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In May of 1997, two years after the massive earthquake in Kobe, I hit upon the idea of taking a leisurely, solitary walk from Nishinomiya to Sannomiya in downtown Kobe. I happened to be staying in Kyoto at the time for work, and continued on to Nishinomiya. On the map it’s about fifteen kilometres west from there to Kobe. Not exactly a stone’s throw away, but not such a gruelling distance, and besides, I’m a pretty confident walker.
I was born in Kyoto, but soon afterwards my family moved to Shukugawa, a neighbourhood in Nishinomiya. And not long after that we moved again, closer to Kobe, to Ashiya, where I spent most of my teenage years. My high school was in the hills above the city, so naturally downtown Kobe was where I headed when I wanted to have a good time, specifically around Sannomiya. I became a typical Hanshin-kan boy, the term referring to the area that lies between Osaka and Kobe. Back then – and probably nowadays as well – this was a great place to grow up. It’s quiet and laid-back, with an open, relaxed feeling about it, and it’s blessed with the ocean, mountains and a large city nearby. I loved going to concerts, hunting for cheap paperbacks in used bookstores, hanging out in jazz cafes, and enjoying Art Theatre Guild new-wave films. My favourite look at the time? VAN jackets, of course.