Location: Kobe, Takarazuka, Kyoto
At the risk of seeming like obsessive otaku, I must divulge that our next excursion was to the Tezuka Osamu Memorial Museum in Takarazuka. Tezuka was the creator of Astro Boy (known as Atom in Japan) and countless other manga, and is regarded as one of the founding fathers of comics and anime. Certainly his influence is easy to see in most anime, even if it’s only characters with big eyes and strange hair.
We left the Okura Hotel and walked up to the Sannomiya Station, stopping at Starbucks for coffee and pastries on the way (had to get the coffee mention in). It took a half hour or so to get to the relatively small town of Takarazuka. There was a sign pointing the way to the museum at the station’s exit, but after that, we didn’t see any more signs. We were standing on a corner looking confused when a nice older woman asked us in very good English what we were looking for. We told her and she walked with us up the street and pointed to the museum. “I’ve never been inside,” she said, “so I don’t know where the entrance is.”
Finding the entrance was easy. We went to the statue of the Phoenix (title character of a long-running series), and there it was.
The walkway up to the door is done like a Walk of Fame, with the “imagined footprints” of Tezuka’s characters in the cement. OK, it’s actually marble and they’re carved not imprinted.
For those not familiar with Tezuka, I’m not really sure how to describe him. In a way, he’s like the Walt Disney of Japan, except that he mostly stuck to still images, producing thousands and thousands of pages of stories in a career that spanned four decades. Having grown up in wartime, he developed a deep feeling that all life is precious, and that positive attitude carries through all his work. It’s not without conflict, but situations in his stories are often resolved without resorting to violence. His work Adolf is a strange and intriguing indictment of racism told in the lives of three characters, all named Adolf, one of whom became the leader of Germany, and in spite of his own Jewish roots, set about to purify the white race by eliminating the others.
There was a guide brochure in English, but almost none of the museum’s exhibits had anything but Japanese, so we just browsed and looked at the pictures. There were some very detailed drawings and paintings of insects from his youth, and some examples of early cartooning. His signature style of caricature developed early, with exaggerated hairstyles and bulbous noses.
The museum featured a library where large shelves were filled with copies of Tezuka’s works in a variety of languages. To my knowledge, some of them have still never appeared in English. We went into the little theater and watched a documentary film about Tezuka which was all in Japanese.
When we got back outside (after suffering much damage in the gift shop), we paused to take pictures of the “footprints” and statues, and I saw this man walk by with a cat on his shoulder.
The town of Takarazuka, like most of the places we visited, had a lot of art in public places. This statue, along with a similar companion, framed the approach to a bridge over a river.
We took our haul back to the hotel in Kobe, and made a spur of the moment decision to take the bullet train to Kyoto. We had originally planned to stay in Kyoto instead of Kobe, but it seemed that every hotel in Kyoto was booked solid during our time frame. And since we had rail passes, the trip would cost us nothing extra. We had just missed the City Loop bus, so we foolishly decided to walk to the station, which turned out to be further than we expected. It took us 45 minutes and was mostly uphill.
While we waited for the Hikari to arrive, I looked out the platform’s back window and saw the “ropeway” gondola cars going up the hill above town. We never did get a chance to go up there. The view of the harbor is supposed to be spectacular.
Boy are we glad we made the trip. Here’s a view of the interior of the Kyoto Station Building. There are many levels of shopping and dining, plus a nice hotel and a theater currently showing the musical Contact.
This is what part of it looks like from the outside.
Oddly enough, the Kyoto Station was home to Tezuka Osamu World, basically a gift shop and small theater. Maybe we knew in advance that it would be there.
Among many other businesses at the Kyoto Station was this dessert shop that had some wares on display. It attracted quite a crowd.
Across the street from the station is the Kyoto Tower Hotel. I’m not sure how the hotel got its name, but it has this thing stuck on top of it.
Also from the station, we could see a temple a few blocks away. It was getting pretty dark, but we walked down and snapped a few pictures. This is one of D’s.
Mine didn’t really turn out at all, except this one looking back towards the station showing the contrast of old and new. According to the sign, much of this construction dates from 1895, though it was rebuilt from structures dating from the 1600s.
We hopped back on the Shinkansen for Kobe and tried a short ride on that city’s subway to get us closer to our part of town. For dinner, we picked a Korean restaurant that turned out to be a small adventure of its own. The place was packed, and the only seats for us were in the back, on the raised platform where you take off your shoes and sit on the floor at low tables. With no English on the menu, and very little from the staff, we managed to order “whatever’s good” along with a couple of beers. “Chicken” was one word the waiter knew, and we told him spicy was OK. There are gas lines installed under the platform, and he set up a little burner on our table. A woman brought out a wok with meat, vegetables, and sauce in it and lit the burner. She returned every so often to stir it, and then signaled to us that it was done. It was spicy, but not unreasonably hot, and delicious. One other notable thing about the restaurant was that the chopsticks were metal. I was afraid they would be slippery and difficult to use, but I managed just fine.
Right next to us was a party of about twenty celebrating something. At first I thought it might be a birthday, since we saw cake, but when it came to the end of the meal, four or five different people gave speeches.
After we left the restaurant, we passed a dessert place (there seemed to be lots of them around) and went in for cake and coffee. Not as fancy as the creations of the place in Kyoto Station, but very good nonetheless.
Then D’s sharp eye caught an HMV sign, and we went in to experience some more Japanese culture. I neglected to mention our visit to a huge Tower Records store in Tokyo. Yes, Tower Records. The American company may have closed all its stores, but the Japanese chain was bought out and continues to this day under the same name. We went crazy in the Tokyo store, so you would think we didn’t need another CD store – or you would think that if you didn’t know us very well. More purchases to fill up the luggage. I found a single with Puffy covering “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and a CD+DVD from the show Nana featuring Anna Tsuchiya, a singer I like a lot.
Was that a full day or what?