Kobe is the capital city of Hyogo prefecture that has the seventh largest population in Japan. Kobe is located in the Kansai region and it takes only 30 minutes to get there from Osaka by train, which makes it really attractive for tourists to visit these two cities. Kobe is one of the largest port cities in Japan along with Yokohama, and has been an important place for trade since Japan reopened the port in 1868 after the isolation for over 200 years.
Because of its history, Kobe has a unique atmosphere that has been influenced by other cultures. You will see western influenced architecture in the city but also Asian influences like Chinatown. Kobe also has several tourist spots such as Ikuta shrine, which represent a beautiful mixture of foreign and own cultures. In this article, we will give you some ideas of what you can see and things to do in Kobe.
- How to get to Kobe?
- Best things to do in Kobe
- 1. Ikuta Shrine – enshrines a deity of marriage and love
- 2. Kobe China Town – one of the biggest China towns in Japan
- 3. Kobe Harborland – see the iconic Kobe Port Tower
- 4. Kobe Animal Kingdom – kid’s favorite zoo
- 5. Rokkosan (Mt. Rokko) – breathtaking view over Kobe
- 6. Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens – seasonal flowers and ropeway ride
- 7. Kobe Kitano Ijinkan (Kitano-cho) – foreign influenced architectures from 19th century
- 8. Kobe Luminarie – winter illumination commemorating Kobe earthquake of 1995
- 9. Try Kobe beef – the best quality beef in the world
- 10. Maya-san (Mt. Maya) – incomparable night view
- 11. Nada Sake District – visit some Japanese sake brewery
- Join the guided tours – discover hidden gems!
- If you have time, visit Awajishima for fun activities!
- Other things to do in Hyogo prefecture
- Where to stay in Kobe
- Other articles you might like
How to get to Kobe?
Travel to Kobe from Kyoto
From Kyoto you can take the Shinkansen to Shin-Kobe station, one direct Hikari train between Kyoto and Shin-Kobe departs each hour. The other option is the JR special rapid train that will bring you in only 50 minutes to Sannomiya station. Sannomiya station is located in the heart of Kobe. It may seem strange to exit at a station that doesn’t have “Kobe” in its name, but Sannomiya station is definitely the best place to start your trip. It is the most central station, well located and all the public transport lines start there!
Travel to Kobe from Tokyo
From Tokyo, taking the bullet train (Shinkansen) is your fastest and most comfortable option to reach Kobe. There are three Shinkansen you can take; Nozomi, Hikari, and Kodama. All the trains stop at Shin-Kobe station, but make sure that you take the one which is bound for Okayama, Hiroshima, or Hakata. Otherwise, you’ll need to get off at Shin-Osaka station in order to change trains! From Shin-Kobe you can take the Local Seishinchuo train that will bring you to Sannomiya station in 2 minutes. The total trip will take you a bit over 3 hrs.
If you have the Japan Rail Pass, the journey from Kyoto is completely covered and most of the Kobe trip too.
Read more about the JR Pass.
Best things to do in Kobe
1. Ikuta Shrine – enshrines a deity of marriage and love
Ikuta shrine is one of the oldest shrines in the Kobe area and it dates back to 201. It is only a 10-minute walk from Sannomiya station, and now a popular place amongst the younger generation as it enshrines a God of marriage and love. At the shrine several kinds of lucky charms are sold. Just seeing and comparing all the different designs of them is fun to do, even if you are not looking for a romantic relationship at the moment!
Official website Ikuta Shrine (Japanese only)
9am – 5pm
No admission fee
2. Kobe China Town – one of the biggest China towns in Japan
Kobe Chinatown (also known as Nankinmachi, 南京町) is a long street with many Chinese restaurants and shops selling all different kind of things including Japanese Chinese food such steamed buns (nikuman), ramen, tapioca drinks at an affordable price. You can choose either going into one of the restaurants and enjoy the food there, or you can opt for take out and eat them while walking around. Not only the food but also the buildings and the atmosphere are quite unique, which makes Nankinmachi a must-visit for tourists!
