The city of Kobe owes its fame to its self-titled beef and the basketball star, Kobe Bryant, who was reportedly named after it. But, the real Kobe city has a rich history, with plenty of things to do, see, and eat. Kobe is a city with a distinctly international feel to it, in contrast to lots of rural Kansai. It’s home to the Jazz Street Festival, a yearly fashion show, and the Vissel Kobe and Orix Buffaloes sports teams. It is also the site of Japan’s first Sikh temple and mosque.
Similarly to Osaka, Kobe grew as a result of trade with Chinese and Korean visitors. It was known as Hyōgo-tsu (Hyōgo Port) in the 13th Century because of the many incoming ships and merchants. The city wasn’t founded until 1889 when the Meiji Restoration re-opened Japan to the world and made it one of the first cities to welcome new arrivals. Incendiary bombs in 1945 and the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995 did much to alter the city’s landscape and identity. But, today it still remains a diverse and welcoming city to visitors all year round.
What To Do in Kobe
The compact city center is home to one of only three Chinatowns in the country. Moreover, it hosts the striking Port Tower and several museums. One can reach the artificial Port Island very easily from the mainland. Here, you’ll find a number of the city’s best museums and the Kobe Animal Kingdom.
Slightly further north of the center lies the Nunobiki Falls, which offers great views and a pleasant hike. If you want the views without the hike, check out the nearby Shin-Kobe Ropeway. Even further away from the shore is the imposing Mount Rokko. Hidden behind the mountain is the famous Arima Onsen town resort.
Kobe beef is a highly renowned and prized type of beef originating from the Tajima strain of Wagyu cattle primarily raised in the Hyogo Prefecture of Japan. It’s known for its exceptional marbling, tenderness, and rich, buttery flavor. While in the home of Kobe Beef, it would be imprudent not to sample this famous breed of Wagyu beef. When served abroad, it is a very expensive dish, but here in its heartland, it’s very affordable. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, do not worry as there are plenty of dining alternatives besides meat.
Located to the west of Osaka Bay, Kobe spreads out thinly along the coast. The Ikuta Shrine, which gave the city its name, is located in the center, while the Rokko mountain range dominates the skyline to the north. It is sandwiched between the city of Ashiya in the east and Akashi in the west. It connects to Awaji Island (and eventually the island of Shikoku) by the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge.
The Kobe Airport, perched on a man-made island in Osaka Bay, handles domestic flights only. But you can reach the city very easily from Kansai International Airport, just 70km away.
How To Visit Kobe
Unless you’re a Kobe beef fanatic, or a passionate hiker, a short visit will be sufficient. This city is ideal for a day trip from Osaka (or even Kyoto). It also works as a perfect stop-over en route to the island of Shikoku.