July 1,2022 / KOBE TOURISM BUREAU
Once you are free to travel abroad again, which country would you like to visit? If JAPAN has come up on your mind, KOBE would be definitely a great destination!
As you might imagine, Kobe is famous for “Kobe Beef”. But that’s not only attraction in Kobe. With a population of 1.5 million people, Kobe is the 7th largest city in Japan. Kobe makes the largest amount of “Japanese Sake” in Japan, has some of Japan’s most beautiful “Night Views”, and is home to “Onsen (Hot springs)” with the longest history in Japan. Kobe might be the city in which you can experience everything you wish to do in Japan.
In this article, we introduce things to do in Kobe which make your trip more enjoyable. This definitely be useful for your next trip to Japan, so don’t forget to bookmark!
Access / Geography / History
Kobe Beef / Nada Sake / Arima Onsen / Night Views
Meriken Park and Harborland / Kitano / Shin-Kobe / Kyu-Kyoryuchi / Sannomiya / Nankinmachi / Rokkosan / Akashi Kaikyo Bridge
Access to Kobe is really simple and convenient. It is within an hour from Kyoto and Osaka, as well as the major regional airport, Kansai International Airport (KIX), and transport options include trains, buses, and also the Shinkansen (bullet train).
We recommend you to stay and take enough time to enjoy everything in Kobe, but transport access is so convenient that you can make a day trip from Osaka or Kyoto.
Downtown of Kobe is surrounded by the sea and mountains to the south and north, literally it is sandwiched between mountain and sea.
Kobe is such a small city, which allows you to explore the downtown, sea side and mountains in one day. Most of the main attractions are within walking distance, but if you would like to roam around efficiently, public transportation is also available.
If you have limited time in Kobe, we recommend you to take the ” City Loop Bus” which is the most tourist friendly bus service, and you can get discount at over 30 attractions along or near the route by showing the pass.The ropeway and cable car are available in the mountain area, if you are not fond of hiking.
Learning about history of Kobe will make your trip more enjoyable. Since the late 19th century, the Port of Kobe has developed as one of Japan’s leading international trade ports. People, goods, and cultures from all over the world had been gathered to Kobe. These cultures from all over the world and Japanese culture mixed together in Kobe and created a unique culture.
World famous Kobe Beef is one example. Japan didn’t have a meat eating culture originally. But after 19th century, English people visiting Kobe ate cows used for farming, they found out that it was extremely delicious.
The cityscape of Kobe also reflects a strong influence of foreign countries. Kobe’s leading sightseeing spots such as “Kitano” and “Kyu-kyoryuchi(The Former Foreign Settlement of Kobe)” are good example. In these areas, there are many western-style buildings built by merchants and diplomats who came from Europe and the United states. Furthermore “Nankinmachi (Kobe China Town)” in Kobe downtown is one of the 3 biggest Chinatowns in Japan.
Kobe is known as the home of world famous Kobe Beef. These days, there are many restaurants around the world serving Kobe Beef. But here in Kobe, you can enjoy Kobe Beef with freshness only available at the place of production, served by expert chefs.
Kobe Beef has a lot of fat, which breaks down over time when shipped long-distance, reducing the quality, so it is best to eat it where close to the place of production. The meat is also very tender, so it takes expert techniques to cook it properly. There are many Kobe Beef restaurants in Kobe, and chefs try hard every day to improve their skills.
Kobe Beef is served in many kinds of ways, from Yakiniku and Shabu-Shabu to Sushi and even Ramen, but our recommended serving style is “Teppanyaki (Cooking on a hot steel plate)”! The chefs grill a beautifully marbled Kobe Beef steak in your presence, so you can enjoy Kobe beef not only with your taste, but also with your eyes.
Kobe Beef has a very strict certification system for both the meat and restaurants to maintain the quality and brand. Restaurants certified by the Kobe Beef Association display a bronze statue, and real Kobe Beef is stamped with a chrysanthemum mark. Please check these out when you consider choosing a restaurant for Kobe Beef.
Kobe Beef / Official Travel Guide of KOBE
Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association – You can find certified Kobe beef restaurants in this page.
Kobe Beef Gallery – There is a gallery where you can learn about the history and production background of Kobe Beef. In the restaurant, you can actually taste Kobe Beef at reasonable prices.
Misono -A high class teppanyaki restaurant, which is recommended for those who want to eat the finest Kobe Beef.
Ishida – This restaurant offers a good balance of price and quality, so you can enjoy your fill of authentic Kobe Beef.
STEAKLAND KOBE – This restaurant is popular among tourists, and you can enjoy Kobe Beef teppanyaki at very reasonable prices.
Along with Kobe Beef, Japanese Sake is also famous in Kobe. There are lots of Sake breweries in the area called “Nada-gogo (five brewing areas in Nada)” ,and it is one of Japan’s leading areas for sake brewing.
Nada-gogo has the perfect water, rice, and climate for sake brewing, and sake brewing has been popular for a long time, and many breweries produce Sake there in traditional way even today. Some breweries offer tours about the history and culture & process of sake brewing, plus some even offer tastings of freshly-brewed sake.
Sake made in Nada-gogo is typically spicy and dry, and very tasty. Recently, the popularity of sake is growing worldwide. If you’re interested in sake, we definitely recommend visiting the breweries in Nada-gogo, Kobe.
Nadagogo Sake / Official Travel Guide of KOBE
Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum – At the Museum, there is multilingual audio guidance to make it easy to understand process of making Sake, and also free tasting is offered.
Kiku-Masamune Sake Burewery Museum – This museum is renovated in a traditional sake brewery with a nice atmosphere. You can experience the history and traditions of sake brewig. Free tasting is offered.
Kobe Shushinkan – They make sake which is served at receptions for the Nobel Prize. There is sake exclusive to this store, and it is recommended for souvenirs to Sake-lovers.
Arima Onsen in Kobe is one of the most famous hot springs in Japan, and it takes only about 30 min from downtown of Kobe. We can say that it is the closest hot spring town from the big cities such as Kobe and Osaka.
This onsen is so old that its name appears in Japan’s oldest history book, and it was a favorite of many famous historical figures. Arima Onsen hot springs have mainly two types of onsen, one is the “Kinsen (Golden onsen)” and the other is “Ginsen (Silver onsen)”.
Kinsen is the signature hot spring of Arima Onsen. The hot spring water has high iron content, giving it a reddish brown color, and the salt content is even higher than sea water. In Japan, there are 9 hot spring ingredients specified for their therapeutic effects, and this spring has 7 of them, so in addition to the warming and hydrating effects, it’s also great for beautifying skin and promoting health.
The streets of Arima Onsen district have a good old-fashioned Japanese atmosphere. It is nice for buying traditional crafts like bamboo crafts, or enjoying street food like Manju (Japanese sweet bun) and croquettes after warming up in the hot spring.
Arima Onsen / Official Travel Guide of KOBE
Kin no yu – One of the leading public baths in Arima Onsen. Tattoos are allowed to enter the bathroom!
Taikou no yu – An onsen theme park at Arima Onsen. There are many types of bathtubs, and you can also enjoy meals and relax inside.
You can not miss the beautiful night view of Kobe. Especially the night view from the mountains is called “Million dollar night view” which is one of the most 3 beautiful night views in Japan.
There are two mountains north of downtown Kobe, “Rokkosan (Mt.Rokko)” and “Mayasan (Mt.Maya)”. It takes about an hour to reach the top of the mountain from downtown Kobe by train, bus, ropeway or cable car. From the observatory, you can admire the dynamic night view of Kobe, as well as the city lights of Osaka, Kyoto, and Wakayama in the distance.
You do not have to climb to the top of the mountain to enjoy the beautiful night view. In Meriken Park and Harborland, the waterfront near downtown, which has lots of landmarks such as Kobe Port Tower and MOSAIC, and they have beautiful lighted up at night. You can make unforgettable memories with romantic night view of Kobe while taking a night cruise.
Kikusei Dai (observation deck) at Mt.Maya – The steep mountain slopes let you enjoy Kobe’s most dynamic night view.
Rokko Garden Terrace at Mt.Rokko – You can spend all day at this place since there are shops and restaurants, and the observation deck.
Meriken Park and Harborland – Perfect spot for night viewing when you are in downtown.
Kobe has many areas with different aspects, such as sea and mountains, urban and natural environments, and Eastern and Western styles. Here are some of the best places to visit in these varied areas of Kobe.
Meriken Park and Harborland in Kobe waterfront are Kobe’s leading sightseeing spots, with many photogenic buildings that are symbols of Kobe, making it the perfect area for taking memorable photos.
There are also some cruise ships departing from Port of Kobe, so it is good idea to feel the sea breeze on the deck.
BE KOBE monument – The No.1 photo spot in Kobe.
Kobe Port Tower – The charming red silhouette is a symbol of Kobe.
