|Maps of Kobe and Yokohama|
I have fond memories of both Kōbe and Yokohama. Two of my very best friends in Japan lived there.
The two cities have a lot in common with each other, as well as with other port cities in the world. There is just something about port cities that sets them apart from other cities. I can't put my finger on, but I felt it, just the same. Both Osaka and Tokyo are technically "port cities," but their ports are not their main claim to fame, so they don't have this same feeling. (I felt the same vibes in San Francisco, California.) Yokohama is Japan's largest, but second-busiest port, while Kōbe is Japan's fourth largest of five main ports.
|Kobe at night – Port Tower is the red building on the left.|
|Yokohama at night|
Both cities serve as capitals of their respective prefectures (states). Kōbe, in the Kansai Region, is capital of Hyōgo Prefecture. Yokohama, in the Kantō Region, is capital of Kanagawa Prefecture. While Yokohama doesn't have any particular product to brag about, Kōbe is the home of world-famous Kōbe beef, which is supposed to be especially tender and well-marbled. (The secret is that the steers are fed beer!)
Both cities are located near larger cities. Kōbe is 19 miles west of Osaka, while Yokohama is 22.5 miles south of Tokyo. Both cities boast a Chinatown area, just like San Francisco.
|Chinatown in Kōbe|
|Chinatown in Yokohama|
Both cities have a number of sister city relationships. Kōbe's sister cities include Seattle, USA, Marseille, France, Rio de Janeiro, Brazio, Faisalabad, Pakistan, Riga, Latvia, Brisbane, Australia, Barcelona, Spain, Haifa, Israell, and Incheon, South Korea. Kōbe also has "sister ports" Rotterdam, Netherlands and Seattle. The city also has affiliations with Tianjin, China, Philadelphia, USA, Terni, Italy, and Daegu, South Korea.
Yokohama's sister cities include Constanta, Romania, Frankfurt, Germany, Lyon, France, Manila, Philippines, Mumbai, India, Odessa, Ukraine, San Diego, USA, Shanghai, China, Vancouver, Canada, and Aguascalientes, Mexico.
|Yokohama Marine Tower|
Both cities have towers that are fairly famous. Kōbe Port Tower, completed in 1963, is a lattice structure made of red steel and decorated with lights at night. Yokohama has several towers. The one I thought of as the Yokohama Port Tower is now called the Marine Tower. Inaugurated in 1961, it is also a lattice tower with an observation deck, from which you can see Mt. Fuji on a clear day. There are three towers on buildings in Yokohama that are unofficially called the Jack, the Queen, and the King. They are on Memorial Hall (Jack), the Customs Office (Queen) and the Kanagawa Prefectural Office (King). The story is that if you go to a place in town where you can see all three towers at once, your wish will be granted. One version of the story has it that a foreign sailor's wish came true after viewing the three towers. Another version says the towers are lucky because they all withstood the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923. A newer tower, called the Yokohama Port Symbol Tower was opened in 1986. This one, of white stone, with a giant stainless steel statue of a scallop in front of it, actually sends signals to ships.
|From left to right, the Jack, Queen and King towers in Yokohama|
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|Bachu at her high school graduation - she was |
wearing a sari. Photo: Bachu Sterling
|The earthquake claimed devastated Kōbe.|
|I remember traveling on this elevated expressway|
when I was in Japan.
The earthquake struck at 5:46 a.m. on January 17, 1995. It measured 6.8 on the Richter scale (compared with magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Tohoku and the corresponding 7.1 earthquake in Fukushima.) Yesterday marked the 19th anniversary of the quake. Ceremonies were held early Friday to pray for the Souls of the 6,434 people who lost their lives.
Bachu and I still don't communicate that often, but we are Facebook friends and manage to message each other once in a while. Bachu is one of those friends with whom I can go for long periods without communicating, but when we get together again, it's as if we were never apart. She is definitely a Soul Sister of mine, and I am blessed to be her friend.
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|My pregnant friend Jane and myself, spending the|
day walking around Yokohama.
|Jane, Martha, and myself at Yokota Air Force Base in Japan.|
"Where is the love?" she asked me, wistfully.
|Yokohama Royal Park Hotel, with its magnificent view of Mt. Fuji|
It was wonderful to have friends from the past in the Tokyo area when I separated, because there I was, all alone in the largest city in the world. When I moved to Tokyo, Jane and Tom told me that they were planning to go back to the USA in a few months, and they were hoping to "get pregnant" as soon as possible. Tom told me how he was counting his wife's periods, and I had to laugh a bit at his eagerness.
|Yokohama Port Symbol Tower|
Having just tried to have a baby, myself, I knew some things that Tom and Jane didn't. I knew that no mater how "regular" a woman is, everybody is different, and you have to watch basal body temperature closely. I had learned how to use a basal body thermometer and knew how to ask for one in Japanese at the pharmacy, so I took Jane to get one, and when we brought it home, I instructed Tom in its use. Tom is one of those detail-oriented types who loves a challenge like this, so he constructed his own chart and made sure that Jane recorded her temperature every day before she got out of bed.
The result was that Jane got pregnant a couple of months later, and she was still able to fly when it was time for them to return to the United States. Although it hurt some to know that Tom and Jane were able to conceive a child so easily when my husband and I hadn't been able to, I was glad that at least someone got their wish.
Jane and Tom had a boy and a girl who are now adults, with their own children. They now live in northern Minnesota. I don't see them often, but I do think from time to time about Jane and the way our lives intersected. :-)