Thursday, May 31, 2012
Sunrise is at 4:30 am in Japan versus 6:30 am in Atlanta. Fortunately, they have special shades at the hotel and I was able to go back to sleep until 5:30 am. Breakfast starts at 6:30 am, so I’ll get that out of the way shortly.
Made it downstairs by 6:20 am and there was already a good sized crowd waiting to eat. Once they opened the doors, everyone flooded in.
The breakfast was included in the room charge and it was served buffet style, commonly referred to in Japan as Viking style. I don’t know why they call it Viking style other than maybe it is so big that you have to be a Viking to eat it. The price listed on the menu was $20 plus a service charge or about $23 total (roughly with the exchange rate).
Anyway, I’m stuffed as I had to try most of it. The one thing I did not try was the Natto (some sort of bean paste which has a horrible smell and is very stringy). I remember that nasty stuff from my first trip to Japan and always manage to stay away from it.
I had, in no particular order, orange juice, corn flakes, salad, croissants with strawberry jam, miso soup, bread pudding, scrambled eggs, bacon, and vegetables. Very tasty.
Hiromi, a long time friend and interpreter, met me right after 11 am in the hotel lobby. From there we walked over to the airport where we purchased tickets for the trip to Kobe which was quite the adventure. Reminded me of the movie title: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
We started with taking a bus, then a sea shuttle, another bus, monorail, and finally a cab ride to the hotel in Kobe. And, the cab driver wasn’t happy with us because, while I loaded and unloaded the bags for him, the distance from the train station to the hotel was short.
While the hotel is sized and priced like a typical “Business Hotel,” it’s got a cool exterior and lobby. The most important thing is it’s clean and has an internet connection. It doesn’t bother me, because size doesn’t matter, but the room is very small. Surprisingly, the bed is queen-sized. How small is the room, you might ask? Small enough that it was difficult to find a location, other than the bed, to open my suitcase. I ended up putting it half in the entranceway and half in the room. And, the bathroom, including the bathtub, is only slightly larger than the toilet on the airplane. No joke.
A couple of other interesting things about the hotel. The rooms do not contain phones and, they don’t provide wake up calls. Neither bother me as I never use a wake up call or the phone in the room, but it is a bit odd as most people do use them.
Once we checked into the hotel, it was too early to go to our rooms, so we walked over the train station to get lunch.
Not a block into our walk, we came across a sports store with an indoor rock climbing gym. It was called Gravity Research Kobe. The website is www.gravity-research.jp. It is mostly bouldering with one wall for top-roping and one for lead climbing. Very upscale place. I introduced myself and they let us go in and look around. They even brought us slippers to put on and walk around in. Hiromi was very surprised by this.
Lunch was good, but there were a couple of oddities in the restaurant. When we arrived, the place was fairly full. We found a table in the back, but as we was sitting down, I smelled a good amount of cigarette smoke. I turned around and noticed the non-smoking table was facing the back wall of smoking tables. Needless to say, we found a different table to sit at. And, the restaurant was part bakery. You could pick stuff out from the bakery or the restaurant and take it to your table and eat it. But, you couldn’t drink any of the drinks in the restaurant that they sold in the cooler.
After lunch we went back to the hotel for a two-hour rest, Hiromi had gotten up early for her trip to meet me, and it gave me a chance to read email and post photos to Facebook.
At 6 pm we walked to the subway, caught a train a couple of exits, and walked to the bay area where there was lots to see. There was the Kobe Tower, Maritime Museum, boats, restaurants, and stores. We ended up having dinner at a Korean. After dinner we walked all the way back to the hotel instead of taking the train and I got to bed at 11 pm.
Of course, I still woke up around 2 am, but after reading some email and my book was able to get another few hours of sleep under my belt.
Going to meet Hiromi at 8 am for breakfast, then we’re going to go to City Hall where they offer free viewing from the top of their building, and then meet Hiro around 1:30 pm for a late lunch.