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If you are wondering how long to spend in Kobe, then this guide should put your mind at rest. Osaka to Kobe is a quick journey making this a perfect day trip from Osaka. Meaning you can use Osaka as your base and it removes a day of carrying around your bags. As part of a 3 week trip to Japan, I spent one day in Kobe. One day in Kobe is about as long as you want to spend here. You can see all the top things to do in Kobe in about one day. Unlike my day trip to Nara, Kobe has a much more urban vibe, which I guess makes sense given it’s Japan’s seventh-largest city.
How to get to Kobe
Kobe is a large Japanese city, therefore well hooked up with public transport.
If you are heading to Kobe from Osaka, you can hop on the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Shin-Osaka Station, heading along the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen line. This takes you to Shin-Kobe and takes a whopping 12 minutes. Alternatively, you can take the Tokaido-Sanyo Line from Osaka Station. This train journey is around 27 minutes. So if you are an early bird, you can get a full day out in Kobe without having to travel far.
If you are heading from Kyoto to Kobe, the journey time is a little longer at just under 1 hour. However, you do get the joy of hopping on the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Kyoto Station, heading along the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen line.
Top Things To Do In Kobe
Nunobiki Herb Garden (Shin Kobe Ropeway)
I have classed these two together as the Nunobiki Herb Garden is effectively an extension of the Shin Kobe Ropeway.
Shin-Kobe Ropeway is a service that lifts tourists up the southern slopes of the Rokko mountain chain. The ropeway departs from next to Shin-Kobe Station. As the ropeway ascends up the mountain, it passes by the Nunobiki Waterfall and the Nunobiki Herb Garden. Here, you have the option of hop off and see the stunning waterfall and/or herb garden. When you reach the summit of your journey, you are welcomed with a beautiful view out over Kobe and the port below. There is also a cafe and shop here if you fancy any souvenir buying.
Nunobiki Herb Garden is one of Japan’s largest herb gardens containing hundreds of herb species and flowers.
Ticket costs depend on what you fancy doing, ranging from ¥900 (for a round trip ticket after 17.00) to ¥1500 (for a round trip and admission to the Nunobiki Herb Garden).
This was really the number one thing I wanted to do, and the whole reason I planned a trip to Kobe. After flying from the UK to Japan, it seemed only right to make a short journey to try Kobe beef in Kobe itself.
Kobe beef is a type of Wagyu from the Tajima breed. To be classed as Kobe beef, it can only be raised in the Hyogo province of Japan. I tried a couple of Kobe beef steaks, and also Kobe beef sushi which was lightly blowtorched by the waiter upon arrival at the table.
Trying Kobe beef in the city of its origin really made the experience something special. Now for the disappointing part… I never actually enjoyed it as much as I would a regular steak. As far as the rest of the food in Japan goes, this was not anywhere near the best thing I ate.
Located right by the seafront, Meriken Park is home to a number of things to do in Kobe. The park was open in 1987, however, some of the attractions were already here at this time. In short, this is a large open area to spend some time wandering around.
On the east side of the park is the Kobe Port Earthquake Memorial Park. There is a memorial statue for the Great Hanshin Earthquake, and also a preserved area that has not been modified since the incident occurred in 1995.
The Kobe Maritime Centre is also located here. This is an amazing example of modern architecture. Inside you will find numerous modern ships and you can find out a little more about the history of the port of Kobe.
The most iconic part of Meriken Park is the Kobe Port Tower. This has come to be known as the national symbol of the city. Originally constructed in 1962, the 108-meter tower was the first building of its type to be built in Japan, using a complex series of pipes. The view at the top of the Kobe Port Tower offers a 360° panoramic view of Kobe.
A short walk along by the water from Meriken Park is Kobe Harborland. Kobe Harborland is a shopping and entertainment district at Kobe’s waterfront. This area offers a large selection of shops and restaurants. Opened in October 1992, Kobe Harborland has become one of Kobe’s top tourist attractions and is home to some of the city’s best waterfront views during a night out.
The most prominent shopping complex in Kobe Harborland is Umie. Umie has over 225 stores for you to choose from. There are many restaurants along the waterfront for you to enjoy a meal while enjoying views of the Meriken Park area. In the evening Meriken Park is illuminated making this view even better.
Another fun fact about Kobe Harborland is that it is home to one of five museums in Japan dedicated to the character Anpanman.
Ikuta Shrine (via. Motomachi Street)
If you don’t fancy the waterfront, or maybe just love shopping, then Motomachi street could be the street for you. This is a sheltered street filled with boutiques and cafes. From the bottom of the street, the street will lead you up towards to Ikuta Shrine. This wooden shrine is thought to date from around 201 AD and is thought to possibly be one of the oldest in Japan.
The shrine is also encircled by a forest which is made up of impressive camphor trees and this makes it the perfect spot to relax and unwind after a long day of sightseeing.
There are torii gates at the entrance to the shrine. Like at any other shrine, these mark the entrance from a normal area into a more sacred area. After passing these, there is a place to wash your hands and purify your body known as the chōzuya. This may seem a little confusing if this is a new experience for you. Don’t worry though, there is a sign in English explaining what to do, so why not give it a go yourself.
Around the colourful tower gate, you can receive omikuji (Japanese fortune-telling papers) and protective charms. There are booths on either side of the tower gate (as shown in the image below).
It is also free to enter the shrine, which is always a bonus.
Nankinmachi (Kobe Chinatown)
I really loved exploring Chinatown in Kobe. Also, Chinatown is known to locals as Nankinmachi. Nankinmachi has one main street with a large imposing gate at either end. Here you will find over a hundred shops and restaurants to browse. It also has a square with a Chinese temple.
If you like Chinese food, then there is so much to take in! Coming from Scotland, I am always amazed at the types of food that can be found, like dumplings in the shape of animals. Try some of the street food or pop in for a meal at one of the restaurants.
If you fancy trying Kobe beef, it might be easier on your wallet to try Kobe beef at lunch. Some restaurants offer some lunchtime specials on Kobe beef which are not as common at night. Then, for dinner, you can enjoy Chinatown.
There are also souvenir shops and supermarkets, in case you fancy picking up any gifts or Chinese lanterns!
Have you ever been lucky enough to experience Japan? Let me know how you got on in the comments! Or check out my day trip to Nara!