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Kobe City Guide

Japan flag. Japan City Guides: Kobe

Kobe History | Kobe Attractions | Kobe Dining | Access

Kobe 神戸

Kobe cityscape - showing Kobe City Hall, Kobe Tower and the white framework architecture of Kobe Maritime Museum.
  • 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.

History of 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 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 collectionof 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.Kobe Fashion Museum.

Things to see and do in Kobe

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.

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.

Wantage Books: second-hand English-language bookshop.

Kobe Port Tower illuminated at night.

Kobe Port Tower illuminated at night

Meriken Park, Kobe, Japan.

Meriken Park, Kobe, Hyogo

Nightlife & Eating Out in Kobe

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.

Getting To & From Kobe


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.


JR Shinkansen bullet train stops at Shin-Kobe Station. About 1km south of Shin-Kobe Station, Sannomiya Station is the main rail hub for intercity Hankyu, Hanshin and JR trains to Osaka and Kyoto.


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, Japan.

Venus Bridge, Kobe

Kobe Port Tower.

Kobe Port Tower - a symbol of the city

Kobe Airport

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 PortLiner 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, Japan.

Kobe Airport Terminal Building, Kobe, Hyogo.

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