Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sakura 桜 - Shukugawa

Located in western Nishinomiya this riverside park is a wonderful spot to enjoy the sakura and the many people engaged in appreciating them. Enjoying flowers in Japan is quite popular and it even has a term "hanami" or flower viewing (花見), a practice many centuries old originally limited to the elite of the Imperial Court but soon spread to the common people. Under the sakura trees people lunch and drink sake in cheerful revelry. Spring has finally arrived, so it is time to prepare a bento, pack into one of Japan's many parks, find a flowering sakura, throw down a plastic sheet & blanket (don't forget to take off your shoes!), oh and bring lots of booze and get totally cockeyed.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tonbo トンボ(蜻蛉)

A rather large damselfly, a very close relative to the dragonfly, among the Sakura blossoms - the modern name for the dragonfly is tombo (tonbo is damselfly) but the more traditional name is kachimushi which literally means "victory bug". During the 11th century noble Japanese families used the dragonfly as ornamentation on everything from furnishings to textiles and was a fairly common motif on samurai swords, armor and uniforms. One reason for this is because a dragonfly always flies forward and seemingly never retreats and consequently became associated with strength, courage, success and victory. Japanese legend has it that an Emperor was bitten by a horsefly which, in turn, was eaten by a dragonfly. The Emperor honored the dragonfly by naming what is now Japan “Akitsushima” which (during that time) translated to “Isle of the Dragonfly”.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sponge Cake - Just a Dollar

Apparently someone who designs the many plastic wonders found at the Daiso 100 Yen shops (hyaku-en shoppu aka. dollar store) took the term 'sponge cake' way too literally. Internationally 100 Yen shops have steadily gained in popularity over the last several years but they are hardly comparable to the spectacle of the 100 Yen shops that are literally everywhere in Japan.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

EcoCute エコキュート

The EcoCute company is originally known for its energy efficient electric heat pump that uses heat extracted from the air to heat water and deliver it for domestic, industrial and commercial use. The technology offers a means of energy conservation and reduces the emission of greenhouse gas and now the company has made a move to produce electric cars. The name is a clever play on words, 'Eco' is a contraction of Ecology and/or Economical and 'Cute' (pronounced ki-u-to) also means (給湯 kyūtō) literally "supply hot water." Does it have to be this cute, well no, but how else are we suppose to take the electric car revolution seriously? So watch for this dolphin thingy coming to a rearview mirror near you- likely no time soon.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Freshness Burger

Freshness Burger is a nation-wide chain in Japan with additional locations in Korea and Hong Kong. It could be described as the closest burger you will find to In-N-Out Burger outside of California, but in my opinion these are better. Started in 1992 in Shubiya, Tōkyō by Mikio Kurihara, Freshness Burger creates a delicate balance between restaurant setting and fast food speed. Or perhaps think of it as 'slow' fast food managed by people that encourage employee individualism and patrons that use the restaurants as places to relax with friends. Every item on the Freshness Burger menu is created on site including the buns and french fries which are more like potato wedges. Freshness Burger is a story of entrepreneurial success, thriving in an over-saturated market with higher prices offered in a recession, employing a style that is actively reminiscent of 1950's Americana. Even if the antiquity is manufactured the restaurant was comfortable, clean and homey. Serving both organic tea and organic coffee everything I tried was delicious having been prepared and presented with care.

Daimaru Shinsaibashi Ōsaka

Daimaru department store in Shinsaibashi Ōsaka is a massive neo-gothic style building designed by Kansas born educator, architect, missionary and entrepreneur William Merrell Vories in 1933.

Friday, March 26, 2010

グリコマン Glico-man

This is the famous advertisement for Glico, a Japanese confectionery company (manufactures of traditional Glico caramel candy & Pocky) headquartered in Ōsaka. The Glico '300 meter running man' trademark is derived from the original caramel candy which is 15.4 kcal per piece or, according to a rather dull equation provided by Glico, provides enough energy to run 300 meters. As the sign is quite well known, it has long been a popular photo stop for tourists as well as locals. Glico was also the main sponsor of the anime series Tetsujin 28.

