The last city we planned to visit from Kyoto was the city of Kobe, whose claim to fame is the Kobe steak. We still had two days remaining on our JR train pass so we figured we should take advantage of the pass and explore Kobe (only about an hour away by rapid train).
We immediately left the train station and started a hike that went directly up the side of a mountain to a waterfall and view point of the city and harbour. The humidity was insane that day, with us drenched in sweat 10 minutes into the hike. It actually got a little out of control. Luckily the rail system in Kobe was mostly run by Japan Rail, so we were able to jump on and off the subway system for free, which maximized our sight seeing efforts. After exploring the harbour and taking in the city skyline views, we visited a Sake Brewery and a Sake Brewery Museum. It was interesting learrning about the creation of sake and its importance in Japanese culture and tradition... and of course we had to sample several sake variations!
We (Cameron that is) were on a mission to eat Kobe steak in Kobe, however the cheapest cut was $35 US! Regrettably not something our budget could handle considering it was taking a pretty good beating in Japan. We ended up dining at a traditional Japanese grill restaurant with a coal grill in the center of our table, a very fun and unique way to cook and eat your food at your own pace!
The following day we packed our bags and left Kyoto, with our next destination to be Mount Fuji and the Fuji Lakes District. We were very excited to climb Mt Fuji but knew that we would be arriving on opening day - July 1. Opening day, or the following few days afterwards, were really the only days we could climb the famous volcano given our fairly tight timelines. Unfortunately, when we revisited the Kyoto Welcome Inn Reservation Centre to book our upcoming accomodations, we learned that the mountain did not open due to too much ice at the summit. It was day-to-day on when they would allow unprofessional climbers to enter the park.
The weather in Fuji was cloudy and rainy, with the 3-day forecast looking much the same. Translation - the likelihood of climbing or even seeing Fuji was very slim. Given that even the most basic accomodations were very limited and extremely expensive, we had to make a game-time decision. We disappointedly skipped Mt Fuji and the Fuji Lakes district altogether, and used our final day of train travel to get to Yokohama, located just outside Tokyo along the ocean.
Yokohama is cheaper than Tokyo but only about an hour away via local trains. We stayed in another traditional ryokan hotel, but this one was much smaller. In fact, it was humorously tiny. We were originally only going to stay for two days but elected to stay three days in order to catch a Japan League Baseball game - the Yokohama Bay Stars vs Hiroshima Carp. It was an interesting and entertaining experience.
Of course the game of baseball is the game of baseball, but you definitely knew that you weren't in North America. The fans were very passionate and get right into it! It was similar to the soccer game that we attended in Santiago Chile a few months ago. First off, the fans in the bleachers were split into home vs away sections - no mingling with the opponent fans! The fans chanted and sang obvious 'team songs', they beat on drums and blasted into trumpets and horns. However, the difference was that the fans only made noise when their team was at bat!? So when Yokohama was batting, our section went nuts. Then, when Hiroshima batted they were silent, with the opposite side of the stadium going nuts. I guess the closest comparison would be an American College Football game.
So we didn't get to summit (or see) Mt Fuji, but we did get to experience a Japanese sporting event... I guess you win some and you loose some!