The world is a country which nobody ever yet knew by description. One must travel through it one’s self to be acquainted with it. Lord Chesterfield
Located roughly in the mid-coastal region of Japan and surrounded by the region’s three largest cities, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe, Japan’s third largest city, Osaka, spreads from the mouth of the Yodo River, until it meets the Osaka Bay. At a glimpse, Osaka eludes itself as a modern city. Glass and steel high-rises tower over the city as busy freeways run alongside and over the canals and winding rivers throughout the city. Approximately 1700 bridges span these waterways. At night, you just can’t believe the number of neon signs that provide an everlasting glow reflecting into the water. The economy was rebuilt many times and WWII caused much hardship for Osaka as well as typhoons and other natural disasters, but the city has overcome many difficulties and celebrated the centennial of its municipalization (not sure that’s a word :-)) in 1989.
We spent both days in Kobe, the port city close by Osaka.
In 1995 in the early morning of January 17, 1995 the Great Hanshine Earthquake diminished much of Kobe’s prominence as a port city. There were 40,071 causalities, destroyed 247,486 homes and buildings, but it was rebuilt and the amazing courage of its people shows. Today it remains the busiest container port in the region. They have built an incredible water gate system that when activated closes flood gates around the port and city area allowing people and buildings time to prepare and/or be saved. A temporary container port was established within 2 months after the quake, a temporary bridge to the island was completed and today only 13 years after the disaster the city is bigger and better. In total 126 km of shoreline broken, nearly 23km of berths were affected, 27 container terminals destroyed (which handled 70% of the traffic), warehouses and open air storage was disabled. Transport facilities in and around the port were shattered.
Many lessons learnt from the earthquake and other natural disasters have been incorporated into every day life. We both agree that North America could and should learn these lessons and should incorporate the learning into places such as New Orleans and beyond. A Billion Yen (or 700 million dollars) rebuilt the port and part of the city, which was fully operational again within 2 years! We believe many more billions are being spent on disasters and talking about infrastructure in North America with much less visible results. We’ve been very impressed by the resilience and determination of the people here and in South Asia in general and how quickly they put “stuff” back together. They seem to have both vision and the long term in mind, not short sighted private gains.
We visited the memorial park next to a wonderful area called Harbourland. It’s about a 40 minute walk from the port area and we need the exercise. It’s covered in waterfalls and park area with a wonderful array of flowers and plants.
This evening we ate in one of the restaurants in the Harbourland (we’re in Kobe-Osaka for 2 days). It’s a place called the Harbor Deli and the food appears and smells wonderful. We usually walk past the many restaurants and smell the aromas then decide what to eat, generally picking busy places :-).
We ordered a local beer, Kirin, which is light and very refreshing. Gerrit ordered lemon chicken and I ordered stewed cows cheeks. These are considered a delicacy here and now we know why. Each is served with rice and a small salad. It was just awesome. While we ate we watched the neon display of lights and boats coming and going in and out of the harbour. The days are warm but the nights are getting a little cool and as we walk back to the ship we can only talk about our good times thus far on our voyage.
We’re here again tomorrow, the ship leaves on Saturday night at midnight. So we’ve sussed out some shops we want to visit tomorrow. Gert found the 5th floor at Ha-Re shopping mall. What an incredible array of computer, camera, cell phones and related items. The cell phone selection alone shows how far behind North America is, esp. Canada with only one GSM provider. Obviously the lack of cell phone competition makes for less choice at home.