Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Japan Solo // Kobe: Eating, Drinking, and Living the Life

Can't believe I'm nearing the end of my trip already! Kobe is my favorite city based on principle because my trip focused on eating and drinking. I was so pumped to try out the famous Kobe beef. People online recommended going to Steakland. Since it's conveniently located near Sannomiya station, that's where I headed.
I arrived at around 11:30 and there was already a line outside. The restaurant inside was full too. After waiting for 10 minutes a waiter came out and led us to another location that was around the corner into an alley marked by a drugstore.
Go to this location and you'll have a higher chance of being seated immediately. It's on 6F.

I got lucky and was seated in the very last seat (yay for traveling solo!) If you can't arrive by 11:30, I'd suggest coming at 1:00 when the first round of customers leave. Though I think half the reason why Steakland is so crowded is because service is very slow. There were only three teppanyaki chefs that I saw serving the entire restaurant. They would start from one end of the grill and go down the line. Service was not up to Japanese standards either.
I ordered the Kobe beef steak lunch. Since the other menu items didn't explicitly state Kobe beef, I assumed it was just normal teppanyaki. Kobe beef is already expensive for lunch. I can't imagine paying more than double the price for essentially the same thing except for dinner.
My cut of meat waiting to be cooked. Honestly I was very, very disappointed with the cut when I saw it. It didn't look very fresh (it has brown spots!) and seemed like a flank cut or something. Honestly I don't know much about cuts of meat, but it just felt very like very cheap quality for the price, though I know there are stringent standards for meat to be deemed Kobe beef quality.
The final product! It ended up being quite a bit of food to finish. Kobe beef has a distinctive taste that I can't say with certainty I liked. The fat tasted nothing like the fat of other steaks that I've had, perhaps because it was marbled and distributed throughout the entire piece of meat and not all gathered at the sides. This made for very, very soft and delicate meat that was easy to chew and buttery tasting. It felt like if the meat lingered in my mouth for long enough it would disintegrate and melt away. But it also had a unique taste, much like there's a unique taste to eating lamb.

The verdict? Worth trying out for a lunch, but I wouldn't recommend Steakland. Next time I'm in Japan I'd like to order Kobe beef again to get a better comparison. Based on online research that I've done, many Japanese locals deem Kobe beef to be overrated and instead prefer Matsusaka beef. Next time I'd also like to try that to compare the two.
After such a heavy meal it's time to digest and walk it off! Next stop is the Nunobiki waterfall, which is pretty famous in Japan. Since it's pretty famous I was excited about how big and grand it would be.

This was the scenery on the way to the waterfall. The path is well marked and easy to walk with some stairs along the way. It also seemed to be a popular hiking spot with locals as I ran into quite a few people on a weekday.
Pretty, but not big. Here are some more pictures of it more upstream.
I continue along the trail and also get glimpses of the ropeway heading to and from the Herbal Garden. It really is the perfect day for a hike. Beautiful weather and not too cold or hot.
Finally see the reservoir, indicating that I'm more than halfway to the Herb Garden.
On the last leg of the trail the path became unmarked. It was a bit scary since there was no one in sight and I wasn't sure if I was going in the right direction, but I just kept walking and finally saw the gate to the Herb Garden.
I think you have to pay to enter, but no one was checking tickets so I just went in. It's a pretty boring garden, but had a gorgeous view of the city.
After a long afternoon hike I wasn't about to attempt a descent on foot. Instead I took the ropeway and got a lovely view of the sunset. It truly is the little things in life that you learn to appreciate.
The next day I went to visit the Hyogo Museum. Ever since taking an introduction to architecture course, I developed an appreciating for buildings. This particular museum was designed by the famed Tadao Ando, whom I previously declared that I was sick of seeing (No more concrete!!). I went to see another one of his concrete masterpieces anyway.
Now I can rest in peace and say I've seen every single important Tadao Ando creation except the Church of Light in Osaka. The permanent collection in the museum wasn't terribly memorable, but I loved the one room that they dedicated to Tadao Ando. It had scaled replicas of his important works and detailed information of the conception and background of each project. The Ando Museum in Naoshima is similar except that museum focuses more on Ando's motivations in each project.
If you're an Ando fan you must visit the Hyogo Museum because the museum shop sells personally autographed copies of Ando's books. I couldn't justify buying one so I took a picture of his autograph instead as a memory. I love how he includes a sketch!
Had my Kobe beef, now it's time to do some drinking! Kobe is home to many sake breweries. I chose to visit Hakutsuru. 

The museum is free and was very informative about the sake brewing process. They had English on everything, short videos to show the process, and the actual tools that were used.
Sake is not my favorite type of alcohol, but the shop had free samples. Who would say no to free alcohol?! After tasting the samples though my opinion remains unchanged. Haha. I still bought some though. You can't visit a beer museum without drinking the beer, and so I couldn't leave empty handed! And with that, I'm leaving Kobe on a high note (pun intended). 

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