Camel Clutch and the Path Not Taken: Motoko Town


She talks to me so quickly I can’t understand


The Alpaca (Vicugnapacos) is a domesticated species of South American camelid, resembling small llamas. Alpacas are a unique breed of livestock with many characteristics setting them apart from traditional types of animals such as dogs, lions, hamsters and bees. Alpaca owners often use words to describe these llama-like creatures, words like ‘calming’, ‘magical’ or ‘truncated camelid’.

A herd animal, alpacas do not do well when they lack the company of other alpacas. They can often be found swaddled in makeshift cocoons formed from IKEA sofa throws, local pizza menus and monkey nut shells, and swiping through the Facebook photo albums of estranged school friends who have forgotten to enable their privacy settings.


I don’t even know her name


Alpacas demonstrate a ‘striding’ gait unique to camelids. Rather than walking with alternating front and back legs, they will lift both legs on the same side when walking forward and will sometimes cheer, whilst other alpacas – emboldened by their unique non-alternating same side motion – bob across the landscape forwards, backwards, and tentatively sideways.

This impressive feat is undercut somewhat by poor culinary skills; cheap, locally sourced fish, low calorie meat, vegetables, sprouts and legumes are reduced to a viscous, tar like amorphous paste. The cloven hooves of the animal make it hopelessly unable to comprehend the simplest of tools: knives, forks, and wooden slotted spoons ideal for draining excess oils – spatulas.

motoko town 1Herds of alpacas stay in close proximity to each other. In fact, an early sign of illness in an alpaca will often be that they have separated themselves from the rest of the herd. But unlike like African elephants who create thick matted pouches of mud, straw and crushed insect vertebrae in order to enslave their want-away siblings, the alpaca tribe share a communal understanding that it is essential to leave the herd in order to reflect on and ultimately consolidate personal desires, fears and ambitions.

She cleaned my hanko; I bought a cheap holder and the ink ranout


Opaiyama, which roughly translates to ‘sweet ginger piping’ in English, is next to the JR and Hanshin stations in Sannomiya and is a popular play area for aureate JETs, blundering would be rappers and nebulous street urchins, including, of course, your dear author. Local culinary hotspots such as KFC, Burger King and 7-Eleven whip up a nightly fervor amongst skittish masticators, and bars such as IZNT, Hobgoblin and The Hub provide entertainment that evokes the halcyon days of the Moulin Rouge. However, many of these discordant excursionists fail to break free from the wattle and daub cocoons ritualistically fashioned by their proboscidean matriarchs and spend each weekend ensconced in a fug of transatlantic hubris.

motoko town pet shopJust like the man who walks down the same path every day and then one day walks down a different one, there are other paths to explore. One such place is Motoko Town, not a path per say, but rather a slew of thrift stores, second hand book shops, kinky bars and even a reptile shop flanking one huge solitary path with two other paths, smaller and thinner but just as long, on the outside.The reptile shop, whose owners – flush with the confidence that owning three types of African jungle snake brings – will drape you if you ask nicely or stare balefully until they get uncomfortable, free of charge, in one of their squamatic hostages.


I’m glad she came


Tmotoko town 2he real fun begins however, as with most things, when the lights are off, or in this case on, as I mean at nighttime. Shops packed to bursting with identikit Ultraman figurines from, oh let’s say 1986, 1992 and other dates make way for ad hoc bars populated sporadically by transients; the air bathed in Udon brine – choice language and swarthy behavior are par for the course here. Like a hot meat pie sliced open to reveal a different kind of meat than you were expecting and possibly even vegetables, this is the real Kobe, where 500 yen beers are traded in for 380 yen ones and sometimes even for the usual 500 yen one, but with different glasses so it’s better.

motoko town bees knees 4Seasonal highlights include Bees Knees Lowbrow Rock n’ Roll Bar in MotokoTown 3; run by a Canadian expat and hand-built inside a previously dormant storage unit, it’s a raucous mix of local and international rockabilly bands playing in an upstairs venue that has to be seen to be believed.


Maybe she’ll come to the enkai


There is, also, if you dare to find it, an unnamed bar run by a semiprofessional dominatrix where the walls are festooned with whips and the beer is served with snarls in long pewter cups. motoko town 4The only clues to its location are the golden cobra door handle outside, and the smell of unfettered sexual intrigue emanating from the inside. If this isn’t your bag, or perhaps your bag is full of black inedible mush cooked by insouciant camelids, a stone’s throw away is a small but perfectly malformed shop that sells vacuum packed G-strings in copious supply. I would have bought one, but, like the majority of JETs that pepper this fair isle like peppercorns on a steak, pepper in a jar or even mustard, I don’t mix well with strangers.




Scott Patterson


Motoko Town starts at Motomachi JR train station and runs underneath the train line until it ends at Kobe JR station.






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