December in Sanomiya/Motomachi area of Kobe.
Every year, there is a light display that is awesome and a must see if in Japan. It is called
'The Luminaire' One entire street is lit up with beautiful and colorful lights. Many people in the Kansai area/region visit. It is on display usually for one month. When walking down street, so many people doing at same time so your squeezed in.
This display is a Christmas tradition in Kobe.
On my last visit to Kobe, there were rumors of this being the last one to be held...
NUNOBIKI HERB GARDEN
If you love herbs, this is THE place to go! You can stroll through the herb gardens after a ride up the mountain on the cable car that also offers breathtaking views of Kobe!
You can also eat herb cuisine at the Restaurant Herb Garden.
Fee: 200yen/adult, 100yen/children
Hrs: 10am-5pm, closed 2nd & 4th Monday
World Cup 2002
I've always thought that a major sports event is a good excuse to travel somewhere new. I never thought I'd make it to the World Cup in Japan. I can remember when the venue was announced back in 1996 - Japan and South Korea would jointly host the event and I was glad because at least I wouldn't have to sit up all night to watch the matches. I never thought then that I'd actually be living fifteen minutes' walk from one of the stadiums! Ironically, I didn't make it to that particular venue (Nagai stadium in Osaka) but I did manage to procure tickets for a game across the bay in Kobe. I didn't have a particular preference for a country to see - Australia had already been eliminated by Uruguay and knew that getting tickets for the Japan matches would be near impossible. I just wanted a good, competitive match.
At the time of the World Cup, I was living in Imazato, about 45 minutes by train from Kobe Wing Stadium, the venue for the match I was attending. This was a quite a journey to take considering my state of dress, but thanks to that wonderfully Japanese trait of minding one's own business and pretending nothing unusual is happening, I scarcely got a second look. When we boarded this train (as pictured here), the carriage was semi-full. A couple of people glanced up from their reading material and then returned to their reading as though it were an everyday event to have a 6 foot- something foreigner with face paint and antlers enter the train. In fact, the closer we got to the stadium, the more people pointed us out and waved and so on. I'd almost forgotten by then how odd we must have looked!
Kobe Wing Stadium was purpose- built for the World Cup and is located in the Misaki district of Kobe. So named for the two massive wing-like grandstands either side of the pitch, it seats 34,000 and is now home to J-League side Vissel Kobe.
There was a full house for the Sweden Vs. Nigeria game, and the atmosphere before the match started was amazing. There were a few small pockets of Nigerian fans and two large sections full of singing, beer-swilling Swedes. We arrived at the ground with five minutes to spare but luckily there was a slightly delayed start so everyone could get in. You could really sense it in there - a stadium jam-packed with people from all over over the world watching the world's premier sporting event live - I've seen a few big games over the years but this was at a new level.
The game began at a furious pace, with Sweden coming out with all guns blazing. There corner kicks were awarded to the Swedes in the first four minutes. To Nigeria's credit, they stayed composed and soon began to dominate possession in the midfield. They looked to be the stronger side and at the 27 minute mark, they went ahead through Julius Aghahowa, who scored with a header after the ball had travelled across the face of the goal - it was beautiful to watch (then I remembered which team I was supposed to be following).
Nigeria looked ready to extend their lead in the minutes that followed, and the large contingent of Swedes went quiet. Maybe they weren't Swedes and were merely in costume like me? I guess I'll never know....
Just when I was starting to get worried, Sweden's two star players, Freddie Ljundberg and Henrik Larsson, combined to level the scores. Schoolboy stuff really, a through ball from Ljundberg and an ugly toe punt past the keeper from Larsson. Oh well, football is thankfully not gymnastics so there were no grades for artistic impression here.
The ball was played up and down the field in the first few minutes of the second half. It was clear that neither team was content with a draw and they were playing to win.
Henrik Larsson was brought down on 62 minutes inside the box and made no mistake with the penalty. Sweden hadn't necessarily dominated the game but found themselves in front with just under half an hour remaining.
Nigeria tried desperately to nail an equaliser but to know avail. This loss to Sweden meant that Nigeris was eliminated from the World Cup.
"After the match"
Not everyone left straight away. In fact I stayed for almost an hour after the completion of play. Many of the Japanese wanted to get a picture taken with me due to my outfit - I figure it must have been more than 50.
Everything was peaceful and I got a couple of congratulatory smiles and handshakes from a few nigerian fans. The fellow pictured here is Japanese and like me, decided to 'adopt a team' for the game. This photograph sums up the spirit at the match, everyone was in a good mood and the crowd really just enjoyed the spectacle.
""We Love Sweden!""
We saw a mini-fan club on the way out. We were surprised at how the locals got into the spirit of supporting the two teams. These particular folks were very excited that Sweden had won and came and hugged us and shook our hands. Little did they know that we were just a group of Aussie upstarts!They were speaking broken Swedish to us - I just smiled, said "Ja!" and gave the thumbs up. They seemed happy enough with this response ;-)
"Arigato and Sayonara!"
It's a ten minute walk from Kobe Wing Stadium to the train station. We stopped to talk to a few people and also posed for more pictures and also stopped to buy a couple of travellers (i.e. drinks). It was during this walk that I caught up with the rowdiest groups of Swedish fans that had been sitting about twenty rows in front of us. They were amazed that we had gone to such effort to support their team. Actually I thought they would pummel us by being impostors ;-)
Everybody was in great spirits and the talking point among many of the visitors was how hospitable and friendly the Japanese hosts were. I have to agree - they really put on a great show and made and everyone feel welcome.