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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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(continuation of a multi-part Blathering which begins here)

Friday September 7th, 2001 (cont'd)

My mother was born in Kobe, which is why I wanted to see it. Jeff and I used our JR rail passes with no problem...I'd definitely recommend these passes for anyone planning a visit to Japan. We had briefly considered going to Hiroshima as well, but realized that we'd rather spend more time in one place than very little in both.

My dad had said that my mom's childhood home had been destroyed in the big earthquake of '95, sadly, so I wasn't able to see it. Jeff and I visited The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Reconstruction Promotion Center in the Phoenix Place, which was also a community and support center for those who had been affected by the quake.

The women behind the information counter spoke flawless English, much to our surprise. We browsed the displays and watched a number of short films about the quake. The films were all in Japanese, but the center provided wireless headphones for those who wanted a translation in English.

Must admit I got all teary-eyed through some of the films, watching how the city coped with the aftermath (6400 people died, 40,000 were injured, 450,000 households destroyed), and the support that flooded in from the rest of the Japan and the world.

Other information in the center included causes of an earthquake, what steps Japan took in preparation for future earthquakes (e.g. in building construction), tips for how to survive an earthquake. Kind of unnerving, really. Allison tells us that according to local news, we've already experienced one earthquake, but it was a small one and occurred while we were sleeping.

It rained most of the day, so Jeff and I decided to take a tourbus that did an hour loop of the city. There was a pretty young Japanese woman in a tailored outfit narrating the entire trip. Jeff and I were the only passengers for part of the trip, and I thought it sort of funny that our tourbus guide was doing all this talking, and that her only passengers couldn't understand any of her narration. Perhaps she thought I was somewhat fluent and could translate for the gaijin, who knows.

Anyway, it was an interesting look at various parts of Kobe. During the entire trip, I couldn't help but keep thinking, "I wonder if Mom ever saw this part of the city? I wonder if she was ever standing where we are now, as a young girl, looking at what we're looking at?" It gave me a bit of a lump in the throat, wishing I could just call her up and ASK her. But it was also a very positive experience for me, helping me feel a connection with the young girl my mother once had been.

An amusing part of our tourbus ride was when we passed through Kitano, a pretty hillside neighbourhood where some of Kobe's early Western residents used to live. Local tourists can check out foreign-type houses without ever having to leave Japan. :-)

We arrived back in Tokyo in time to greet Alison when she got home from work, and had dinner at the same great ramen restaurant where we had eaten a few days before.

Next: conveyer belt sushi!

Today's Blatherpics:

- Some say Kobe beef is the best beef in the world. Note the price of the package shown above is equivalent to about CAN$140. (!!!)

- Shinkansen. I think these trains look very cool, don't you?

- Exhibit in the earthquake information centre.

- Ad on one of the drink-dispensing machines. We've also seen Bruce Willis in ads and commercials.

- Kobe tourbus.

- Western style house in Kobe. Tourists pay to see what Westerners live like.

Today's Poll:

Have you ever experienced an earthquake?

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