One thing I enjoyed about staying in a hotel rather than a homestay when I was in my school placement in Japan was the flexibility. We were able to just spontaneously make plans when school was over. And so on the Thursday of our trip, when two of the group leaders and their host sisters asked if we wanted to join them climbing Takatori mountain we were very happy to do so.
The mountain took us over an hour to climb, and less time to descend as we had done the majority of our sightseeing on the way there. There were many shrines on the way, with the iconic red gates. Moreover, there were so many cats. It really did feel like these cats lived around the shrines as some sort of guardians. But they weren’t hugely keen to interact with us. They did play with each other and provide us with considerable entertainment.
There were a mix of both well laid out and more dirt-trodden paths, and we did a mix of both depending on how we felt. Our first foray into a lesser-trodden path took us almost to the edge where we had a great view of the east side of Kobe. There were a number of platforms, shrines, and even graveyards where we were able to stop, take pictures, and admire the view of the rest of the mountain and the city.
Towards the top of the mountain we came to the most impressive shrine by far. It was like the scene had come straight out of an RPG with how perfectly positioned it was, and all the surrounding decorations including a statue of a horse. This shrine was in much better repair than the others, and actually had a shrine office, and just looked generally stunning. And opposite it we could look out to one of the best views of Kobe that there was, according to an article one of our Japanese students had read. And it was easy to see why, it was so expansive, we could even see a glimpse of Osaka in the distance.
We climber higher but honestly, the best view was the one opposite the shrine. But for completeness sake I wanted to get to the very top. There were a lot of stairs at this point, but me and a few others made it and just stood on the platform there for a few moments, before heading back down, past a lot more small shrines, back to the view below, and made our way back.
It was a very fun way to spend the afternoon, and afterwards my hotel-based companions and I went to what must have been the best gyoza place in Kobe. It was called Hyotan, and was tiny – just eight seats, and just gyoza on the menu but it was such good quality and insanely cheap – just 390 yen for 8. And we sat beside a very nice Japanese couple who offered us some beer, spoke a bit, and afterwards bought us some fried breaded Kobe beef for us to try, it was such a nice gesture, and one of the reasons I love going to Japan. You just wouldn’t get that kind of friendliness anywhere else!