Starfish ヒトデ

Beached starfish on the coast of Suma-ku, the ward next to Nagata-ku to the west, on the beach near a fishing park. I believe that it is an Ocher Seastar (Pisaster Ochraceus) common to the Pacific Ocean.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dōtonbori City Streets 大阪

Ōsaka is Japan's second largest city and the heart of one of the largest metropolitan areas on the planet. Traditionally referred to as 天下の台所 (the nation's kitchen), Ōsaka is known as the center of traditional Japanese culinary delights and home style cooking. Specifically this is the Dōtonbori entertainment district known for its restaurants and food stands. The right-most photograph is near Dōtonbori Bridge and pictures the famous mechanized Kani Doraku Crab, built in 1960 with mobile legs/arms and eyestalks, along with an impressively long row of bicycles - which is a common site in most metropolitan areas of Japan.

Light Hunting Machine

I am slowly gaining a collection of street art from the Hyōgo area and it has taken me to some interesting places and I often get some curious side glances from passers-by as I attempt to photograph these artworks. While capturing these particular works from a underground pedestrian tunnel in Shin - Ōsaka I had a very short conversation with a teenage gentleman about graffiti in which he poetically referred to my camera (in katakana - english) as a "light hunting machine" and its new name has stuck.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nankinmachi at Night

This is the center of Kobe Chinatown or Nankinmachi 南京町 at dusk. The square is host to many events especially at Chinese New Year with lion dancing, live music, plays and martial arts demonstrations. The animals of the Chinese Zodiac are all represented and at all times of year people can be found taking photos with these fellows and enjoying the wonderful food throughout the small town.

Streets of Motomachi 元町

In the 19th Century Motomachi was known as the home of foreign trading companies and is located next to the port of Kobe and adjacent to what was the foreign settlement. Now Motomachi is known for its maze of shopping streets and mile-long covered shopping arcade full of high-end retail shops, gourmet food and night spots. It is also well known for its cosmopolitan atmosphere, foreign influence and energetic nightlife.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Kinako Ohagi Kit Kat

The American Hershey company has made the Kit Kat a timeless chocolate candy - sturdy, brown and predictable - like bricks and equally as exciting. Yet in Japan the Swiss corporation Nestle makes the Kit Kat and has introduced some intriguing flavors: Kōbe has its own flavor called pudding and Kyōto has green tea, I have also tried maple, raspberry-passionfruit, ginger ale and royal milk tea. Pictured is my recent venture into the Kit Kat universe, Kinako Ohagi which is a traditional Japanese treat consisting of sweet rice balls covered is toasted soy flower (kinako) served during Higan. Higan is a Buddhist holiday celebrated around the Spring and Fall equinoxes in which people visit family graves to pray to/for their ancestors. The Kinako Ohagi Kit Kat was tasty but very sweet and the subtle nutty flavor of kinako was almost absent.

Brahmaea Hearseyi

This is the Indonesian owl moth (Brahmaea Hearseyi) pictured at the Awaji Yumebutai. Butterflies and moths belong to the order Lepidoptera which contains over 180,000 species, however, only about 10 percent are butterflies while the rest are moths. Moths are often overlooked for their "more attractive" butterfly cousins, yet many are quite beautiful in their own right.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Awaji Yumebutai

The Awaji Yumebutai is a conference center, hotel and memorial located on Awaji Island. It was designed by architect Tadao Ando and utilizes an intricate complex of interior and exterior spaces, light and shadow and running and still water. Constructed of smooth concrete, rough stone, sea shells and translucent glass this massive structure has given new life to the mountain hillside destroyed for use as landfill in Ōsaka bay. The architect carried the idea of rebirth and reconstruction so the Yumebutai may also serve as a memorial of the Hanshin earthquake.

Happy Vernal Equinox 春分の日

Today is a national holiday in Japan, a provision of the Public Holiday Law establishes that when a national holiday falls on a weekend the next working day shall become a furikae kyūjitsu (transfer holiday). Under this provision, March 22, 2010 has been designated a furikae kyūjitsu holiday for the Vernal Equinox. The photograph is from a small costal shrine atop a natural sandstone cliff on Awaji Island near the Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge. According to the Nihonshoki version of the Shinto creation myth Awaji was the first of the ōyashima (great country of myriad islands) born from the two Kami Izanagi and Izanami. Izanagi is also said to have retired permanently to a hidden palace on the island of Awaji and for this reason there has been an Izanagi shrine on the island since about the tenth century.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Maiko Marine Promenade

The Maiko Marine Promenade is an observatory and series of walkways located under the Akashi Kaikyo bridge's platform, about 155 ft above the water. Accessed by elevator from the base of the bridge on the Kōbe side, the hallways offer views of the bridge's interior, the Akashi Strait and Ōsaka Bay. Not for the faint of heart, the plexiglass floor section of the promenade (pictured left) offers a view straight down to the ocean. Photograph on the right is a view of the bridge as seen through a sculpture from Maiko Park at its base.

