Saturday, 28 January 2012

An afternoon in Kobe

After our visit to the Peace Memorial Park and Museum in Hiroshima, we got the Shinkansen to Shin Kobe Station, and then got the train to Sannomiya Station in downtown Kobe.

There were two main things we really wanted to do during our brief visit:
1.  Go and see Tetsujin 28, an 18m tall, fifty tonne replica of the famous manga and anime robot.  Because robots are cool, especially giant robots.
2.  Try Kobe beef.  Because it’s not every day you get the opportunity.

We had a quick look in Namco Land.  Disappointingly the arcade featured mostly prize redemption machines and modern titles such as Tekken 5, Mario Kart GP and Border Break and was devoid of any classic Namco cabinets and retro delights.

We started walking through the shopping arcades which shadow the train tracks between Sannomiya and Motomachi stations, heading towards Wakamatsu Park where Tetsujin 28 is located.

During our journey we came across this sad sight:

Two neglected, sorry looking New Astro City’s sitting outside an arcade.  I had a quick look inside the arcade only to find UFO catchers and photo booth machines.  One wonders what this arcade used to be like a decade or so ago.

After walking for at least an hour, we realised we were probably only around a third of the way there.  And it began to rain.  With time ticking on we managed to find a train station and took the JR line to Shin Nagata station, the station closest to Wakamatsu Park.  After a short journey we were there!

The Tetsujin robot monument is a symbol of Kobe’s revival following the catastrophic earthquake in 1995, and is a reminder of the continuing spirit and effort of Kobe citizens in rebuilding their city.  Wakamatsu Park area was hardest hit by the earthquake.  Tetsujin dwarfs the neighbouring Daimaru department store as it strides across a plaza, his metal fists striking a punch.

The quest to try some Kobe beef proved somewhat difficult.  I’m not sure why, but I kind of imagined it being readily available on skewers in the shopping arcades, cooked over a BBQ.  Sadly we could only see it advertised in restaurants costing more than we had anticipated.  We asked inside a butcher’s where we could try some, and they recommended we go back to the Sannomiya Station area as there were lots of Kobe beef restaurants around there.  We were planning on travelling back to Tokyo that evening so it seemed like a good idea.  After looking around, we eventually bit the bullet and went into one of the restaurants.  We were in for a treat.  Chefs prepared the food on grills in front of us.  We opted for one normal steak and one Kobe beef steak, the chef sliced it into small pieces so we could easily share it.  The Kobe beef was delicious, having lovely texture and a superb, distinctly different taste.  It came to just over 10,000 Yen, expensive but well worth it as we had a lovely meal and I would have always regretted not trying it.

We then headed back to Shin Kobe Station and took the Shinkansen back to Sunshine City.  With our bellies full and the adventures of the last few days taking their toll, I think I slept the whole journey.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Miyajima Island & the shrine of Itsukushima-jinja

It was a hot sunny day and the destination was Miyajima.  From Hiroshima we got to the island by a combination of tram, train and ferry.  The most famous attraction on Miyajima is the shrine of Itsukushima-jinja, just to the south of the port.  The iconic O-torii rising grandly out of the sea is considered one of Japan’s most beautiful views. 

From the ferry landing we walked along the seafront to the shrine, passing by many other tourists, mostly Japanese as well as tame deer.  The deers like nothing better than posing with you and having their picture taken, especially if you have something for them to eat! 

The plan was just a half-day trip to Miyajima, but we were really enjoying ourselves on the island and decided to go up the 530m Misen-san, Miyajima’s sacred mountain.  After lunch we walked to the cable car station at Momiji-dani-koen, a twenty-minute hike from the ferry terminal.  From there we took the two stage cable-car ride up the mountain.  The walk from here to the mountain summit was around twenty minutes, passing various small temples along the way.  The panoramic views across the Inland Sea were stunning.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Hiroshima Arcade Game Centres


This arcade had a small retro section.

It was here I discovered another gem – Argus no Senshi, or Rygar: The Legendry Adventure as it’s known as in the West.  Developed by Tecmo and released in 1986, the game is a fantasy themed scrolling platform game.  I only played a few credits, but the game was a lot of fun and I never knew this series started out in the arcades.

Vs. Super Mario Bros.  The game is more difficult than the Famicom version.  Later stages are changed entirely, and reappeared in the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2, also known as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels for the Famicom Disc System.

Another nice find was Hang-On Jr.  A stripped down version of Hang-On made to run for Sega System E hardware, the game has inferior graphics and sound.  Still, the game played well and the wooden cabinet was pretty cool, like a miniature version of the Western equivalents.

Some more pictures of the arcade.

Taito Station

A very nice selection, including the latest fighters, a nice selection of shooters (Cave titles, Darius-G, Darius Gaiden, Strikers 1945 II, R-Type II), and some classics (Hammerin’ Harry, Makaimura / Ghost n ‘ Goblins, Final Fight). 

Final Fight and Alien vs. Predator are still popular and featured in many of the arcades we visited.

It was also the only arcade where I saw Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars.