Kobe, Japan: The Harbor + Marron Desserts of Memory (last in a series)

Breathing in the sea within the city, mad for marron, and a soft-serve ice cream to come back for.

Previous installments:
Part 1
Part 2

As someone who lives in a concrete jungle, it’s a wonder to me to be able to see the sea within a city. But that’s exactly what Harborland is in the Chuo-ku district in Kobe. This shopping district was constructed on the site of a former freight yard, and from here, I can indeed see the sea.

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Like a little city within itself, Harborland consists of many buildings situated around a body of water. One can:

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ride a Ferris wheel…

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go for a cruise…

Harborland Kobe

… or zoom up to the Kobe Port Tower (red building above) observatory for a jaw-dropping view at 298 feet.

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We take a nice stroll…

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before clocking in some serious shopping time at the 225-shop Kobe Harborland Umie which overlooks the sea.

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Once massive damage is done to our wallets, our family of three tread the greenery waterfront paths near the mall and look out over the sea. We stare transfixed, inhaling deeply to rejuvenate lungs and spirit.


Then my Bin and I stop to salivate over then savor some fresh Japanese oysters. They’re briny and plump and slippery-cool. Twelve-year-old Boo won’t touch the odd looking things.


A memorable soft-serve

soft serve ice cream, Cremia

This trip of mine to Japan is marked with several soft-serve ice creams, strangely enough. It may be because I’m with Boo and she has an affection for these swirls of creamy coolness. Nevertheless, the coffee shop of the Sannomiya Terminal Hotel offers what my daughter deems the absolute best soft-serve of her life. Called Cremia, each ¥500, rather restrained portion, is lick upon lick of a silkiness that makes my spine slump in submission. I can’t even call it vanilla ice cream because it tastes more like cream of unimaginable quality churned with just enough sugar for flavor. Cream + sugar = an alliance of perfect proportions. We come back for a Cremia every day that we are in Kobe.

Finally, marron, marron everywhere

The last three months of the year are my favored and favorite time of the year to visit Japan. Among several reasons, it’s largely because marron (chestnut) is in season. Among the sweeter nuts such as cashews and pine nuts, chestnuts have a deeply earthy flavor that’s highlighted even more when it’s paired with sugar. Some of the marron partnerships I encounter and enjoy:

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Other cafés offer a marron latte but none are as good as the one served at Doutor. Chestnut paste is folded into steamed milk and embraced with espresso. A hot drink to relish and revel over the nuances of this wondrous nut.

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On another day, back at Doutor. This time, for a matcha latte – slightly sweet and a touch tannic – and a marron tart. Paste sits on shortbread crust: crisp, buttery, earthy.

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Harbs is one of my favorite bakeshops that I try to visit whenever I’m in Japan. Their cakes sell out so fast that I’m almost convinced it’s a marketing gimmick. On this trip, I’m mad about marron so I have their marron tart. A sponge cake base holds aloft a fantasy of chestnut cream and chocolate chips cavorting in freshly whipped cream. My beverage pairing of choice? A marron tea, naturally.

marron dessert, marron, chestnut

Lastly, a marron parfait. A chocolate mousse-lined glass on bottom followed by a pastry cream followed by a dizzying swirl of chestnut mousse. The coup de grâce: an entire chestnut atop. It’s a dessert that’s small (for me) but is a fine representation of my marron mania.

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