Kobe is a port city in the land of the rising sun, the scenery flanked by mountains in the backdrop. Located in the Kansai region of Japan, it is only a 30 min train ride from Osaka, an hour away from Kyoto station and therefore easily accessible. With its stylish European architecture, it deserves much more attention than it currently receives, for it offers a range of tourist attractions to anyone willing to explore all the things that it has to offer. Some of the best places to visit in Kobe are Mount Maya and Nunobiki Falls. Other Kobe points of interest include Kobe Harbourland and Ikuta Shrine.
Kobe has a whole range of experiences for the visitor with the motive to travel and see the sights. From beautiful scenes to places rooted in the traditional Japanese culture, here is a list of 15 best things to do in Kobe, Japan:
1. Kobe Harborland
To see Kobe as the port city it is, a visit to the Kobe Harborland is a must. It is a vast multi-complex facility that faces the sea and is amusing to adults and children alike. The area consists of the Anpanman Museum, a huge Ferris wheel, brick warehouses and Gaslight Street which form some of its many attractions. Entry to the area is free, but prices vary depending on your choice of entertainment.
2. Mount Maya
Daylight has its appeal, you can see things clearly and in thorough detail. But the nights in Kobe have its own appeal as well. Mount Maya is one among the three main nightscapes in the city and with its twinkling lights of the “urbanscape” offers a sight poles apart from the daytime view. Located at the center of the Rokko Mountains in Japan, the 609m high peak takes you to the other end of the city of Kobe, the opposite end of the sea. The Maya View Line which is a combination of a ropeway and a cableway can take you up to the peak so you can get a panorama shot of the Osaka Bay from the observation point. For a one way ride up the prices vary from 800 JPY for an adult and 440 JPY for a child.
3. Nunobiki Falls
Along with the mountains and the sea, get closer to nature with the Nunobiki Falls at Kobe, Japan. It is a 10-minute hike from the Shin-Kobe Station. The destination is a cluster of waterfalls named Ontaki, Mentaki, Meototaki, and Tsutsumigataki, of which Ontaki is the highest fall, at 43m. You reach the destination by walking, the place has no closing time, and there is no entry fee required to go see this magnificent waterfall.
4. Kobe Port Tower
Speaking of panoramic views, nothing beats the one at Kobe Port Tower which you will be treated to once you decide to visit. A revolving cafe is located from which completes a full rotation in 20 minutes, covering the sea, the port, and the Rokko Mountains. A skywalk with a transparent floor shows how the structure is a product of true Japanese engineering and architecture. The venue is opened at night as well granting access to a breathtaking view, at 700 JPY for adults and 300 JPY for kids.
5. Earthquake Memorial Park
Japan is the land of earthquakes. Located at the margins of the earthquake circle on the Earth’s surface, tremors of the earth and the wrath of the sea are familiar occurrences. The Great Hanshin Earthquake was one among many that wrecked Japan. To remember the calamity, a stretch of 60m breakwater at the Meriken Wharf has been preserved for people to see. The park shows the ferocity of the earthquake through video and photographs, grants free entry and remains open from 9 am to 9 pm.
6. Kitano Cho
Japan has a short-lived history as a colony. Following the opening of the Kobe Bay, a stretch of the land became the residential area for the foreigners who came. They constructed here houses, in style familiar to them and unfamiliar to the colonized natives. This area is known as the Kitano Cho which still has 30 preserved western style houses from the Meiji and Taisho eras. Restaurants, boutiques, and establishments in the area represent many countries. Prices depend on the establishment that you visit.
7. Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens and Ropeway
An extension from the Nunobiki Falls, the ropeway leads to another prime destination in Kobe Japan, to the biggest herb garden in the country. 75,000 herbs and plants representing approximately 200 species can be found in the gardens. A 10-minute ropeway ride will take you there, over the Kobe-Keihanshin area beneath. At the gardens there is also a restaurant incorporating herbs in its cuisine. A round trip ticket will cost 1700 JPY and 700 JPY each, for adults and kids respectively.
8. Ikuta Shrine
The 1800-year-old shrine is the cultural root of the origins of the city. The name 'Kobe' is derived from the name 'Kanbe' referring to the family charged with protecting the Ikuta God. It is open for visit every day and is free, situated at the heart of the Sannomiya commercial area. The shrine is particularly recognised for its association with pleasant and successful matchmaking.
9. Fisherman’s Market
At the Kobe Harborland, find out the true taste of living in a port city, literally. Venture into the Umie mall in the Harborland Area and treat yourself to an all you can eat buffet centered on seafood at the Fisherman’s market located in the mall.
10. Hot Springs in Aroma Onsen
There are two hot springs in the city of Kobe- the Kinsen or the Golden Spring and the Ginsen or the Silver Spring. The hot springs are located at some distance from the city itself and attract a lot of locals. Venture out to experience the traditional naked dip at the baths in the relaxing naturally-heated water.
America has its bourbon and Russia has its vodka. The kind of alcohol traditionally associated with Japan is the sake. Nada Gogo is the sake brewing area in the city of Kobe in Japan. Take a walk through and breath in the sweetened air. Stop at the local Hakatsuru Sake Brewery for an authentic taste, just for the 'sake' of it.
12. Akashi Kaikyo Bridge
Japan is known for its architectural and engineering innovations. One such example can be found in the local city of Kobe itself. The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, or the Pearl Bridge, is the longest suspension bridge not only in Japan but in the world at large. Try to fit it into your lens and keep the photo in your memory bank for your lifetime.
13. Himeji Castle
Amidst all the geography and architecture, add a little history to the mix with a visit to Himeji Castle. Known as the Shirasagi-jo, or the White Egret Castle, you can take a train to the venue and easily spend the day roaming in its cavernous halls and passageways.
14. Animal life in Kobe
There are two main spots to experience wildlife in the urban city of Kobe. One is the Kobe Suma Marine Aquarium which allows first-hand interaction with Japan’s marine life, involving sharks, stingrays, dolphins, and other marine animals. The Oji Zoo offers interaction with terrestrial wildlife, like pandas, koalas, and other animals.
15. City Hall Observation Deck
For one comprehensive panoramic view of the city, visit the City Hall Observation Deck. Take the elevator up to the twenty-fourth floor and experience the beautiful view free of charge.
The Japanese city of Kobe is relatively obscure in the tour plans compared to other cities in the country. Kobe with its mountains and seas, temples and bridges, hot springs and waterfalls, offers all of Japan in a nutshell.