Akashi-Kaikyō 明石海峡大橋

The Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge, also known as Pearl Bridge, has the longest central span of any suspension bridge (6,532 ft) and is quite a site to behold. The bridge links the city of Kōbe on the mainland of Honshū to Iwaya on Awaji Island. It took two million workers ten years to construct the bridge and it utilizes enough steel cable to circle the planet seven times. The bridge was designed to withstand winds of 178 mph, earthquakes measuring to 8.5 on the Richter scale, and harsh sea currents. The two main supporting towers rise 978 ft above sea level and the bridge can expand up to 7 ft over the course of a day due to surface heating.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Traditional Japanese wedding ceremonies are Shinto in origin and consequently are held at shrines. Brides wear a traditional wedding garment called a shiromuku or white kimono robe; pictured is a wedding held in the Kitano area of Kōbe at the foot of Mount Rokkō.

Westin Awaji Island 淡路島

Photograph from the second floor lobby of the Westin hotel on Awaji Island. Awaji Island is a part of Hyōgo Prefecture in the eastern part of the Seto Inland Sea between the islands of Honshū and Shikoku.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sakura 桜 - Night Viewing

One of the main streets in Motomachi 元町 is lined with early blooming sakura trees so I took advantage of a well placed street lamp to take a photographic night view of the flowers. In some public parks with these trees large spot lights are set-up so the blossoms can be appreciated long into the night, often accompanied by picnics, libations and friends - this busy expressway, however, is not an ideal location for this kind of viewing but is beautiful none-the-less.

Nagata Neighborhood Streets #2

The contemporary Japanese landscape is one where the awkwardly new jostles the really old, not uncomfortably but often without admiration. In Nagata this has created a landscape with wide almost suburban-american main streets and hidden ally-like side streets packed with restaurants and small markets that imbue nostalgia. Walking these side streets make Nagata feel like a town that time forgot.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Calpis Sour

I warned you earlier that Calpis is a great mixer for cocktails, well to celebrate their 15th anniversary Calpis decided to save you the trouble of searching for just the right combinations and proportions. Any of you that have had a B-52 drink shot knows milk and alcohol makes for a chewy curdy mixture and a name like Calpis Sour may not inspire the utmost confidence. But, whomever originally got drunk enough to mix a soft drink based on nonfat dry milk with Vodka was really on to something because this stuff is tasty; dangerously tasty.

Nagata Neighborhood Streets #1

I recently moved to a different ward within Kobe called Nagata - Ku and have spent some free time exploring my new surroundings. This region suffered the largest number of casualties in the Hanshin earthquake and consequently even this many years later the area is being shaped by the memories, economic hardships, and challenges the disaster created. Shoes Plaza, wearing a giant pair of red pumps as its identity badge, aims to restore the once lucrative and famous Nagata shoe industry.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Streets of Sannomiya 三宮

Higashimon, a street in Sannomiya, is home to many lively bars and restaurants and runs parallel to Ikuta street and Ikuta Jinja. The Sannomiya district is located at the center of the city of Kōbe and contains many major department stores, hotels and the center street is a mega-scale arcade. Underneath elevated rail tracks from JR Sannomiya Station to Motomachi and Kobe Station are Piazza Kōbe and Motoko shopping arcades which feature exotic stores and outlets for young consumers.

Tea Beer

It is not green for St. Patrick, chocolate, nor Japanese but it is a strange, unique, and very interesting drink that I encountered in an Belgian themed bar in Sannomiya. The beer is a clear amber-gold color with a very short head and an aroma of citrus, faint herbal hops, honey, dried flowers and tea. The taste has a decided peach flavor with a malt finish, fairly low in carbonation, smooth and light. The label states that: "Lindemans Tea Beer is a lambic beer brewed with barley malt, wheat and hops. A spontaneous fermentation and maturation on tea leaves results in an artisanal tea-flavored beer; that takes two years to mature." Overall a tasty concoction that I am glad to have tried but am unlikely to order again.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Perfect Day

A perfect day of equal parts travel, new music, toys, ocean, karaoke, sushi, sake, cake and excellent company. Pictured is an scrumptious sakura flavored roll cake from Pâtisserie Yamacho in Akashi.

Sakura 桜

The Sakura or flowering cherry trees have started to blossom and this is one of my first attempts this season to capture their beauty, though many are sure to follow. Taken by how these trees, located in the middle of downtown Sannomiya, are contrasted against the concrete and brick inspired me to use the 'toy camera' setting on my LX3 to emulate the atmosphere.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ides of March

Another rainy day in Kobe so I decided to visit one of the many local bakeries. Because it's a port city, Kobe has a strong ex-pat community and consequently has a reputation for great bread and bakeries. This is a bear shaped chocolate-cream filled sweet bread that goes nicely with a hot cappuccino.

Street Art Japan グラフィティ

I am going to start sharing some of the street art that I encounter: tagging, sticking, stenciling and graffiti. I don't know how well it will go because much of the really fantastic work is in places that I cannot legally or safely get close enough to photograph, but we will see. . . Street art, here in Kobe at least, seems to be covered up and white washed quite quickly but that has not stopped many persistent artists. Photographs are from Sannomiya shopping and bar district.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

White Day ホワイトデー

For those of you that believe February 14, with its tacky poetry, inflated prices, pink plush and waxy chocolates, is narrowly endurable - then steer clear of Japan on March 14th. Today is White Day, a consumer industry created holiday that mirrors Valentine's Day. In Japan Valentine's Day is generally observed by woman who present chocolate as an expression of love, courtesy, or social obligation. On White Day men who received a gift on Valentine's Day are expected to return the favor by giving gifts. How better to celebrate another retail created holiday then with Kitty-chan, those folks at Sanrio will put her visage onto just about anything, this gifted tin is filled with a confectionary of strawberry cream filled waffles.

Maneki Neko 招き猫

Literally beckoning cat, the Maneki Neko is a common symbol (even outside Japan) believed to bring good luck. The origins of this symbol as well as the exact meanings of its accessories and posture seem unclear. In light of this, I will share an origin story that a friend told me some time ago in Hawaii: One day a luminary or nobleman passed by a cat, which seemed to wave to him. On a side note in Japan, unlike the west, to beckon someone it is customary to place your palm down, repeatedly folding your fingers toward the wrist and back. Taking the cat's motion as a sign, the man paused and left the trail to see it. Diverted from his journey he only then realized that he had avoided a trap that had been laid for him just ahead. Because the cat seemingly saved the noblemen's life its likeness was inshrined as a figurine with one paw upraised as if waving. This restaurant seemingly took the symbol very seriously as its dinners eat within the belly of a giant Maneki Neko.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

生田神社 Ikuta Jinja #1

Ikuta (Ikuta-jinja) is a Shinto shrine located in the center of the Sannomiya shopping and bar district and is possibly among the oldest shrines in the country. Pictured here is the road leading to the shrine Ikuta road.

生田神社 Ikuta Jinja #2

Acording to the Nihon Shoki (the second oldest book of classical Japanese history) Ikuta was founded by the Empress Jingū at the beginning of the 3rd century CE to enshrine the Kami Wakahirume. Although this is not the shrines original location it has resided here for at least 1200 years weathering all manner of natural disaster. The road to the shrine leads directly to the sea, thus the shrine functions in part for seafarers and their prayers for safe travel and bountiful sea based harvests. Its location also lends to its alternate function, popular with young people, as a love shrine. This is the unpainted torii that demarcates the Sandō or the approach to the shrine.

生田神社 Ikuta Jinja #3

The name of the city in which I reside, Kobe, also owes its name to the shrine. Originally pronounced “Kambe” the name derives from the families who performed services for the upkeep of the shrine and who planted rice for the saké to be offered to the Kami. Kambe-mura (Kambe village) eventually had its pronunciation changed to Kobe-mura and then finally just Kobe. The collage contains images common to all shinto shrine and illustrate some of their most important features including: paper lanterns with the mon or crest of the shrine (tōrō or decorative stone lanterns are also important), various torii throughout the shrine grounds, dedicated saké barrels that serve as offerings to the Kami, a sessha or massha (smaller auxiliary shrines) complete with komainu or 'lion dogs' that act as guardians of the shrine.

