On our way to Western Japan we stopped for a few days in Kobe, a chance for us to take it slow and for Quentin to catch-up with his old-times friends and his host family – and that’s exactly what we did!
The first evening we were invited by Daniel, a former Swiss diplomat, to the Kobe Club, japan’s oldest Gaijin (foreigners)-club. Daniel had to lend a suit jacket to Quentin, because we couldn’t decently enter the place with just jeans and a t-shirt. The food was delicious, and probably the most western meal we’ve had since leaving Switzerland – smoked salmon, asparagus soup, lamb racks and Catalan cream. We ended the night in a tiny bar with dim lights, red leather sofas, and a piano taking up 30% of the space. The owner, a Japanese lady in 70s, dedicated us a song about love. She had the most amazing rough and smoky voice! It was very touching, and a stark contrast to Japanese women’s usual high-pitched girly voices.
Early the next day, we met Quentin’s Japanese host family. Masa, Iku and their 3 kids took us for a hike in the mountains bordering Kobe. It quickly turned into a trail-running session, which made Questing remember why his host-parents look at least 10 years younger than they are. Our reward was a delicious lunch and Japanese craft beers at a friend’s English Pub.
After a well-deserved rest (aka a 4-hour nap), Masa and Iku invited us to an amazing restaurant with Japanese modern-traditional fusion cuisine. From eating a tiny crab as a whole (!) to letting melt a piece of Kobe beef on our tongues, the entire meal was a dreamful gastronomical experience.
On the next day, Takako, another friend of Quentin, took us to a very old sake brewery by the coast of Japan. She then took us to the city of Ako and its shrine honoring the famous 47 ronins, the samurais who went against the law by killing the Lord that was responsible for their master’s death. As punition they had to commit seppuku (ceremonial suicide by opening your belly with a blade).
Spending almost two months in Japan without a proper tea ceremony would have been a shame and we were more than lucky that Quentin’s host mum invited us to her teachers place to experience this long-standing Japanese art. And yes, there are teachers to learn how to properly do the ceremony. And yes, even after decades of practice, the elegant movements might still be improved. The taste of whisked fresh matcha together with a small sweet was fabulous!
Of course, we also spent some time enjoying Kobe, or rather touring Quentin’s favourite restaurants from back in the days. From ramen to saucy fried pork domburi through Korean BBQ domburi, it was a real feast! We also bought some A-5 grade wagyu and grilled it at home. (OK, we did a bit of sightseeing as well, and went through Chinatown (for food, naturally) and to Kobe Harbourland, offering the famous Kobe seaside view).
We also spent one day in Osaka, firstly for Quentin to apply for his Mongolian visa (Rebekka doesn’t need one…ze tchermans!), but also to shop kitchenware and dishes in Osaka’s famous Doguyasuji kitchen street. We restrained ourselves a lot and ended up shipping a 8kg package by boat to Switzerland. It will hopefully make it home in one piece. But we won’t get to use them before several months anyway. Next is Okayama and Hiroshima!