Former New Zealand international fly back Dan Carter made waves around the world when he announced in July 2018 that he was going to play in Japan. He featured in 141 matches for Super Rugby up till 2015 and holds the record for the highest number of points scored at a massive 1,708. He retired from international rugby after earning 112 caps for New Zealand. In Japan, his kicks, passes and runs, reliable style and powerful performances won the hearts of rugby fans and led his team, the Kobelco Steelers, to their first league championship in 15 seasons and their first Japan Championship in 18 seasons. Dan himself won MVP the same year.
The Steelers are based in Kobe, a beautiful city in western Japan that Dan Carter has completely fallen in love with. Although Kobe was damaged by a typhoon in September last year, it has recovered completely and is a prime location for both sightseeing and everyday life. Dan Carter was amazed by the speed of recovery and hopes that many visitors from abroad will stop by Kobe and discover its charms for themselves. That's why he put together this list of 5 attractions for rugby fans to check out in his new home city.
His first stop was Sannomiya, the city centre of Kobe. Sannomiya has been a prosperous terminal station for many decades. It was bustling with people when he got there. Since the area is only 20 minutes away by train from Osaka, the largest metropolis in western Japan, you might expect it to be heavily influenced by Osaka's culture, dialect and cuisine, but the locals are quick to deny any such connection and uphold their own culture with pride. They point to "akashiyaki" as one of their local inventions. Dan decided to try this local soul food to discover what made it so special.
When he entered the shop, the shopkeeper was turning balls around on an iron plate with round holes in it. Akashiyaki has the same shape as Osaka soul food takoyaki (octopus dumplings) and it is also filled with octopus. The difference between akashiyaki and takoyaki is the large number of eggs used and the fact that akashiyaki is dipped in soup. The proof of the dumpling and all that... he popped one in his mouth after letting it soak up the soup first. There was a sublime balance between the richness of the eggs and the fragrance of the soup. While it was hard to grab the dumplings with the chopsticks and they were extremely hot, eating them made him feel like a real local.
Nankinmachi (Kobe Chinatown)
While walking around downtown Sannomiya, he wandered near Motomachi Station and discovered a street with a rather different atmosphere. It was Kobe Chinatown, also known as Nankinmachi, and one of the three largest Chinatowns in Japan. Nankinmachi is a 200m long street, which is relatively small, but it is densely packed with Chinese restaurants selling dim sum, sweets and other foods. People have fun at Chinatown in their own ways, from tourists taking selfies to middle school pupils enjoying an excursion. One of the students called out to him and asked to take a picture together. It turned out he played rugby and was a Steelers fan. Several other people wanted to take a picture with him as well, which let him realise in a personal way that the love of rugby has now spread beyond the youth and hardcore rugby fans.
Kobe is a famous port city, but one of the reasons why Dan likes it because there are mountains close to the city and the sea so there is plenty of nature to appreciate. He got out of his car at the Shinkobe shinkansen (bullet train) station and walked up the road behind station. When he had walked for a while, he saw a steep set of stairs. After the climbing the mountain road for about 15 minutes, the road opened up and he could hear the sound of water. Nunobiki Waterfalls is one of the three most famous falls in Japan. It is mentioned in legends and has been touted as a mystical area in poems from ancient days. Dan stopped near the waterfall basin and took in the sounds of nature and the greenery all around him as beams of sunlight played over his head. Drawing strength from the mysterious natural scenery of Kobe was a good way to refresh himself in the off-season.
Kobe beef is internationally famous. Ask any gourmet and they're sure to have heard of the brand. Dan's dinner at the hotel was Kobe beef prepared on an iron plate teppanyaki-style. The chef stood in front of the fan-shaped counter. Through the window behind him, Kobe Port shone like a dazzling jewel in the night. As the chef grilled him a steak, he regaled Dan with factoids about Kobe beef. It comes from a type of Japanese beef cattle known as Tajima cattle and only cows that meet certain strict standards qualify to be Kobe beef. He also explained the carefully selected vegetables and salt he was using to prepare the dish. The teppanyaki chef didn't simply grill the meat - he turned it over frequently, almost as if he was having a conversation with it, delighting the expectant diners with his entertaining moves. Once the chef had ended the show with a flamboyant flambé, it was time to dig into the steak. The interplay between the richness of the red meat and the flavourful smoothness of the marbled fat was so wonderful that all Dan could say was "Perfect!"
After filling up on steak, he decided to take a little walk before heading home. There are a lot of shopping malls and restaurants at the port of Kobe, so he goes there often. The sun had already set, and the lights of Kobe's landmarks like the glowing red Kobe Port Tower and the blue lights of the Kobe Maritime Museum lit up the darkness. When he looked through the gap between the landmarks and buildings up at the mountain beyond them, the words "KOBE" sparkled brightly on the mountainside. When the electricity went out after the Kobe earthquake occurred in 1995, these lights, powered by natural energy, shone on to give the courage to the wounded hearts of the people of Kobe. Even now, after the city has recovered, the lights continue to be a powerful source of emotional support. Dan wants to play rugby with all his might so that rugby can become a similar source of cheer and energy for the people of Kobe and to tourists and rugby fans that visit Kobe.
For rugby fans around the world, 2019 is a grand opportunity to visit Japan. You can visit the stadium and cheer your hearts out for your country while watching the finest rugby in the world in living colour. Luckily enough, there are four matches scheduled to be played in Kobe. It is a beautiful city and Dan is thoroughly satisfied with his new life in his new hometown. Kobe is only a short distance away from Osaka and Kyoto, and it has a variety of tourist spots such as Himeji Castle, the Arima hot springs and the sake breweries in the Nada district if you're willing to do a bit of travelling. Touring Japan is a great way to experience the country's culture and cuisine and get to know the wonderful people better. Try Japan!
DC’s 5 places to visit
1) Takoan (Akashiyaki)
Shirayuri Bldg 2F, 5-3-5 Asahi-dori, Chuo-ku, Kobe
2) Nunobiki Waterfalls
Fukiai-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe
1 Sakaemachi-dori Chuo-ku, Kobe
5-6 Hatobacho, Chuo-ku, Kobe
5) Takahama Quay (Night View)
1-6 Higashi Kawasaki-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe