First event day: Jinjas in Kobe

※ This article discusses the 8th of October 2016.

To access the internet, we currently use two connections: Martina’s eduroam account (mine does not work at all after an initially successful phase) or a temporary username + password combination provided by the International Student Center. Eventually we should get our own password, but apparently this did not happen within 8 days we are at the Residence. Therefore Martina discussed it with her advisor (as a minor question). She got informed that there are technical difficulties and we should expect our credentials in the mid of next week. Her advisor was also worried whether "Academic Writing" interferes with her intensive course. Apparently, he must also have found "Academic Writing" in a different session. Anyways, it sounded like her advisor is really trying to help her whereas I didn’t get informed. My conclusion is that information you receive really depends on your advisor and tutor (remember translation issues at the Bank and the incident related to National Health insurance).

It is Saturday and therefore Event day. So like every week, we leave the Residence and do something tourist-like. This week: Jinjas in Kobe. Python users might know Jinja. Its logo shows a shrine and this way you can remember Jinja is Japanese for shrine. We got a map showing some jinjas in Kobe. Researching its locations, we found out that the map is very accurate and Kobe with its long coast does not fit onto a DIN A4 page. Therefore distances were very wrong. I was glad we prepared our goals.

Because I was coughing badly and wanted to go into public, I decided to test some surgical masks. We dropped by at a conbini and bought some masks. One package containing 7 one-way masks costed 246 Yen.

Certainly my first and major goal was the Ikuta Jinja. It is located close to Sannomiya and I use a picture of it on the homepage and as background image on An appropriate final destination seemed the Okurayama Park. So at 12:00 we started off at Sannomiya and went to Ikuta Jinja. It is our first contact with Shintoism. The most interesting point of Japanese religion in my opinion is its combination of old traditions and sociological progress. If you look at Austria and its religious representatives, you will find a conservative group of traditionalists. As far as I can see this is different in Shintoism. People are proud of their old traditions, but separate it from political issues. At shrines you will find many people sticking to their traditions. First, you need to clean yourself by washing both hands by pouring water over them. In front of shrines, you will find boxes where you donate some money and wish for good health (or alike). Then you are allowed to ring the large bell to make the wish become true. Charms are small widgets offered for ~300 Yen which should bring you luck in a certain part of your life. This is another way to get luck or donate money. Inside a shrine, photographs are not allowed. I was wondering about that and many people took photos at Ikuta Jinja. It seems like you are not allowed to take photos inside the shrine building, but from outside it did not seem like a problem. Ikuta Jinja is really a beautiful shrine and worth looking at. It comprises a typical Japanese design. In terms of photography, I had difficulties photographing it. Because of the curvy roofs, many parts below the roof are in shadow which gives poor quality for my photos. I need to improve upon it.

Our next destination was the NHK main building in Kobe. NHK is Japan’s public broadcasting company. However, we discovered a ramen restaurant (Japanese noodles) beforehand and went into it. A nice chef greeted us and due to Martina’s Japanese skills we found some appropriate ramen. This was the first time I felt saturated after a meal, because meals are typically smaller than in Europe or America. At the ramen restaurant, the TV was running and we watched some melodrama while eating our ramen. Our hashi skills (chopsticks) got trained as well.

We only saw the NHK building from the outside and it was not spectacular at all. We immediately headed to our next goal: Kobe Mosque, the first Mosque in Japan. When taking our first photo, a man in a car mentioned we could go inside to look at the Mosque. We decided not to but looked at the Mosque from outside. It was a very nice building to look at.

Our next destination was Sorakuen; which I expected to be a general garden. We were asked to pay 300 Yen entrance fee and wondered whether it would be worth it. First we passed some palms and the Kodera stable; it features a German design. The Hassam House was designed as fusion of Eastern and Western design elements. Currently, they are construction sites inside, because they are preparing for an exhibition. So far I thought that was not worth 300 Yen, but then we found the second part of the garden. It has a pont where we found some koys and turtles. Some kids were throwing stones at them and Martina teached me that "Dama" is used to shout, making them stop. At the pont, a typical Japanese boat house - with golden decoration - and a tea house - reconstructed after war - can be found. I totally wanted to see a Japanese garden and wondered why it was not considered a Japanese garden in one of the tourist websites I found. The 300 Yen were worth it and we proceeded to our next destination which was a Catholic church.

Again we did not enter the church, but we recognized that we can spot several building in Japan made of red brick. This is something I commonly associate with Great Britain. In the following, we briefly saw the Chuo Police Department, which was a tall building and as often, a single man in the front took care of surveilling it. We headed towards the first protestant church in Kobe. This building reminded me more of Austria than the red brick Catholic church. Because fire cars in general look cool, we went to the "Chuo Fire Department of Yamate Branch". The fire cars looked indeed very cool, but we did not find the departmet initially. So we traversed the streets consecutively. I mentioned that cars in average are narrower than in Europe. This also holds for Japanese fire cars. We continued through some small side streets and wondered how people can actually drive into their parking spot. In the first floor they park their car and go up the stairs. In the second and third floor, they are living on narrow space.

Finally we arrived at Okurayama Park. It consists of a large baseball field. People use it for jogging around. In the rear, the area has many trees and people actually practice their instrument there. A woman was practicing an etude for flute lessons. I guess when living in a small Japanese house with several family members, this seems an admissible alternative for practicing the instrument. Because insects kept biting us the whole day (and especially in this area), we were sped up and finished our journey. We went to the next train station. We dropped by at the bakery within Sannomiya train station. I got something I would describe it as "Zuckerreinkerl mit Schokolade statt Honig" in German. In English I describe it as dough of multiple layers. In between there are raisins, sugar and chocolate. It tasted delicious, but I ate it at home.

Enough for the day. Considering I felt sick with my bad coughing, it was an eventful day we spent together, even though we mainly walked around (about 4.5km) and litte action was involved.