Museums & Galleries in Kobe Listing 博物館, 神戸
Kobe, an historic port city in western Japan, has a number of fine museums and art galleries reflecting its history as an international trading hub since its opening as a Treaty Port at the end of the Edo Period in 1868.
See below for a list of museums in Kobe.
Ijinkan - Western-style Houses in Kitano-cho (北野町)
The Kitano-cho area of Kobe, north of Sannomiya Station, at the foot of Mt. Rokko, is home to a number of preserved western style houses, the former homes of wealthy business people in the Meiji, Taisho and early Showa periods. Many of these ijinkan have been converted into fashionable cafes or museums.
Around 20 of these former merchants' mansions are now open to the public as museums from about 30 buildings still standing. Originally there were over 1,000 such houses.
Moegi House, Uroko House, Ben's House and Yokan Nagaya (France House) are but a few of the residences that can be visited.
Kobe Fashion Museum
Looking like the Starship Enterprise has crash landed in Japan, the Kobe Fashion Museum, located on Rokko Island, was the first fashion museum in Japan.
The permanent collection is displayed in several themed galleries, color, fabrics, structures, designers, etc and there are periodic temporary exhibitions. The Kobe Fashion Museum also houses an extensive library of fashion books and magazines in many languages.
The building is home to an "event space" and also the Kobe Artists Museum exhibiting mostly mediocre western-style art from local artists.
Kobe Maritime Museum
Kobe Maritime Museum opened in 1987 to commemorate the 120th anniversary of Kobe's opening as a foreign Treaty Port in 1868 at the end of the Edo Period of Japanese history.
The exterior architecture of the museum is designed to look like the sails and rigging of a sailing ship.
The often interactive exhibits showcase ship construction, cruise ships (which frequently dock now in Kobe) and the port facilities in the city. Items on show include dioramas, model ships, rigging and navigation instruments in addition to explanatory videos.
The outdoor exhibition area in Meriken Park preserves part of Meriken wharf, damaged in the Great Hanshin earthquake, and the Yamato-1 a 1990's ship built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries using magnetohydrodynamic drives (MHDs) for its propulsion.
Kobe City Museum
Kobe City Museum in the center of town opened in 1982 and combines the previous collections of the Municipal Archaeological Art Museum and Municipal Namban Art Museum.
The museum's theme is the interaction of eastern and western culture as exemplified by Kobe's history as an international trading center. The Kobe City Museum stands in the heart of what was once Kobe's Foreign Settlement, in what was once a former bank building. Kobe City Museum frequently hosts top class temporary exhibitions from other museums from around the world.
Kobe Earthquake Museum
The Kobe Earthquake Museum (a part of the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution) in the HAT district of the city opened in 2002 and commemorates the events of the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake (阪神・淡路大震災 Hanshin Awaji daishinsai), a 6.9 moment magnitude scale earthquake which occurred on January 15, 1995 at 5.46am, causing over 6,000 deaths and massive devastation in and around the city of Kobe.
Videos of the events and reconstructions and dioramas of the damage vividly portray the scale of the disaster.
Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art
The Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art was built as part of Kobe waterfront's revitalization and reconstruction following the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. It is located on the waterfront a few hundred meters from the Earthquake Museum.
Opened in 2002, and designed by Japan's world famous architect Tadao Ando, the museum's architecture has stylistic similarities to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, which Ando was designing at the same time.
The permanent collection is heavy on 20th century works from Japan and abroad, especially sculpture and prints.
Nada-ku Sake Museums
Nada-ku has a long history of sake brewing thanks to the fine water than comes from nearby Mt. Rokko and bubbles to earth from the many springs in the area.
Kobe's closeness to the sea and the transport nexus of Osaka, meant that its sake could easily be transported to other areas of Japan.
As well as being the home of the Yamaguchi-gumi yakuza crime syndicate, Nada-ku has a number of historic sake breweries that often are part-museum, part-specialist store selling sake and sometimes pickles (tsukemono) made from sake lees.
Sake museum/breweries in Nada-ku include Sawanotsuru (with 300 years of history), Shushinkan, Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum, Sakuramasamune, Hamafukutsuru Ginjo, Kobe Konan Muko no Sato and Kikumasamune.
Other Museums & Galleries in Kobe
Other museums and galleries in Kobe include the UCC Coffee Museum on Port Island, where the coffee giant has its headquarters. Also on Port Island, the Tasaki Pearl Company has a small, free museum displaying pearls. Open 9am to 6pm all year round. The Kobe Lampwork Glass Museum (KOBEとんぼ玉ミュージアム) near Sannomiya has glass art including beads, jewelry and blown glass from ancient times to the present.
The Kobe Water Science Museum is housed in a German Renaissance style building built in 1917 as a water purification plant. Converted to the Kobe Water Science Museum it has a 3-D theater and fun exhibits relating to water. Visitors can try their hand at various water-related experiments. The museum appeals to children with its hands-on bubble machines, water guns and water mazes. The grounds are a well-known cherry blossom-viewing site.
The Kobe Center for Overseas Migration and Cultural Interaction is housed in the former Kobe Emigration Center which organized Japanese emigration to mainly South America from 1928-1971. It now serves as a museum on the history of Japanese emigration and also as an arts and cultural exchange center for overseas residents in Kobe.
The Kobe Anpanman Children's Museum & Mall is located in Harborland and is part-shop and part-museum on all things relating to young children's favorite manga character, Anpanman and friends.
The Kobe Lamp Museum (神戸らんぷミュージアム) was operated by the Kansai area power generating company KEPCO and exhibited around 1,300 paraffin lamps, lights and shades. It closed in 2013.