Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Kobe sketches

On our third day in Japan we went to Kobe, a port city in Japan most recently known for its melt in your mouth beef and the earthquake that hit it almost a decade and a half ago.  We took another train from Osaka on the Hanshin Line to go to Kobe.  It’s about an hour to get there, depending which train you take, which meant ample opportunity to sketch people on the trains, as seen above.  This was the first time I used the gray brush pen I bought (to give more weight to the bars around the seat), and instantly saw myriad ways with which I could use it
Before getting off at central Kobe we got off in Mikage to go to the Hakutsuru Brewery Museum.  Mikage is one of the areas within Nada district which is well known for brewing sake. According to this website, they produce a little over a quarter of all the sake brewed in Japan.  I chose the Hakutsuru Brewery because it was relatively close to the station and it had both English brochures and guides as well as free tastes at the end of the tour.  The Museum itself was small but very informative, with lifesize dioramas of traditional sake brewing techniques.  The sketch above is a diorama of a typical scene in a Japanese inn a few centuries ago, where the final product of the brewery would be consumed.  I think picking a museum with free tastes was definitely a good choice.  I’m not really a sake person and would have had no idea what to buy if we’d gone to another museum, but after trying their sake and fruit wines we knew exactly which ones we’d be taking home (we bought one bottle of their premium sake, which has since been consumed by friends, and a bottle of plum wine).
The sketch on the right is a quickie of a train station we were waiting in to board the Kobe train.  I almost wanted to leave it out because it’s really not very well done, but a lot of the informative text was on that page.
Kobe was one of the few port cities open to foreigners when Japan was opening up to the world.  It therefore had and continues to have a very cosmopolitan vibe, and more importantly for tourists, a heritage area of old foreign houses or“ijin-kan”.  We got lost trying to find these houses in Kobe’s Kitano district and most of them were closed by the time we got there. We did manage to get inside one, the Moegi house, which was the former residence of H. Sharp, an American consul in .  The sketch here is of the outside of the house, with a bench that has a brass sculpture of a man playing the saxophone.  I’m not sure what the historical significance of these statues is, but there are a number of them scattered around a small park area that seems to be the center of the Kitano district.
By the way, if you’re interested in checking out our pictures of Japan (including the Kobe beef) you can look at our Flickr account here.

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