I don’t think I had paid much attention to Kobe before the great Hanshin earthquake of January 1995. Images coming out of this area were so striking (such as this photo of the Hanshin elevated expressway after the quake), and so many people were affected, that Kobe remained in view for several months. The port city seems to have recovered completely, although I’m told that shipping volumes have dropped off since then.
In my mind Kobe is also associated with a personal rediscovery of the now-famous Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. I’d read him very long ago, when he was first being published in translation. Then, around the beginning of the century, The Family bought a collection of short stories by Murakami called "After the Quake", built in and around Kobe after the earthquake. We read through this together, and then read all of Murakami’s books and stories in the subsequent years.
So now, planning a work trip to Kobe seems like planning to meet a blogger whose posts I read every now then: I have a rough idea of what to expect, but I’m sure that there will be much to surprise. Fortunately I chose a hotel close to Sannomiya station, since it was close to work, but then found that it is also the core district, with a lot to do. It happens to be close to the port, and the artificial island in the bay which holds the airport.
The song of minminzemi is a quite popular sound effect that represents “a hot summer day” in Japanese manga. If you draw a sound effect “min min min” in the background of your manga, you don’t have to make your manga character say “Man, I’m boiling.” You don’t even have to draw a cicada! —Semi, cicada
Japan is perhaps the best country in the world for part time tourists. When you are busy at work from 8 in the morning to 8 in the evening and still want to get a feel of local life, Japan obliges by being open around the clock; so when I’m up to it, I’m sure that I’ll get to see Kobe Harborland, the Akashi Kaikyo bridge, the night view from Mount Rokko, the Chinatown, and Kobe’s jazz-bars. There will be time for beef and sushi. I’ll try to take a little time out to go see the Ikuta-Jinja shrine. I would have liked to take a half day off to go see the Himeji castle, but with restoration work on, perhaps this is not the best year to visit. An off-the-beaten-track thing which I hope to do is to go see the K computer, one of the world’s first petaflops computers, and still one of the fastest in the world.
I guess mid-July is a little too early for one of the incredible things about summer in Japan: the sound of cicadas. On the other hand it is not too early for the humid heat of summer, and not too late for the occasional days of torrential rains. It might feel exactly like Mumbai.