Yesterday marked the third time I’ve been to Kobe now. Kobe doesn’t have Osaka’s energy or Kyoto’s ultra-traditional atmosphere, but it is quietly wonderful in its own way. For me, it’s less about areas like Harbourland and Kitanozaka, and more about wandering around old shopping streets and back alleys, the areas with local businesses and places that are none of my business. (ヒプスターでごめんなさい)
For instance, Motoko, one of the main old shopping streets running under the train tracks between Motomachi Station and Kobe Station, has so much going for it. Tiny independent bars and cafes begin showing their faces, and there are stores stacked to the ceiling with old records starting at Y50 a pop.
There’s a tiny bar with a counter where you can have chai, run by a friendly and scruffy-looking owner. Secondhand bookstores run by crabby old folks who don’t bat an eyelid when I buy an illustrated collection of 1970s erotica (for Y200!). Shops with old VCR players, remote controls, ‘American’ clothes, Converse sneakers individually wrapped in plastic. A gorgeous art cafe with shelves of poetry and food essays.
I spent several hours drifting through that shopping street, and just before hopping on a train back to Osaka I decided to take a left from Motomachi Station or somewhere near it. It was one of the best decisions I made, because it led to one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth.
Say hello to the rikkoro. It’s like arancini but not quite. It’s the lovechild of a croquette and a rice ball, what happens when your standard triangular rice ball is filled with oozing stews (think curry, hayashi beef, braised tendon. BRAISED TENDON), and then taken to the next level by coating it in panko and deep-frying that brothertrucker. It looks totally unassuming and tastes anything but, especially when it’s fresh out of the fryer.
Rikkoro (pictured at the top) is a tiny cafe run by two ladies who deserve all the culinary awards, and it is the only place in Japan you can have their namesake product. You will also curse yourself for not buying three more to go, so for the love of all things deep-fried, try every single thing on the menu for me.
4 Chome−1−19, 西阪ビル, Shimoyamatedori, Chuo Ward, Kobe 〒650-0011