生田神社 Ikuta Jinja #4

The honden or main hall which is the most sacred building at a Shinto shrine and intended purely for the use of the enshrined Kami, usually symbolized by a mirror or sometimes by a statue. The building is normally in the rear of the shrine and closed to the general public. The couple seen in this photograph are actually in front of a part of the main hall called the heiden or hall of offerings where all shrine visitors will come to pay tribute. I met some nice folks that walked me through the ritual common to Ikuta (there may be variation in how basic visitation is preformed based on location, time of year and holidays) which includes approaching the shrine, leaving a donation in the slated box, ringing the large bell prior to prayers, a sequence of bows, and 2 claps holding the third and putting your hands together in front of your heart for a closing bow after your prayers.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Capsule Toy Dispensary

Inside a shopping complex in Sannomiya I happened upon a small but densely packed section of hobby stores. These stores catered to all types of collectors: musical instruments, vinyl records, anime, manga, toys, video games (classic and contemporary) and some stores devoted exclusively to specific themes like Godzilla, trains, Gundam, and My Little Pony. The narrow halls were also lined with gashapon. Gashapon toys are often based on popular character licenses from video games, comics, anime, Japanese icons, movies, Disney and it is not uncommon to see vulgar and explicit sets themed for adults. Virtually all gashapon are released in collectible sets and are, by nature, a 'blind purchase' which lends to the slot machine feel of each purchase; the addiction costs between 100円 and 500円 per twist.

"Mellow Richness of Quality Hokkaido Barley Malt"

The title of this post is the slightly misleading quote from the can of Sapporo's Creamy White a special Kansai region dai-san (third-category) brew released this month. Japan's third-category brews use very little or no malt to reduce tax and thus price. So-what you say? Well, beer crafters use barley malt for good reason - fermentation only works on sugars and grains don't contain any, but when barley gets moist and germinates the sprout contains an enzyme that converts starch into sugar (malting). Creamy White and other dai-san are brews but without malt they are hardly beers; dai-san are to beer what processed cheese food are to artisan cheese. Yet with tighter purse strings in this Japanese economic malaise, drinking up a six-pack of real beer is now a luxury. Creamy White does deliver a creamy texture (surprising as these names are usually just hyperbole) with a sharp and fizzy finish. The result is a cheeper drinkable brew as long as you keep your expectations realistic, we are talking Velveeta here not brie.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

City Logo - Kobe

Japanese manhole covers come in a variety of designs depending on locality, utility type and manufacturer. One common element that all manhole covers in Kobe share are a representation of the city logo - seen here in two variations.
These urban industrial works of art are trodden upon by thousands, mostly unseen they lie embellished - sealing off underground worlds of conduits, drains and sewers. The city symbol is visible throughout the city on every official motor vehicle, building, uniform, or just as decoration. The Photograph below is an example of the latter from a bridge on mount Rokkō.

Nankinmachi 南京町

Kobe's chinatown (Nankinmachi) is slightly small measuring only 3-4 blocks and it can be accused of being slightly kitschy with its over-the-top Disneyesque (e.g. it's a small world) colors and decorations however, it also offers history, atmosphere and good eats. Nankinmachi developed around the residential area of Chinese merchants who settled in Kobe after the city's port had been opened to foreign trade in 1868 and although the food has a Japanese twist it is still a great place to get dim sum. The steaming hot baozi offered street-side and the moist soup dumplings will not disappoint.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Kobe Playgrounds

Public playgrounds are really not that common in the states. We have them here and there usually in more suburban areas and they are largely unused and under-maintained. In comparison Kobe is practically overrun with playgrounds of various shapes sizes and even themes. The parks vary from pocket size to sprawling kiddy urban oasis nearly a block wide and every other block has one of these playgrounds. Todays photographic collage is a study of those concussion inducing spring loaded contraptions some apparently call toys. Oh, for the record no kids out today as the parks are soggy and cold from the heavy rains we are still getting pelted with, but usually these parks are well used.

