Japan City Guides: Kobe
Kobe is one of Japan's most pleasant cities for both resident and visitor alike, with a distinct laid-back cosmopolitan feel. Now completely rebuilt after the devastating earthquake of 1995, Kobe's dramatic location, sandwiched on a narrow strip of land between mountains and sea, allied to its great food and lively nightlife make the city an ideal place to fit in if you are visiting nearby Kyoto or Osaka.
Kobe's status as one of Japan's foremost international ports and trading centers along with Yokohama, dates back to the town's opening to foreign traders in 1868. Westerners built their wood and brick houses (ijinkan) in Kitano, up the hill from Sannomiya, now Kobe's main station for JR and Hankyu trains. The area is pleasant to stroll with its many trendy cafes and boutiques and Kitano is also home to Kobe's more recent mosque and Jain temple.
Kobe's Chinatown is west of Sannomiya, just south of Motomachi Station but suffers slightly in comparison with Yokohama's more vibrant and authentic Chinatown.
Port Island and Rokko Island are man made islands in the bay, south of the old foreign settlement area, which is now Kobe's commercial center containing Kobe City Hall, Daimaru Department Store and Kobe City Museum, which houses a fine collection of nanban (lit. "southern barbarian") art, namely wood block prints detailing Japan's early Western visitors. The Kobe Fashion Museum is worth a visit on Rokko Island, which is otherwise taken over by multinational offices and high-rise apartments.
Meriken Park and Harbor Land are more recent land-fill developments in the bay, whose brick warehouses seek to recreate the late nineteenth century international port city. Kobe Maritime Museum in Meriken Park has an exciting modernist exterior and a collection of model ships and audiovisual displays. There are fine high-rise views of the city and its striking location from both Kobe City Hall and Port Tower.
Chinatown, Nanking Machi (south of Motomachi Station), Phoenix Plaza (10am-7pm, free) next to tourist information centre south of Sannomiya Station on Flower Road, for information about the Great Hanshin Earthquake; Kobe Fashion Museum on Rokko Island (Mon-Sat 11am-6pm, 500 yen); Shin-Kobe Ropeway cable car from the Kitano area for great views of Kobe and the Inland Sea (9.30am-5.30pm Sat-9pm, Sun-8pm. 1000 yen), Arima Onsen, 35 minutes from Shin-Kobe Station to Arima-onsen by bus or take the Kobe Dentetsu Line from Tanigami Subway Station, Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art.
Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution is a museum
dedicated to the devastating Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. Measuring
7.2 on the Richter scale, over 5,500 people were killed as buildings
and highways collapsed and fires swept the city. The glass covered museum,
built with an exterior frame designed to sway in an earthquake with
shock absorbers to withstand vertical and horizontal movement, presents
a computer-generated film of the disaster, a diorama of a Kobe city
street after the earthquake and real footage of the event.
Tourist information centres on Flower Road near Sannomiya Station (tel 078-322-0222) and inside Shin-Kobe Station.
Kobe Misaki 'Wing' Stadium more
Kobe stadium info
Kobe Port Tower illuminated at night
Meriken Park, Kobe, Hyogo
Kobe's main nightlife areas are Sannomiya, Kitano and Motomachi. The city is blessed with some of Japan's finest international restaurants due to the cosmopolitan mix of people in the area, with Chinese and Indian food to the fore. Kobe's small Chinatown is the place to head for for Chinese foodKobe also has some good bars and nightspots mainly centered around Sannomiya and Motomachi stations.
Japan's most beautiful castle is a short 40 minute train ride away in Himeji.
There is a direct jet-foil boat to Kansai International Airport (KIX) from the Kobe City Air Terminal (KCAT) on Port Island, with buses to Sannomiya. There are also ferries to Beppu in Kyushu and also to Shikoku and Awaji Island. Ferries arrive and depart from Naka Pier, next to Port Tower, about 10 minutes south of Motomachi Station.
Venus Bridge, Kobe
Kobe Port Tower - a symbol of the city
Kobe Airport, named "Marine Air", opened February 2006 on a reclaimed
island just south of Port Island.
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