The last place I went during my summer vacation was Kobe. I love Kobe so much that I have chosen it as my patron city in Japan. It's a gorgeous town full of interesting buildings, foreign culture and history. Moreover, it has the dude who said he could fix my cracked phone for cheap. We decided to make an event of the trip and stay one night in a hotel there. The drive takes a few hours, and making it twice in a day can be tiresome. Especially since we wanted to play around on Mt. Rokko, which is kind of a resort spot/tourism area. It's a mountain complex full of various destinations that sits just outside of Kobe proper, so you can see the city splayed out beneath you. The first thing we checked out when we arrived was a huge music box museum, and we arrived just in time for the concert. That sounds dreadfully boring, I know, but actually it was cool to see the machines wind up and activate. These were not your grandmother's music boxes, either; the biggest of them occupied the entire back wall of the room and stretched almost to the vaulted ceiling. It had lights and doors that opened to reveal stuff and it was quite a show. I was chosen to crank one of the smaller boxes as well. It was like being one of those street performers with the hand crank carts. "See the wonders of the magic orb! See the future! Find your spouse! Buy a cure all tonic for 5 cents!"
View of Kobe from Mt. Rokko
On the first night that we arrived, we set out to find "The smaho DR", or less engrishified, the smart phone doctor. The GPS said it was only a 5 minute walk, but we got twisted around in the many brightly-lit underground mall passageways we went through and we ended up being a little late. Nevertheless, after we pushed the buzzer to be escorted up by the illustrious doctor, a young punk appeared in knee high boots and with a ridiculous haircut that could have been "fashion" or could have just been a mistake. I concocted a fantasy in which this man was the doctor's estranged son come home at last, and the graying old patriarch welcomed him just as he was, knee high boots and all, because being apart for so long had taught the doctor about acceptance and so he softened his hard-line stance. I imagined the reunion: the young punk walking in and dropping his bag full of boots. The doctor, bent over his work, yells out "We're closed", but then he hears the CLOMP CLOMP on wood and he mutters "No, it can't be". He stands up and chortles as he sees his son for the first time in XX years. And the whole thing is captured on 30 or so broken smartphone cameras, their flashes going off with varying degrees of intensity and timing.
I'm jarred from my fantasy by the chime of the bell. We left the elevator YP ushered us inside The Doctor's workshop. Some music I recognized was playing from a small speaker, and various products were on display around a tiny shop that was a converted apartment. YP turned to us and raised his eyebrows as if to say, "The doctor is in. What can I do for you today?" Atsumi negotiated while I nursed my prejudices in the corner. I should have known there would be no kindly Geppetto. Just Dr.Youngpunk and my incredulity, captured on 30 or so broken smart phone cameras.
From the Ferris wheel
The next day we went down to Harborland and walked around the expansive mall there and took in the sights around the harbor. It was oppressively hot still, and we had to frequently duck into crowded shops to cool off. I tried to work up the nerve to actually buy stuff, and she took me around and showed me Ghibli shops and clothing stores, electronics stores and book stores, the whole gamut of normal mall fare (except the Ghibli stuff). But by far my favorite thing was getting to see the harbor and the sea from the top of an air conditioned Ferris wheel.
After we left Harborland, we hit the trail back home. I convinced Atsumi to play the hold your breath game with me since we passed through so many tunnels. Wow.