All That Glitters Is Not . . . Chocolate?

Chocolate soda . . . sounds odd right? Well that's what I thought at first but it makes perfect sense if it is introduced along with its siblings from the flavor family tree: cream soda and the egg cream. Suntory's Chocolate Sparkling is basically a bastard child of cream soda dressed in chocolate flavor instead of vanilla. The aroma is rich and chocolaty while the flavor is deep and throaty with a surprisingly long aftertaste. The glittery bubbles kick in at the end contributing to its crispy finish. The result is another chocolaty flavor success for Japan and I plan to pick up another bottle of this bubbly to use as the foundation for a vanilla ice cream float.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Nabemono なべ物

Nabemono resembles a stew or soup usually served during the colder seasons commonly kept hot at the dining table by portable stoves, or even cooked at the table giving diners the opportunity to pick the cooked ingredients they want from the pot. Either eaten with the broth or with a dip, further ingredients can also be successively added with rice and ramen being popular final ingredients. This one pot meal makes clean-up easy and the base has many varieties that can last successive meals making this a favorite on my dinning table and is also a fun dish to enjoy out at restaurants from time to time. Pictured here is nabe from Shirokiya a local izakaya chain.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Nunobiki Falls 布引の滝

The mountain range that frames Kobe on the Northern slope called Rokkō recently provided me with a welcome escape from the bustle of this modern city. One of the beauties of Japan is how pedestrian friendly it is, you seemingly are able to walk almost anywhere. However, one downside is directions can be a bit of a sticky wicket. The point being, I got lost but it was because I didn't think that one of Japan's most impressive waterfalls was a 20 minute walk into the mountains just behind a train station. Nunobiki Falls has four cascades and their beauty is referenced in Japanese literature as far back as the 10th century. The falls are currently swollen from all the heavy rains.

Mount Rokkō 六甲山

These are some of the sites I met while getting lost on Mt. Rokkō. I had the luxury of time so I wandered about and made a game of finding what I call micro worlds and photographing them in such a way that it confuses our sense of proportion and scale just long enough for us to imagine ourselves among them. The Shin-Kobe Ropeway pictured here continues upward toward a higher point on mount Rokkō above the falls. Photographically I am playing with tilt shifting, selective focus and homemade filters.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Kobe Fashion Museum has Landed

Kobe Fashion Museum, located on Rokkō Island, is Japan’s first public museum dedicated to fashion. This photograph doesn't provide a clear perspective of the whole building, for that you will have to google or take me on my word, but it looks a little like the bridge of the starship Enterprise. Unfortunately the building is a fail - it could have been fantastic but much like a crayon drawing done by a young child who doesn't know when to stop, this building is over embellished, cluttered and generally lacks focus. Photograph done in-camera on the Panasonic LX3 'toy camera' setting - I think the ominous mood makes this feel like a close view of the bridge of the doomed Discovery One from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Cerfeuil Jam

Cerfeuil (which means chervil in French) is a small chain store which makes jams, dips and pastes. We stopped into the Kobe Sannomiya location to sample some of the various flavors and decided on the waffle with blackberry, kiwi, banana and strawberry. The banana was an inspired concoction with a clean almost crisp essence of the fruit. Another favorite is a rich and savory Miso jam that is also quite delightful.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Calpis カルピス Ice

Calpis is a nostalgic Japanese beverage, first marketed in the early 1900's, with a cloudy white color and a light tangy taste comparable to unflavored yogurt with a milky after-bite. It comes in many varieties including mango, strawberry and lychee; the carbonated variety is known as Calpis Soda and the pre-mixed version is Calpis Water. Calpis is readily available all over Japan and the flavor has been added to soft candy and my newest discovery Calpis Ice which is essentially a popsicle with a light shave ice like flavor. For those who have not yet tried it Calpis makes a great mixer for cocktails and is available in the states as Calpico.

Rokkō Island 六甲アイランド

Rokkō Island is the second major artificial island in Higashinada-ku located in the southeast region. The island was constructed from reclaimed land between 1973 and 1992 and the island was one of the harder hit areas in Kobe during the Hanshin Earthquake. Most if not all of the island is build around new architectural styles and feels almost surgically sterile compared to the mixed architecture and history of Kobe just across the port.