After dinner we headed off to find the lights. The atmosphere outside had changed. There had been an almost party like mood in the air when we had entered the restaurant.
The rock band that had been performing an impromptu concert on a street corner was now cleaning up their equipment. The crowds of people were drifting like the tide to the other side of the station. We retraced out path, minus the uncertainty and map checking, this brought us back to the station where we would set forth to find the illuminare.
I am not sure how we managed to do it, but we managed to once again be unsure of where we were going. I would love to say that we simply followed the crowds but that was difficult because it was all one big crowd that seemed to be moving everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. There were giant signs that pointed the way and we managed to follow the arrows that signaled the direction. Thank goodness for wordless communication. There was only one real time where we were afraid that we might be going the wrong direction and that was the point where we could not tell where the arrow was pointing. There were two of them and we could not tell if they were directing us to go further down the street or if we were supposed to make a left at a side street. It is a good thing that we continued on straight because all became clear a few moments later when we saw the cattle run.
That truly is the best and only way to describe what we were being driven towards. There were two large fences that pulled the crowd into a nice big line. We were being herded forward like cattle to the train. The fences wound their way through the city streets leading us ever forward. We merged in with the rest of the crowd and began the forward progress. We trekked and trudged along the street in a never-ending river of people. The current of people moved along the path with a friendly demeanor and a pleasant pace. Logan started the journey walking and soon moved to a piggy-back ride because of all of the people. We began to wonder if we would ever make it to the advertised lights when Logan made his announcement.
“I have to go to the bathroom.” He stated as matter of factly as possible. What were we to do? He we were half way along a unidirectional path with no bathroom options until we get closer to the end. “Amazing,” I thought to my self. “Down town, big city, stores lining both sides of the streets, and we can’t get to any of them.” Yes the fence that helped mark the walking path also kept us hemmed in and would not let us out. But that was not the only detractor from visiting the stores that flanked us on each side. The real reason we could not sneak in and use the facilities was that most all of the stores were closed at this late hour of 8:30 in the evening. We continued on in the one direction we could move. Go with the flow was all I could think of at this point, with Logan reminding us that he had to pee every thirty seconds. We finally spotted a department store still open to business at this late hour and decided that it would be our best option. This is when we were confronted with two obstacles to overcome. The first was the chest high fence that contained the crowd and provided us with direction in our walk. The other was the myriad of police officers who were watching the crowd and making sure that there was law and order to accompany that direction. Would we be able to find a way to the other side of that fence that did not involve climbing over it? Would the police officers help us find our way around the fence, and more importantly would they let us rejoin the crowd or would they send us back to the beginning to have to start the long walk all over.
We found a link in the fence and saw that the whole section was on wheels. We began to move the fence to the side a bit in order to sneak through. The officer shot us a glance but when I pointed at Logan and said, “toilet” he waved us on through. We wandered over to the department store and promptly found a bathroom for Logan to use. I was going to go too, but found myself unable to. The reason being that this was a woman’s store and there was no men’s room for me to use. I would just have to hold it. Logan and Jenny came out of the restroom and we headed off to try and rejoin the crush.
We walked back to the same spot we exited from. I began to worry. Would the officer remember the big two-meter giant, his beautiful gaijin wife and his cute darling son? What if he sent us back tot he beginning of the track and we had to start all over. Would all this be worth it? My worry turned out to be all for naught. The police man came over and helped open the gate for us and we soon found ourselves moving along with the human current.
It was not far from the department store to the lights. With in two or three blocks we began to see the lights. The closer we got to them the more impressive them became. We saw that the millions of colored bulbs were arranged in intricate patterns creating a mosaic of light. The entirety formed a tunnel that we walked through. It was magestic and fantastic. It was amazing to walk through these giant arches of lights. We continued along walking through the lights until we came to the end of the tunnel. We then followed the crowd to the next area of illumination. There was a giant park in the city center that was now corralled by lights. They formed a giant uncovered gazebo where people congregated and admired the lights. In the center of this pavilion was another gazebo, this one covered, again created entirely from lights. We were in awe of the lights. They were truly beautiful and it capped off the night perfectly. We wandered around the area looking at the lights and the people for a time.
Then it was off to the train station to return home. We kept our eyes open for a cake shop to get some desert and a cup of coffee or tea before getting on the train but we had no luck. Every time we saw a cake shop it was either closed or closing. We might have been tempted to go into one that was closing but the selection of cake was limited. We did however find a nice alternative to cake at the station. As we were walking to find the ticket machine we happened upon a waffle shop. We bought a half dozen Belgian waffles that were about the size of a donut.
We headed to the train and were able to find a seat on the next homeward bound train. We sat in our seats, ate our waffles and drank our hot bottles of tea we bought from a vending machine. We made it home from the lights and steak in Kobe. What a fantastic night. We saw an amazing array of lights, and had one of the top steak experiences in the world all in one evening. There was definitely a sense of accomplishment as we crossed it off the list before we headed off to bed that night.
Number 163: eat steak in Kobe. Done.
Just to note this all took place in late December, even before Christmas. Sorry about the delay and wait. We have also posted a ton of new pictures on the photo site. -kevin