For a fun day a hop, skip, and a jump away from Osaka or Kobe, I recommend heading out to Shiitake Land (Reservations by phone from 9am to 3:30pm: 079-568-1301; open year-round from 9-5pm; http://www.kasaya.net/) to gather some mushrooms and grill ‘em up with chicken, beef, lettuce, and more. After taking the free bus from Aino Station (on the JR Fukuchiyama Line), I met with a guide at the entrance who gave me a basket and showed me how to gather the shiitake mushrooms. Plucking the mushrooms from the bark required a lot more force than I expected, but that just made it feel more rewarding overall when I saw how I filled my basket. Once finished, I went to a nice windowed lodge (there are outdoor seats for the summer) where a barbeque cooker and ingredients were set in place. Grilling shiitake along with beef and chicken was a complete feast, with a satisfying umami flavor in plentiful supply. Nothing’s more satisfying than roasting your own freshly caught mushrooms. Shiitake barbeque packages start at 3,150 yen.Next up, I took the train to Sanda station, from which I took a free bus to Kobe Municipal Fruit & Flower Park. At Fruit & Flower Park (abbreviated in Japanese as “Fra pa”), I went to Kobe Illuminage (1,000 yen; Open every day until February 2 from 5:30pm-9:30pm; http://fruit-flowerpark.jp/illumination/). The lightshow features a 3D projection light mapping show on the Fruit & Flower Hotel façade, plenty of food and drink stalls, some shops selling lights and souvenirs, a monkey show, and consists in general of a central square covered with light-up animal, flower, and other decorations. The glittering displays were interesting, and seemed to be quite a popular attraction for families and couples. Food stalls included waffles, ramen noodle soup, and plenty of hot drinks perfect for the chill winter night. The projection lightshow was a pretty use of illumination technology that I haven’t before, a series of light illusions on a large building façade accompanied by music.The free monkey show (available four to five times depending on the day of the week) was a great way to finish up my visit to Kobe Illuminage event, with a monkey performing tricks for twenty minutes to a trainer’s narration and guidance. Seeing the monkey jumping, riding a toy motorcycle, and wearing gaudy circus clothes, I wondered if it was right to forcibly domesticate an animal and make it do tricks for the pleasure of large crowds. Though it was pretty entertaining….