Things seemed pretty normal in the Kansai area. That's western Japan, quite a bit away from where the earthquake and tsunami struck last year. I always thought of Japan as a very energy-efficient country to begin with, but people still manage to find ways to save energy (less air conditioning and dimmed lights were the most noticeable changes to me).
On Day Two (we crashed early the first night we arrived) we made a trip to Muji and Uniqlo and bought cute clothes for the kids and myself. Then the next day, we headed to Sorakuen Gardens in downtown Kobe.
|Kobe city landscaping near Sorakuen Gardens|
This is an historic house on the garden grounds. Lots of Westerners settled in Kobe in the late 1800s and it shows in the architecture (as you might have guessed from that picture up above).
You still have to take your shoes off when you enter the house. Isla was pleased to find some Mickey Mouse slippers at the entrance. I don't have any pictures of the inside because shortly after this happy photo, both girls decided that they didn't want to wear slippers. I waited outside with them while Mr. T, who was already upstairs, took a look.
I had to check out the plant sale going on.
On closer inspection, I found some bluets for sale. I never see these at the garden centers here. I've been trying to figure out how to grow these ever since Anri Bluet was born three years ago.
Those Japanese painted ferns on the bottom left would look so good with some astilbe in a shady garden, don't you think?
One last look at some Japanese style landscaping at the garden entrance... then it was off for a coffee break.
We went to Nishimura, my favorite cafe in Kobe. It's in the Kitano area of downtown, where there was a Western settlement. This is some seriously delicious coffee. If you love coffee, you'll probably love Kobe where there is no shortage of great cafes. There are also a lot of cute shops, too, if you take some time to stroll around the area. My favorite shopping spots are Kitano and the back streets around Daimaru Department store which is right across the entrance to China Town. Harborland is another spot that has tons of restaurants and shops.
|Shot of downtown Kobe near Kitano.|
With a little caffeine in my system, I had enough energy to make it to Tokyu Hands where I bought some washi tapes. Then it was back to the suburbs for a Japanese dinner with my in-laws.
Thanks to jet lag, we were all in bed by 7 pm and awake at 3 am the next day. That went on for about one full week. Isla was especially restless, so I took her to the playground as soon as the sun came up at 5 in the morning. Oh the joys of traveling with small children!
Stick around next week for more highlights from our Japan trip.