Kobe, perhaps the least popular city for tourists in Kansai region but it really has plenty to offer. Historically, the name Kobe originated from 'Kanbe', the indigenous people of the province who belonged to shrines and into ancient rituals. Nowadays, Kobe is no longer a traditional town but a developed industrial city. It is the fifth largest city in Japan with state-of-the-art infras and its port is the top 5 busiest in whole Japan. Being an industrial city, quite a number of well known product brands have their headquarters in Kobe such as Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Kobe Steel, and Procter and Gamble (remember Pantene shampoo?). For meat (especially beef) lovers, this is the place to be in order to taste the ORIGINAL top of the line Kobe-born wagyu cattle beef, which originated from this area. There should be a couple of middle-eastern grocery shops somewhere in the city where we can find Halal beef but we didn't really have time for that. I think I can still taste the beef we had at Menate Steakhouse a few months earlier although it wasn't a wagyu. Okay this really makes me salivate.
Although Kobe is an interesting city to visit, we limited ourselves to only a small part of the city, the Akashi-Kaikyo Marine promenade. How to get there and what is so special about it? From Okayama Station, we got onboard Hikari 476 shinkansen to Nishi-Akashi. Upon arrival at Nishi-Akashi station, we threw both our backpacks into a JPY400 locker, a medium-sized coin operated luggage storage at the station. So, we travelled a lot lighter after that. I was slightly confused of our direction since we didn't know which way Maiko station is located. We tried to find a local train map but it wasn't available. It was almost peak hour in the late afternoon when most people were rushing home from work and Nishi-Akashi station is quite a busy station. Finally, we got down to the platform and read from the signage on one of the platform pillars. We later found out that Sannomiya was the direction we should take. Maiko Station is only 5 minutes away from Nishi-Akashi station.
Once at Maiko station, finding the way to Akashi-Kaikyo promenade wasn't at all difficult. Signs were everywhere. Eventhough the words are all in Japanese but the picture of a bridge told us everything we needed to know.
It was almost sundown, so we hurried up to the Maiko Marine promenade. A nice weather coupled with a nice view of the HUGE bridge in front of us made an awesome experience to tell.
This was an extreme diversion from Kobe beef to longest suspension bridge in the world. Hey, how come this short-distant bridge (3.9km) which we can see from one end to the other be the longest in the world?
Penang bridge is at least 3 times longer than this (13.5km). Yes, it is longer than Akashi-Kaikyo bridge in total length BUT the latter is the bridge with the LONGEST SPAN in the world with 1991m at its central span.
Penang bridge, on the other hand, only spans at its longest at 225m. Applying some mathematical calculations would give Akashi-Kaikyo a 9 times wins over Penang bridge, which is Malaysia's longest.
This bridge connects Kobe and Awaji Island through a busy strait of Akashi, which gives the name Akashi-Kaikyo as Kaikyo means "strait" in Japanese. There are about 1400 ships passing the channel each day and that makes Akashi strait an important international sea route in Kobe. With any mega projects in Japan, the bridge can resist great earthquakes and strong wind.
During the Southern Hyogo Earthquake in 1995, the bridge was under construction and received minor changes to the structural designs as a result from the catastrophic event. After 10 years, the construction was completed and the bridge can be expected to last for at least another 200 years. Among the state-of-the-art technologies developed for this project was the "dry air injection system". This technology is to protect main cables (which are crucial parts for a suspension-type bridge) from corrosion through injection of dry air into main cables to maintain the humidity inside those cables.
More of the technologies used in the construction of Akashi-Kaikyo bridge can be found inside the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge Exhibition Center located nearby.
For a more wonderful experience with this bridge, there is a tour that one can join and such tour will take you to the top of the bridge tower (highest point on the bridge) which is equivalent to 98th floor of a building where you can see Kobe from a bird's eye view. It costs JPY3000 per adult and half of that for student. This tour is seriously NOT for acrophobics, though. More info here.
Since we didn't get to experience the best of what Akashi-Kaikyo could offer, we took a humble walk underneath it. With bluish sky and orange sun-reflecting sea surface with several ships passing through the strait in between Kobe and Awaji Island, we kinda satisfied as we've been there, and done that. Not everything Kobe but definitely one of the best Kobe could give us. We later left Maiko when the sun was about to disappear.
It started to drizzle and we knew that it wants us to be back there (in Kobe) again or maybe we should next time find this other bridge called Iwakurojima. Hopefully.