Kobe Port Tower is currently closed until summer 2023 for renovation.
Kobe Harborland umie / MOSAIC – A shopping mall on the waterfront with a good atmosphere.
Kotano is multicultural area north of Sannomiya downtown where many people having foreign roots are living. The streets are lined with European-style homes built in the early 20th century, creating an atmosphere that might make you forget you’re in Japan.
There are many Western-style buildings around the area that have been renovated and turned into cool cafes and restaurants, so it’s a good idea to take a walk and visit the buildings and shops that interest you.
The weathercock house (former Thomas residence) – This western-style home is a symbol of Kitano famous for the weathercock on the roof.
Uroko House & Observation Gallery – This photogenic western-style building has a distinctive facade that looks like fish scales.
Kitano Meister Garden -This is a facility that reused a closed elementary school, and inside the building there is a souvenir store and handmade experience facilities.
In Kobe, the Shinkansen stops at “Shin-Kobe” Station. There are mountains next to the station, and beautiful waterfalls and gardens are just a short walk away. Taking a stroll or riding the ropeway to the hill to enjoy the natural beauty and view is recommended.
Nunobikii Falls – Beautiful waterfalls just 15 min from the station on foot. There are well-maintained trails around the area, so you can enjoy hiking casually.
Nunobiki Herb Gardens & Ropeway – A beautiful garden with seasonal flowers and plants. There is also a fantastic sweeping view of downtown Kobe.
Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum – The only museum in Japan to specialize in Japanese traditional carpentry tools.
The Kyu-Kyoryuchi area is lined with many brick buildings built as foreign trading houses and consulates since the late 19th century, making it a European atmosphere. The area has a department store and shops for high-end brands, so it’s Kobe’s premier shopping area with sophisticated tastes.
Kobe City Museum – There are free exhibits where you can learn about Kobe’s history and culture.
Daimaru Kobe – A longstanding department with a gorgeous façade, good place to buy souvenirs of Kobe.
Sannomiya, the center of Kobe, is crowded with restaurants and shopping centers. It is recommended area for eating Kobe Beef and buying souvenirs. Sannomiya Station is also a transport hub for trains and buses. Staying at a hotel in this area is very convenient for sightseeing in Kobe, as well as in Osaka, Kyoto, and Himeji.
Ikuta Shrine – One of Kobe’s foremost shrines. Even though it is located in the middle of the downtown area, it is surrounded by greenery, creating an oasis in the city.
Kobe Sannomiya Center Gai Shopping Street – A huge shopping street. They have it all, from fashion and accessories to cosmetics.
Nankinmachi with Chinese restaurants lining the streets, many people have roots in China and Taiwan live there, making it one of Japan’s biggest Chinatowns. There are food stalls everywhere, so you can enjoy a snack like meat buns or dumplings while you walk around.
Nankinmachi Hiroba – The square in the center of Nankinmachi. This is a photogenic spot with Chinese-style architecture and monuments.
Sorakuen – A large Japanese style garden which is located in the middle of the city, and unchanged for over a century.
Mt.Rokko, a 900-meter-high mountain neighboring the north side of Kobe, is full of nature and a great spot for those who love the outdoors. You can access the top of the mountain from downtown Kobe in about an hour by train, bus, and ropeway or cable car. From the observatory, you can enjoy the dynamic view of Kobe and Osaka. The view after dark is especially gorgeous.
There are many sightseeing spots such as botanical gardens, museums, cafes restaurants, and observatories, so you can spend the whole day there.
Rokko Cable Car – The cable car connects the sea side of Kobe to the top of Mt. It climbs 500m high in about 10 minutes.
Rokko Garden Terrace – The observatory on the top of Mt.Rokko. It also has shops and restaurants.
The seaside district stretches along the west side of Kobe, featuring beautiful beaches like Suma Beach and a spacious outlet mall. The Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge connecting Awaji Island with Kobe, the world’s second longest suspension bridge, is a must-see. The sheer size of it will blow you away!
Akashi Kaikyo Bridge – The world’s second longest suspension bridge. There is a facility that allows visitors to see the inner structures, and there are also tours that take you up to the top of the pillars.
Suma Beach – The seacoast features beautiful beaches and rows of pine trees. There are also cafes and restaurants along the coast.
Mitsui Outlet Park Marine Pia Kobe – An outlet mall on the seaside with an airy atmosphere and European stylings.
We hope that this article will inspire you to visit Kobe choose it as your next travel destination in Japan!!