Japan City Guides: Kobe
- chic, elegant cosmopolitan port city 33km west of Osaka, opened to foreign trade in 1868.
- stretched between forested hills and its blue-gray harbor.
- Kitano - original foreign enclave with preserved buildings, many now expensive bars and hip shops.
- first soccer match held in Kobe in 1871.
- first golf course in Japan laid out in 1903.
- suffered from a major earthquake in 1995 - extensive damage with 5500 dead.
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.
Uroko House and Uroko Museum, Ijinkan district, Kitano-cho, Kobe
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 Kitano-cho 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, though it's still a great place to sample a wide variety of Chinese cuisine and shop for Chinese souvenirs such as Chinese tea, lanterns, incense and all things panda-related.
China Town (Nankin-machi), Kobe
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.
Kobe Fashion Museum
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.
The 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.
Tel: 078 262 5050
Access: A short walk from JR Nada and Hanshin Iwaya Stations
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
The 42,000 capacity ground has a built-in public swimming pool and is reached by the newly-built Kaigan subway line to Misaki-koen.
Kobe Port Tower illuminated at night
Meriken Park, Kobe, Hyogo
Kobe's main nightlife areas are Sannomiya, Kitano and Motomachi.
The city of Kobe 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. Not to mention the local delicacy of Kobe beef.
Kobe's small Chinatown is the place to head for for Chinese food. Kobe 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.
View of Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan
Kobe Airport has flights to to Ibaraki, Ishigaki, Kagoshima, Naha (Okinawa), Nagasaki, Sapporo and Tokyo (Haneda). Kobe Airport is located on an artificial island just south of Port Island and connects to Sannomiya by PortLiner trains.
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.
The center of Kobe can easily be walked especially the central areas around Sannomiya Station, the Motomachi Shopping Arcade, the Old Settlement area near Kobe City Hill, Daimaru Department Store and Kobe City Museum and up the hill to the ijinkan in Kitano.
Kobe subway is useful for making the transfer from Shin-Kobe Station after arrival by shinkansen to Sannomiya. The cheapest ticket on the Kobe subway is 210 yen.
Kobe City Loop
The most tourist-friendly bus service is the Kobe City Loop, on a retro-style bus that passes many of Kobe's main attractions starting from Kobe Port Tower to Harborland, Chinatown, Kobe City Museum, Sannomiya, Kitano Ijinkan, Shin-Kobe Station, Sannomiya Bus Terminal, City Hall and back to Kobe Port Tower and Meriken Park: 17 stops in all.
Showing the City Loop One-Day Pass gets you a discount at over 30 attractions along or near the route.
One ride: 260 yen for adults
Day pass: 660 yen for adults.
Bus/Subway One-Day Pass
A one-day pass is available for both Kobe subway and city bus (Shi Bus Chikatetsu Kyotsu Ichinichi Johsha Ken 市バス・地下鉄共通1日乗車券) for 1,030 yen.
A subway-only one-day card (Chikatetsu nichi Johsha Ken 地下鉄1日乗車券) costs 820 yen.
New U-Line Card
For a longer stay, depending on your needs, the New U-Line card is available for both bus and subway. The New U-Line Card is simply a pre-paid card deducted from with each use. Available in 1000-yen, and 3,000-yen (providing 3,200 yens' worth of travel). You also receive a 20 yen discount for each same-day transfer between a bus and a train.
Venus Bridge, Kobe
Kobe Port Tower - a symbol of the city
Kobe has a wide range of accommodation to suit all budgets. Western-style international hotels include Hotel Sunroute Sopra Kobe, Crowne Plaza Kobe Hotel, the Hotel Isago Kobe near JR Shin-Kobe Station, the Sannomiya Terminal Hotel, a 4-star hotel attached to JR Sannomiya Station, the budget Green Hill Hotel Urban in Kitano and the APA Hotel Kobe-Sannomiya.
Sannomiya has the greatest concentration of hotels mainly clustered around the railway station. Choose from the usual chain hotels which all provide good value accommodation. These include the Kobe Tokyu Inn, the Toyoko Inn Kobe Sannomiya No.2 and the Daiwa Roynet Kobe Sannomya.
Awaji Island can easily be reached from Kobe by Express Bus from JR Shin-Kobe Station to Sumoto on Awaji (2 hours) and on to Tokushima on Shikoku. Alternatively take a JR train to Akachi and the ferry (13 minutes).
Kobe Airport, named "Marine Air", opened February 2006 on a reclaimed island just south of Port Island.
The new airport has flights to and from seven cities: Kagoshima, Ishigaki, Nagasaki, Naha (Okinawa), Ibaraki, Sapporo and Tokyo (Haneda).
The flights are operated by JAL, ANA and Skymark. Flights to and from Kobe Airport run between 7am and 9pm.
Kobe Airport can be reached by Port Liner automated train from Sannomiya (320 yen; 16 minutes), bus, car or speed boat (30 minutes) from Kansai International Airport (service opened in 2006). Car parking fees are presently free for 1 day and 1,000 yen per day thereafter.
Kobe Airport Terminal Building, Kobe, Hyogo.
View Kobe Map in a larger map