For my final day in Japan, we decided to visit Kobe. Partly to see a giant robot in the park and partly for a fountain pen store I was curious to check out. But first lunch. We had okonomiyaki, a kind of savoury pancake that they cook right at your table.
Kobe was a quick train ride from Osaka and after transferring to the subway, we were a few minutes’ walk from the giant robot. I’m not at all familiar with the manga this guy is from, but it’s pretty cool to see. He’s officially known as Tetsujin 28 (Iron Man 28) and is a symbol of Kobe’s reconstruction after the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995 because the artist was from Kobe.
We explored the city a bit, finding a gift shop full of souvenirs related to Tetsujin 28 and another manga based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. There was supposed to be some kind of diorama but the reality was less than impressive.
Then off to the pen store. A short subway ride and then a search through a maze of shops before we found it. And, I’m sad to say, it was my first awkward experience in any store in Japan. Most everyone has been helpful and kind but the clerk at the store seemed less than happy to help me. I’d asked to take a closer look at a pen she already had out. She gave me a look that I can only interpret as hostile and reluctantly handed it over. I thought I was imagining it but Rob and Tommy both noticed it. Maybe she was just tired of dealing with tourists.
Regardless, we had a good time in Kobe and headed back to Osaka for dinner. The original plan was to get some rest before dinner but that got sidetracked as I needed to pick up some last minute souvenirs for the kids.
Of course, my last dinner in Japan had to be ramen. But this time, it was Tsukemen, dry noodles that you dip into a broth. I’ve had it before in Toronto but this was so much better.
And that is essentially the end of the fun part of the trip. All that was left were the logistics of getting home. My flight was at 08:00 the next morning so I got up ridiculously early to catch the first train to the airport. It was interesting to see people still coming home from the bars and clubs at 4:30 am with some establishments just closing up for the “night”.
I’ll close with my we’re-not-in-Kansas-anymore moment. I’d gotten used to the gentle overhead announcements on the trains and at the terminals. When I had to take the shuttle bus between terminals at Chicago O’Hare Airport, as I got to the bus stop, the lady in charge screamed “the bus to terminals one and two is leaving, we gots to go!”. And that, emphatically and undoubtedly, told me I was no longer in Japan.