We made it back north-west up to Kobe, where we would spend our last day and night. Bonnie had wanted to end up in either Osaka or Kobe, and I was interested in something a little smaller than Osaka...the second biggest city in Japan and a major commercial center. We stayed in the b-Kobe Hotel, which was very central. We went out for lunch and had Chinese food, a first for us on the trip. Kobe has a big Chinese population and the biggest Chinatown in Japan, which I found interesting.
We were just blocks from the Ikuta shrine, so that was our first stop. This shrine was lovely and there was a baby blessing ceremony going on. The day was March 20th, the first day of spring, which is a very auspicious day in the Japanese culture. So, we saw several families bringing in babies (everyone very dressed up in traditional costumes) and even a wedding going on.
Next we walked to the Chinatown area, which was very crowded. We stayed awhile and decided to come back there for dinner. Most of the rest of the afternoon was spent reading, cruising the Internet with our free in-room access, and just vegging.
When we did venture out, we came across this cool area where the buildings looked like they had just been dropped in from Paris. Compare that to the picture after that, which is of the night-time Chinatown, red lantern district. Who could imagine that these places were just minutes from each other. Different as day and night...
Finally, the photomontage of night-time Chinatown. The steam from the cooking buns...the neon signs...the gates at either end...the dragon's head used in their parades...kids perched on the various statues that represented the Chinese years...my favorite Piggy trashcan...Bonnie and John buying steaming pork buns...buns that looked like pandas and pigs...food stalls everywhere...these are all the wonderful things we saw there. What a great way to end our Japanese idyll.
The next day was to be spent riding trains back to Narita, going through the airport routine, and then flying home.
I loved this trip. I have to say it was one of my very favorite vacations ever. The country was so different from most everything I have seen before. I loved the food and the trains and the people and the red, red, red everywhere. Thanks Japan for giving me such a memorable visit.