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back to "Nagasaki" (click pictures below to view) on to "Taipei"

Kobe, with 1.5 million residents, is Japan's 6th largest city. Combined with nearby Osaka, the metropolitan area exceeds 4 million. Kobe was wiped out by WW II firebomb raids, but was rebuilt into Japan's second busiest seaport. In January 1995, Kobe was tragically leveled by a 20 second earthquake of 7.2 magnitude that killed 5000 and left 300,000 homeless. (Sitting on the Pacific Ring of Fire is precarious!) Kobe's reconstruction cost $150 billion dollars, ranking it as the most expensive natural disaster in modern times. Now the restoration is so complete and the city is so immaculate that it is difficult for a visitor to imagine that such a devastating calamity was so recent. We toured an exquisite Japanese garden which was an artistic display of carefully manicured shrubs and trees in stunning simplicity, creating a peaceful setting of tranquil repose. We visited a Shinto Temple where Japanese have been worshiping for 2,800 years. Located in the middle of Kobe's downtown, this ancient temple (reconstructed, of course) stands among gigantic 500 year old camphor trees. (Its Asian architecture of gently sloped roofs and bright orange lacquer finish can best be seen in the accompanying photo.) During the hour we attended, there was a steady stream of well-dressed young businessmen and women coming from their workday for a few moments of prayerful meditation. Japanese religion seems to have a curious phenomenon of tolerance. 87% of Japanese are Shinto, whereas 78 % are Buddhists! The explanation is that a high percentage of Japanese practice both Shintoism and Buddhism throughout their lives. They attend the Shinto Temple for happy occasions, such as christenings, weddings and opening a business, whereas sad occasions, such as funerals, are observed in the Buddhist Temple. What's more, many contemporary young couples travel to Hawaii, Australia or even Disney World, to marry a second time in a Christian Church, observing such western customs as satin bridal gowns, tulle veils, organ strains of Mendelssohn's Wedding March and limos. Such "wedding packages" are big sellers in Japan's travel market today! About 1% of Japan is Christian, with 9% practicing other religions, such as Islam. The Japanese live longer than anyone else, with a life expectancy of at least 80 years and many becoming centenarians. Last year, only 35 Japanese were killed by guns, which is remarkable since her population exceeds 120 million. Guns are absolutely forbidden in Japan. Our guide, a believable middle-aged college graduate with two children, explained that she had never seen a real gun until she observed one in a museum. Might this be a thought worth pondering?


Japanese Garden Japanese Tranquility Kobe Harbor
Port of Kobe Shinto Temple Streets of Kobe