3. Kobe Harborland – see the iconic Kobe Port Tower
Kobe Harborland is a shopping and entertainment district located between Kobe station and the waterfront area. On its ground there used to be some factories and old stations, but it was redeveloped as a new tourist attraction in 1992. The name Kobe Harborland doesn’t indicate a specific building, but it covers the whole area including its buildings, hotels, and even a cruise ship. It is a popular spot for couples (to be) at night also, because of its decorative lights and romantic atmosphere. Also, if you would like to have a 360° view of Kobe, you can visit the observation deck of the Kobe Port Tower.
4. Kobe Animal Kingdom – kid’s favorite zoo
Kobe Animal Kingdom is a zoo located on port island (an artificial island) in Kobe. Visitors are allowed to pet several kinds of animals including kangaroos, sheep, and capybaras! In addition, they frequently plan fun events and special exhibits, so you can find out something new every time you go, and never get bored!
5. Rokkosan (Mt. Rokko) – breathtaking view over Kobe
If you want to visit nature within an accessible distance from Kobe, Rokkosan (Mt. Rokko) is the perfect option for you! It’s not just a mountain itself, but also offers a variety of leisure facilities including a botanical garden, cafes, observatory, music box museum, and more. Visit the Rokkosan website for more details. Official website Rokkosan
6. Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens – seasonal flowers and ropeway ride
This huge herb garden is located in the vicinity of Sin-Kobe station. You can get to the ropeway platform from the station in roughly 5 minutes, and then take the ropeway up to the top of the mountain where the herb garden is located. During your ride to the top of the mountain and the herb garden you can enjoy the impressive, amazing view of Kobe city. The garden at the top is divided into 12 areas with different themes, and about 200 types of herbs and flowers are enjoyed by visitors throughout the year.
Official website Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens
10am – 5pm (winter, every day, & spring and autumn, weekdays)
10am – 20.30 pm (summer, every day & spring and autumn, weekends)
Round-way ticket ¥1,500 (including ropeway).
▶Get the discounted E-ticket here! (¥1,200)
7. Kobe Kitano Ijinkan (Kitano-cho) – foreign influenced architectures from 19th century
In 1858, Japan agreed to sign a treaty that required the country to open 5 ports, including the port of Kobe. As a result, the number of foreigners living in Japan drastically increased. The government allowed them to live in some designated areas, including Kobe Kitano Ijinkan. Kobe Kitano Ijinkan is a district, located at the foot of Rokkosan, where in the 19th century a number of western-style designed buildings and residences were constructed. These mansions (Ijikan), were used as residences for diplomats and international merchants. Even though Japan experienced several wars in the 20th century, some of these old buildings still remain and attract visitors from all over the world.
8. Kobe Luminarie – winter illumination commemorating Kobe earthquake of 1995
Kobe Luminarie is an annual light festival held every winter since 1995, to commemorate a big earthquake that caused some serious damage in the same year. The event takes place in the vicinity of Motomachi Station, where you can watch several places and structures being illuminated. The dates and schedule are subject to change each year, so you should check the latest updates on their website. If you are planning to visit Kobe in winter, definitely consider including it on your itinerary.
Official website Kobe Luminarie (Japanese only)
9. Try Kobe beef – the best quality beef in the world
You can’t spend time in Kobe and not try the famous Kobe beef, one of the most delicious and expensive types of wagyu beef in Japan! Only cattle that meet the very strict criteria by the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Association can call themselves and be served as Kobe beef. You will definitely be surprised how tender and flavorful the beef is!
There is of course a great number of restaurants serving Kobe beef in Kobe. Our recommendation is “TOR ROAD STEAK AOYAMA”, a small but welcoming restaurant with friendly and hospitable staff. Here you can enjoy Kobe beef at an affordable price. We recommend reserving your table as they get really crowded even on weekdays.
