Eating in Hyogo: More Than Beef

I’m not above booking a vacation focused on food, since that would take care of two items on my bucket list in one blow. There’s nothing like going somewhere new and tasting the local specialties. That’s why you have to partake in the local claim to fame, Kobe beef, when you visit Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture. Kobe isn’t just about the beef, though.

Hotel Restaurants in Kobe

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I’ve discovered that hotels have some of the best dining options in a new city, at least in Europe and Asia. In Kobe, staying at a noted hotel like the ANA Crowne Plaza Kobe is ideal for overwhelmed culinary travelers. Located across the footbridge from Shin-Kobe Rail Station, the hotel sits amidst colorful foliage and the hiking trails of the Rokko Mountains. The hotel houses seven restaurants, giving you the opportunity to sample a variety of cuisines all in one place.

American Cuisine in Kobe

Most modern cities who welcome foreigners have at least one American dining option. For new travelers, it might seem crazy to eat food you can get at home and waste an opportunity to partake in the local culture. Seasoned travelers understand that a little slice of home can go a long way, though. At Nailey’s Grill in Kobe, crowds line up for the exceptional burgers and nachos. This spot is also known for its salads.

Chinese Cuisine in Kobe

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Unsurprisingly, you’ll find a lot of Chinese influence in Japan. Located in the center of the city, Kobe’s Chinatown is one of three named Chinatown districts in Japan. Centuries ago, Chinese merchants settled near the busy port of Kobe, and Nankinmachi was born. Over the years, Kobe’s Chinese cuisine has evolved, but you can find steamed buns, dim sum, dumplings, and specialties from most regions of China here.

French Cuisine in Kobe

French culture is popular throughout Japan, and top French chefs like Joel Robuchon and Pierre Gagnaire have restaurants in Japan. As a result, some Japanese chefs have taken classic French cuisine and given it their own unique twist. In Kobe, Tatsuya Kishimoto opened Au Bec Fan. Here you can find beef bourguignon, crème brûlée, and other classic French dishes, but with a Japanese spin.

Kobe Beef in Kobe

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I’ve had Kobe beef in China, and it’s unbelievable. I imagine that trying this famous dish in the spot where it was first created will be quite a different experience, though. The manufacturing standards for this type of beef are strictly enforced, and not every type of beef can be Kobe beef. Most local establishments have a Kobe beef option on the menu, but some restaurants serve nothing but this delicate meat. Ask your hotel to recommend the best place to enjoy Kobe beef on your budget.

Kobe is a beautiful city with great food. Take the three-hour bullet train from Tokyo or the 15-minute train ride from Osaka, and experience the city’s cuisine in all it forms. Try it all, including the beef.


What to Do in Japan in the Springtime

I marked Japan off my bucket list a few years ago. I spent four glorious days in Tokyo. In those four days, I kept saying to myself, When can I come back? The people are kind, the city is pristine, and the residents take pride in their city. The mix of old world and modern strikes the perfect balance. I had only four days to explore the city, so on my next trip, I’m going to hit the following spots for sure and continue to fall in love with Japan.

Osaka, Japan

Osaka, Japan, is the second largest city in Japan, behind Tokyo, with 19 million residents. It is known as the food capital of Japan and manufactures the best sake in the world. In the springtime, Osaka holds the Osaka Asian Film Festival, where movie makers from all over Asia show their films in search of notoriety and distribution. Although Osaka is a modern city, I also want to check out the many shrines and temples. I love cherry blossoms, and the Osaka Castle houses an enormous cherry blossom garden. Spring is the perfect time to catch them in full bloom.


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Kyoto, Japan

Whereas Osaka is the food capital, Kyoto, Japan, is known as the cultural capital. Not a modern city like other cities in Japan, Kyoto is more culturally significant to Japanese ancient history. The city houses over 20% of the most popular shrines, castles, and temples in all of Japan.  In the spring, Kyoto holds a festival called Aoi Matsuri. The festival has been a tradition in Japan for over 1,000 years. The festival consists of a procession and the shrine rites. Another popular attraction in Kyoto is the Sagano Bamboo Forest. CNN called it one of the top places you need to see before you die. I can’t think of a better endorsement than that.

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Sapporo, Japan

When I visited Tokyo, I drank enough Sapporo to drown a fish. It’s one of my favorite beers, and even thought it’s no longer brewed in Sapporo, Japan, it originated there, and the company sponsors the city’s annual beer festival, which takes place in the summer. In the springtime, I would make a stop at Odori Park and check out the Sapporo Snow Festival. In 2016, it was the festival’s 66th year. Food stalls serve food and drinks from all regions of Japan, and the snow sculptures feature recent pop culture themes, such as Star Wars.


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Fukuoka, Japan

My Japan adventure would end with a bit of literary history, Japanese style. Every spot I visit, I try to find a place to get inspired for my writing, and what better place for inspiration than the Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine. The Umasake Clan built the shrine over the grave of Michizane, a gifted student who composed poems but was exiled by the Kyoto royal family to Fukuoka, Japan, in 905. Upon his death, the royal family mysteriously perished in a fire started by lightning striking the castle. Perhaps it was payback for the student’s exile. Later, the Fukuoka government named Michizane the god of literature. Now, how’s that for a story?


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