Iya Valley: probably one of the most remote areas of Japan, situated in the heart of Tokushima prefecture 徳島県 in Shikoku region 四国.
Autumn pictures of the valley stole our hearts. We wanted to see it with our eyes.
This is my journey, with every step written out.
Hope that this would inspire you to visit this treasure.
Fly into Kansai Airport
From Kansai Airport, I took a direct bus to Kobe’s Sannomiya station 三宮駅. It was a comfortable 65 minute ride. My alternative was to take a train from Kansai to Sannomiya, but that involved two train changes. This option is not only longer but it involved a lot of hassle, considering that not only I had to change tracks, I had to change stations. After a 6hour flight on the plane, I was a bit dehydrated, and the sun is about set. I would like something easy.
Is the stop far? It's just outside the departure gate, through the automatic doors. My bus stop just a couple of steps away. Tickets were purchased from a nearby vending machine.
Bus ticket: ¥2000 (One way)
Drop off point: [Google map link]
Interior of Twin room © Courtesy of Brenza Hotel
Stay @ Brenza Hotel
Why did we choose Brenza Hotel? It is close to Sannomiya Station, and to our car rental location. The room is spacious. The interior design colors are earthy, sleek and sophisticated.
The front of the building is not obvious, apart from the words ‘Brenza Hotel’ written the wall, between the two elevators doors which are visible from the main road.
Hyogo, Kobe, Chūō-ku, Kumoidōri 6-1-1 [Google map link]
Dinner @ Hanare
Dinner at 8pm.
Kobe beef has always been said, and marketed, to be the best beef in Japan, and in the world. Tender, flavourful and juicy are common terms used to describe this delicacy, though many diners are at loss for words upon taking their first bite. The beef is produced from selected Tajima breed cows who are breed in Hyogo prefecture. After slaughter, the meat is closely examined. Only after passing a series of requirements, involving assessment of their exquisite marbling, can the meat earn the right to be called Kobe beef. It also has a Cattle Individual Identification Number. According to the Japan’s Beef Traceability Law, you can retrieve information about the cattle such as its birth, breeding location and slaughter date. With that 10 digit number, plug it into the website https://www.id.nlbc.go.jp/top.html?pc (English version is available via a button on the top right) - and voiia! Information galore. Though having this information available on the web, getting a bit more cosy with the cattle is not everybody’s cup of tea.
We decided that we wanted to experience eating Kobe beef the Teppanyaki way. This method, the experienced chef often uses a very thick cut of Wagyu, and sear the slab delicately to obtain a golden brown crust, yet maintaining a medium rare centre (which we requested). Our other option was that of Yaki-niku where we grill ourselves. For such a prized meal, we would like to leave it to the professionals.
We could peruse their menu online. http://kobe-setsugetsuka.com/course_hanare
Before stepping in, we knew what we wanted: the Flower course 花のコース. The thought of 150g of Sirloin made my stomach grumble, my mouth salivate, and my parents jealous.
Truly, the Kobe beef is a delicacy which I would recommend everybody to have a taste, at least once. I would love to describe it as tender, flavourful and juicy, but those words do not do justice to the steak.
View of Salon (サロン) © Courtesy of Setsugetsuka Hanare
For dessert, we were ushered to the Salon area of the restaurant. We could admire the unobstructed night scenery, of the roads below. Unhurried, we had our plate of seasonal fruits.
A memorable night indeed!
Something I learnt that night:
- Yaki-gen 焼き源 - the degree of done-ness.
Kobe Steak Teppanyaki Hanare
Hyogo, Kobe, Chūō-ku, Nakayamatedori, 1-25−6 8th floor [Google map link]兵庫県神戸市中央区中山手通1-25-6 ラ・ドルレイ神戸三宮ビル 8F
5:30-11pm. Open everyday
We booked online via Tabelog
Jazz @ Sone
Before our night ended, we wanted to end off with a touch of class. When it comes to music, Kobe is synonymous with Jazz.
Just a couple of steps away from Hanare, Sone is a local favourite Jazz bar, with 4 performances each evening: 6:50pm, 8pm, 9:10pm, and 10:20pm. Each performance lasts 40minutes. We sat down for the last performance.
That night, as Vocalist Yoko serenaded the crowds with scores of lyrics, Nagata wrung out sexy chords on the piano. Supporting the rhythm line, drummer Iwataka and bassist Hatakeyama elevates the quartet.
Vocalist Koizumi Yoko 小泉陽子: http://yoko-dream.com/
Jazz Pianist Nagata Yugo 永田有吾: https://japiyo.exblog.jp/ (Official Blog)
Bassist Hatakeyama Ryo 畠山令: http://www.ryohatakeyama.com/
Drummer Iwataka Atsushi 岩高淳 https://ameblo.jp/rockinhigh/
For those who might want to feel the atmosphere in Sone, this is an online video of performance held in 2013.
Long after the sun had set, we slowly walked back towards our hotel. Expecting to see shops shuttered for the day, we came across restaurants, pubs, a bakery and even a patisserie open with patrons flowing in and out.
Hyogo, Kobe, Chūō-ku, Nakayamatedori 1-24-10 [Google map link]