February 23, 2009

Continued Explorations By Bike

On Sunday, Mike and a friend continued their weekly bike excursions off Rokko Island into nearby towns and neighborhoods. (The running joke about ex-pat-friendly man-made Rokko Island being: "Real Japan, just 10 minutes due north"). Mike actually did a fair bit of exploring by bike last summer, while Ilena and the kids were back home. And Mike and Ilena got to take a nice little off-island bike ride a few weeks back. It is really a great way to get outside, get some exercise, and to explore around. So far, we have been sticking to the streets and sidewalks (in Japan, almost everyone bikes on the sidewalk rather than the street), and have not yet hit the off-road dirt paths in the mountains. Well, not since that one time that Mike did last year.

Generally, we just pick a direction or area and head that way. Just like Sannomiya, with its hundreds of interesting restaurants and bars crammed into every available nook and cranny of space, the surrounding neighborhoods in the Kobe area - like Sumiyoshi, Okamoto, and Ashiya (heading East towards Osaka) and Nada and Rokkomichi (heading West towards Kobe) - are chock full of interesting shops, restaurants, houses, gardens, little back alleys, concrete-bottomed rivers, and local neighborhood shrines. It is almost impossible to get lost, since dead North in any direction are the mountains - the Mount Rokko range, including Mount Maya - dead south is the water - Kobe Bay, and you can always orient yourself by using the JR or Hankyu train tracks and the various stations, each of which is a neighborhood unto itself.

Last time, we happened on a tiny local shrine buried at the end of a dead-end street on heading up the mountains. On this week's ride, our turn-around point was again at another shrine that we happened upon, Gokoku Jinja in Nada. The gokoku shrines are a particular type of shinto shrine dedicated to those that perished in Japan's wars. This was quite a great find. Peaceful, with neat sculptures and nice grounds.

Another week, another shrine...

No comments: