains and the sea, so a fresh breeze blows over the whole city.
Speaking of sea, the maritime nature of Kobe sets it apart. Osaka, just a few miles east, carries on a pretty extensive port operation of its own, but it doesn’t feel like an ocean-faring city so much as a city focused on its own sheer urbanness. Kobe, on the other hand, is a city of the sea.