10. Maya-san (Mt. Maya) – incomparable night view
Maya-san or Mt. Maya is one of the major peaks of the Rokko mountains. The Kikuseidai Observation Platform on the top of the mountain can be reached in two ways; you can hike your way to the summit or take the cable car ropeway system. The hiking trails start just north of Shin-Kobe station and will lead you to the summit in 3-5 hrs, depending on the trails (and your pace). You can find a map of the hiking trails here.
The other option is going by public transport. From Sannomiya station you need to take a bus, a cable car, and a ropeway to reach the top. This may sound like a bit of a hustle, but the (night)view of Kobe and Osaka is definitely worth it!
11. Nada Sake District – visit some Japanese sake brewery
If you like Japanese Sake, you should definitely go to the Nada District. Nada is the top sake producing region in Japan. They have great resources to make delicious sake because of the availability of high quality rice, suitable water and favorable weather conditions in this area. There are many Sake breweries operating in this district but Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum is our recommendation. They depict the sake making process in an interesting way at the exhibition and of course, you can try freshly brewed Sake at the tasting area.
Official website Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum
9.30am – 4.30pm
No admission fee
When you visit the Nada Sake District, there’s no better way to explore the area than having a knowledgeable guide with you!
▶Book a sake brewery tour in Nada District
On this tour, you will visit the three best breweries and a museum. It includes several sake tasting, walking tours in the historical area and having lunch at the local guide’s favorite restaurant!
Join the guided tours – discover hidden gems!
You can discover hidden gems and learn the history of the area only when you walk with a knowledgeable guide. If it’s your first time or not, you can always discover new things with a guide. Here are the recommended tours in Kobe and Osaka!
- Kobe 1-Day Highlights Private Walking Tour (7 hours)
This tour will cover all the must-visit spots in Kobe. The itinerary is flexible and can be changed depending on your request!
- Osaka Food and Drink Tour @ Kuromon Market and Dotonbori Area
Plan your trip to Kobe on your own, and then head to Osaka to have a wonderful walk and eat tour with our local guide!
If you have time, visit Awajishima for fun activities!
Awajishima is a small island which sits between Hyogo prefecture and Tokushima prefecture. There are many activities that you can do such as cycling in Awajishima. But if you are an anime fan, visit Nijigen no Mori! It can be literally translated as ‘the forest of 2D’, and there are some different theme parks at the site featuring Godzilla, NARUTO and Dragon Quest and so on. At The Godzilla Interception Operation Awaji, which was newly opened in 2020, you can enjoy the zip lining into the mouse of Godzilla. If you like NARUTO, the theme park called NARUTO x BORUTO Shinobi will get you excited – you can see Hokage Rock, do some missions (quiz solving) and eat the iconic ramen from the anime & manga!
Other things to do in Hyogo prefecture
Hyogo prefecture has more to offer such as Arima Onsen (hot spring town) and one of the most famous castles of Japan, Himeji castle. If you are planning to stay in Kobe and want to explore the extended area, check out the article below for more places to visit in Hyogo prefecture.
Where to stay in Kobe
As we mentioned before, the night view of Kobe is one of the highlights of Kobe. So we strongly recommend staying 1 night in Kobe. Our top picks are:
|Hotel La Suite Kobe Harborland||Bayfront area, Ocean view hotel.|
Member of SLH (Small luxury hotels of the world)
|Oriental Hotel||Luxury hotel near Sannomiya station.|
Founded in 1870.
|Minato Onsen Ren||Bayfront area, Ocean view hotel.|
A group of Hotel La Suite Kobe Harborland
They have a private open-air bath in room.
|ANA Crowne Plaza Kobe||Hotel near JR Shinkobe station.|
|Hotel Isago Kobe||Ryokan near JR Shinkobe station.|
|Galo Hostel Kobe||Hostel near JR Shinkobe station|
|Kobe Guesthouse MAYA||Guesthouse near JR Nada station.|
Compared to other big cities, Kobe is relatively small and easy to explore either on foot or by public transportation. If you are interested in traveling to a city less crowded than Tokyo or Osaka, but still enjoyable, Kobe is always there to offer you new excitements and discoveries! Will you visit Kobe next time you are visiting Japan?
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