Kobe

For steak lovers, Kobe is the ultimate pilgrimage destination.  Nowhere else does the quality of beef surpass that produced by the ranchers of Hyogo Prefecture in Japan.  Although there are many legendary types of beef throughout the country, none outrank Kobe in terms of world-wide prestige, fatty marbling, and most importantly: flavor.  

Starting from my AirBnB in Osaka, I made my way to Namba Station in the heart of the city.  From here, I used my 700 yen Hanshin 1 day tourist pass to begin my round-trip to Kobe Sannomiya station.

Upon arriving in the city after a quick 50 minute train ride, I decided to make my way to the ancient Ikuta-Jinja (生田神社), one of the oldest Shinto shrines in the country.  Founded in the 3rd century, the architecture of the shrine is truly marvelous, especially the Buddhist-influenced Romon (楼門) gate which sits at the entrance to the beautiful site.  

After leaving the shrine, I walked past Ishida, a famous Kobe steakhouse that came at the recommendation of my friend.  I was excited to have stumbled upon one of the three places that were recommended to me, but to my disappointment, the restaurant was closed each Thursday.

Undeterred, I made my way back to the station to buy a one-day pass for the city loop bus.  This bus line covers most of the main attractions in the city that I wanted to see.  My first stop on the way was to see the Nunobiki Falls (布引の滝).  Since the bus had wi-fi connection, I decided to look up the other restaurant recommendation, Wakkoqu.  My extraordinary luck was such that Wakkoqu is connected to Shin-Kobe station, my destination to begin the hike up to the waterfall.  As it was lunchtime, I decided to postpone my hike and try and talk my way in without a reservation.  Upon arrival, I was immediately struck by the beauty of the decorations outside the restaurant.

 The logo of Wakkoqu Shin-Kobe is beautifulyl gilded Kanji, spelling out the restaurant's name

The logo of Wakkoqu Shin-Kobe is beautifulyl gilded Kanji, spelling out the restaurant's name

When I arrived, the greeter (who also turned out to be my chef), told me that there was no available table; however, if I came back at 1:00 (30 minutes later), he would be able to squeeze me in.  This is the second time I have been lucky and made it into a top-quality restaurant without a reservation, the other instance being Tenpura Kondo in Ginza district of Tokyo (where Barack Obama and Shinzo Abe could not make a reservation during his presidential visit).  The time flew by as I happily paced around, imagining the culinary experience that awaited me.

Below is a picture of the explanation of Kobe beef, given only to restaurants that are certified to serve Kobe.  Under that, is the listing for Wakkoqu on the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association website, which lists every single restaurant in the world that serves Kobe beef.  If the restaurant is not on the list (like almost every restaurant in America which claims to serve "Kobe," but actually is serving Australian Wagyu), then they do not have Kobe Beef.

I shall now attempt to describe - via combination of images, video, and mere words - the unbelievable, incredible experience of indulging in Kobe beef at one of the city's top restaurant's.

To begin, the waiter carefully sliced up a piece of garlic, each layer exactly the same thickness as the portion before it.  He placed them on the Teppan (鉄板), and carefully turned each piece one-by-one with the precision of years of experience.

As the chef got started with the garlic, they served a delicious soup and salad.  The chef served me portions of Japanese-style Mustard (which would later go into the soy sauce), Rock Salt, and Pepper.  He also laid down the plate of raw vegetables that would soon be grilled to accompany the steak.

After this, the magic began...

Words cannot describe my anticipation as this beautiful piece of beef was placed before me.

This wasn't just an ordinary meal.  After finishing each section of the meat, the chef gave me specific instructions on how to eat each piece.  "Dip this one into the Rock Salt."  "Dip this one into the Pepper and place one slice of garlic on top."  "This piece with the vinegar."  "Mix the mustard and soy sauce together for this piece."  Every time, it was a different combination of flavor.  Towards the end, he cooked the bean sprouts and vegetables in the Beef fat: What an incredible combination.

After eating my fill and finishing off with some green tea and ice cream, I left the restaurant and headed back to my original destination, Nunobiki Waterfall.  The hike turned out to be much longer than expected... because I went the wrong way for about 15 minutes, but that gave me some amazing views of Kobe.

Eventually, I made it to the various waterfalls, each of which was more stunning than the last.

I relaxed for a short time and enjoyed the relaxing flow of the waterfall.  Unfortunately, I had an itinerary to keep!  From here, I ventured from the mountains on the north side of Kobe all the way to the port in the south.  Here I walked through the Port of Kobe Earthquake Memorial Park, dedicated to preserving memory of the terrible destruction of January 1995.  It was a quick walk from here to Kobe Tower, where I snapped the obligatory tourist photo!

Finally, I ended my day in Motomachi and Nankingmachi (Chinatown), enjoying some outdoor window-shopping before heading back to Osaka.