48 hours in Kōbe
A trip to Japan is always an exciting travel moment for me. Because of its impressive heritage and odd culture and this constant feeling of being in a country that is always on its own when it comes to new technology and innovation, from the immigration procedure on arrival to using their complicated but funny toilets.
I visit Japan once to twice a year, mostly to Tokyo or Osaka, as it is convenient flight from Hong Kong where I live. But I am completely aware that I still have a lot to discover in this amazing country, and this time, my choice was Kōbe.
Kōbe is famous around the world mostly because of its high end beef, and food being of high importance when I am organizing a trip, this was for me a safe plan.
Kōbe, in Hyogo Prefecture is the six largest city in Japan and is located 30 km west of Ōsaka. The city’s port has long been one of the most important in Japan and it is one of the main shipbuilding and steel production city of the country. As for most of the industrial cities in Japan, it is well served with a dense network of rail lines and highways to other neighboring cities, including the Shinkansen to Tokyo.
A 2-3 days visit might be enough to feel the vibe of this lovely city, here are my 5 best picks for a 3 days trip to Kobe.
Kōbe Tower and area.
Kōbe Port Tower is the symbol of the city with its white and red grid exterior design. The area is very relaxing especially on weekends. You can enjoy a walk around the tower then head for the top to enjoy an iced coffee from the rotating cafeteria with a view on the city’s Port area and the Mount Rokko. Best time is afternoon before the sunset and ideally during a clear and sunny day.
Nearby Kōbe Tower:
Kōbe Mosaic Mall, part of the Giant Mall Kōbe Harborland Umie: Shopping local Kōbe Products and other Japanese products/Enjoying local snacks/Dining.
Kōbe Anpanman Children’s Museum: If you are with kids or simple like cute Japanese cartoons like me. Huge choice of Anpanman products including rare figurines of each of the Anpanman characters.
This famous sightseeing sport is located North of Kōbe city. The best time to go there is sunset to enjoy very beautiful (and romantic) view on the entire city. There are several spots for sightseeing on the top: the Garden Terrace, The International Musical Box Museum as well as the Alpine Botanical Garden are the best.
How to go there: Easiest way is by bus from Hankyu Rokko Station. Otherwise you can take a taxi but it is way more expensive.
A walk from Kitano Ijinkan-gai to Sannomiya
Literally "different people's homes", this is where western traders built their homes during the 19th century. It is a 15 minutes walk from Sannomiya and is very pleasant to visit on a Sunday Morning walk.
After that you can continue you way to Tor Road, Kitano Meister Garden, a visit to Kōbe Mosque and ending with Ikuta Shrine Shrine before a Brunch in one of the many local cafes of Sannomiya area.
This is an important attraction if you love meat, high end meat. If you are looking for well marbled and tender beef you can choose some of the many restaurants of the city, anyway I advise you to avoid those around Sannomiya area that are mostly for foreign tourists and lack of authentic Japanese atmosphere amd this genuine experience you won’t find outside Japan. You can generally recognize them with their huge “KOBE BEEF” at the door and staff providing English Menus to visitors.
3 addresses to try Kōbe Beef that won’t keep you disappointed: (advised to book at least one day in advance for all of them).
Arima Onsen (有馬温泉 Arima Onsen) is an onsen (hot springs) 30 min Metro from Sannomiya Station in Downtown Kōbe. This Onsen is still a hidden treasure of modern Kōbe, behind Mount Rokko. It attracts mostly Japanese and Asian Visitors looking for relaxing time far from the relative crowd of the city.
There’s no better way to experience Japan’s traditions and culture than a stay at a traditional Japanese ryokan. Arima Onsen has some of the best in the country. During my visit I picked with one a Japanese friend recommended:Negiya Ryofukaku, which is a decent, clean and very traditional Ryokan with amazingly good service from the staff. It is 10 minutes walk from ArimaOnsen Station with some slopes that can be challenging if you have heavy luggage or travel with kids. They have 2 hotsprings areas that are reserved depending on the time to women or men. For a more authentic (and relaxing) experience I would recommend wearing the Yukata available at the room when you are staying at the Ryokan and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere there after long minutes in the hot spring.
One thing about Arima Onsen, if you want a nice dinner it would be before 8pm as almost all restaurants close very early there. Otherwise you might enjoy some drinks and snacks at one of the two Izakayas nearby the station until midnight.
If you are going to Kōbe, spending the first night at Arima Onsen then the other 2 days in Kobe downtown would make sense.
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Thank you for reading this article and hope it helps you to enjoy the best of Kōbe. Feel free to share your travel experience in Kōbe or ask any question if you are going there soon and need some advices.