This week’s column is about Hyogo Prefecture, where the Meridian line passes. Located in eastern Kansai, Hyogo faces the seas on two sides; the Sea of Japan in the north and the Seto Island Sea in the south. From the central area of the prefecture all the way to the northern coast, environmental industries such as agriculture, forestry and fishing dominate, where it is underpopulated and often experiences seasonal weather like heavy snowfall. On the other hand, heavy chemical industries and manufacturing cluster in the southern area, making it densely populated and developed. This is where the capital city of Kobe lies. From the big cities, to the mountains, to the farming villages and islands, Hyogo Prefecture shows off incredible diversity, often referred to as the “Mini-Japan.”
In October 2015, an assembly called the “Kobe Night View Summit” was held in Kobe. Photographers and enthusiasts gathered to discuss which Japanese cities had the best nightscape; naturally with Kobe chosen as one of the top three. Voters especially admired the view from Mt. Rokko’s Maya, which is praised to be worth 10 million dollars. It is known for its beautiful contrast between the city and the ocean.
But it is not only the night view that makes Kobe so attractive. Once you get inside the city, you can find many treasures, such as the Arima Onsen. According to the Kojiki (Ancient records of Japan) and Chronicles of Japan, the Arima Onsen is the oldest hot spring in Japan. There is also Nankin City, a lively Chinatown that is home to around 100 restaurants. In Ijinkan Town, where many foreigners made their homes in the 19th century, historical western buildings still line the streets. Furthermore, there are all of the well known Kobe delicacies to try, such as Kobe wine and Kobe beef.
Let me now introduce to you other attractions outside Kobe.
●Himeji Castle (Awaji City)
This national treasure is designated as one of Japan’s Important Cultural Properties, and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is perhaps the most famous of the 100 Meijo (the Great Castles) in Japan. In recent years, the site has adopted technology to help people enjoy their visit, including a new application which can be downloaded to your smartphone. You can open the app at any spot in the castle, and it will show you detailed information about that area with videos and photos. It creates the feeling that you have time slipped into the Sengoku period.
●Takeda Castle (Asago City)
This castle sits on a mountain summit in the midst of a deep valley and is often surrounded by a sea of clouds; therefore, visitors have come to call it “the castle floating in the sky” or “Japan’s Machu Picchu.” Along with the Himeji Castle, it is chosen as one of the 100 Meijo.
●Takarazuka Grand Theatre (Takarazuka City)
This magnificent theater is the home of the famous Takarazuka Revue. Many musicals are performed by the groups and over one million people attend the shows every year.
●Hanshin-Koshien Stadium (Nishinomiya City)
This stadium is known as Japanese baseball’s holy place, and the home of the Hanshin Tigers since 1924. Aside from professional games, it also holds the national high school baseball tournaments that take place twice a year.
This year’s summer Koshien is about to start! Why not take this opportunity to watch the baseball games in Hyogo, and experience “Mini Japan!”