The city of Kobe on Osaka Bay is the third-largest port in central Japan. The town is between the Seto inland sea and the Rokko mountain mange. This historic port city has embraced foreign culture since the 9th century, giving the city a unique international flavor. One who visits the city can experience its unique food culture, late 19th-century western architecture, and an eclectic mix of Japanese influences. With its centuries of history, Kobe is one of the oldest ports in Japan and one of the first to open its doors to foreign trade in the 19th century, along with other ports like Niigata, Nagasaki, Yokohama, and Hakodate.
Here is a list of the best things to do in Kobe and where you can spend most of your port day. Find a mix of must-see tourist places and search for underrated local hangouts and even a few new experiences you can try out.
Ikuta Shrine is the main shrine in central Kobe with over 1800 years of history and is said to be one of the oldest shrines in the country. Around this shrine, some battles were fought during the Genpai War. There is a small “Ikuta forest” behind the shrine with beautiful old trees, a small stream, and a couple of relaxing sitting spaces. Local business people are often spotted reading a book here. Moreover, if you’re lucky, you might see the traditional wedding and festivals year-round.
Chinatown in Kobe is known as Nankinmachi by locals. One main street has big gates, traditional red lanterns on strings, and a square with a Chinese temple. One can experience authentic Chinese culture here, from food to souvenir shops to shopping stores, or stop for delicious food such as dumplings in the shape of pandas, steamed rice parcels, and sugarcoated strawberries. Even you can purchase souvenir gifts from any of the shops.
Mount Rokko is the highest peak in the Rokko mountain range, which provides a pleasant green backdrop to the city of Kobe. The view around sunset is particularly spectacular. You can see both Kobe and Osaka from here. On the top, you can find a botanical garden, a music box museum, a pasture with flowers and sheep, Japan’s first golf course and Rokko Garden Terrace, shops, restaurants, and an observation deck.
Kobe Earthquake Memorial Museum was built in 2002 to commemorate the tragic event on January 17, 1995. On that day, Kobe experienced a hit by the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake. It resulteds in the death of more than 5000 people and the destruction of ten thousand homes. This museum educates the visitors about earthquakes and disaster prevention. Various games involving disaster prevention will be played at the giant screen theater, where realistic images of earthquake devastation will be shown.
At four kilometers, Akashi Kaikyo Bridge is the world’s longest suspension bridge. The bridge was opened in 1998, and it spans the Akashi Strait between Kobe and Awaji Island. The bridge is a part of the Kobe-Awaji-Naruto expressway, one of the three expressways which connect Honshu with Shikoku. An exciting way to tour the bridge is walking the Maiko Marine Promenade. It is a circuit of observatory walkways under the bridge’s platform, about 50 meters above the water. The walkway offers unique views of the bridge’s interior, the Osaka Bay, and Akashi Strait. Moreover, there is a Bridge Exhibition center at the foot of the Kobe side bridge that provides information about the planning and construction of the suspension bridge and other suspension bridges around the world. P.S. the details explanation is available in Japanese only.
Kobe has a humid subtropical climate with hot summers and cools to cold winters with no significant snowfall. The best time to visit Kobe is in spring and autumn because the weather is neither too humid nor too warm nor too cold in those months. The whole mountainside turns golden with falling leaves during autumn, and spring bursts with every flowering color—moreover, its rains on and off throughout the year.