Kōbe (神戸)  is one of Japan's underappreciated cities. A cosmopolitan port city with an international flavor, hemmed in by Mt. Rokko, it constantly comes up number one in expatriate rankings of the best place to live in Japan.
A port in what would become Kōbe was established as a concession to western powers in 1868, during the time when Japan was opening to the world. Nagasaki and Yokohama had already begun serving foreign ships nine years earlier. Today, a synagogue, a Chinatown, and European architecture mark Kōbe as a place where foreigners and foreign culture first arrived in Japan.
On January 17, 1995 an earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter Scale occurred at 5:46AM JST near the city. The quake killed 6,433, made 300,000 homeless and destroyed large parts of the port facilities and other parts of the city. It was one of the most costly natural disasters in modern history. The earthquake notably destroyed the Hanshin Expressway, an elevated freeway which dramatically toppled over: within Japan, the earthquake is known as the Great Hanshin Earthquake (or the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake). In the last 10 years, the city has recovered completely, but lost some of its ship traffic.
Kōbe's core, and central business district, surrounds Sannomiya station, rather than Kobe Station. Sannomiya station has a tourist information office well-stocked with area maps. The Japanese characters for Sannomiya station on Japan Railways (三ノ宮) differ from the Sannomiya station on other railways (三宮).
Kobe Airport (神戸空港, UKB) , built on reclaimed land in front of the harbor, opened in February of 2006. The airport handles domestic flights only: both Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) have flights to Kobe from Tokyo Haneda, Sapporo, Sendai, Okinawa, and Kagoshima. ANA also offers service from Niigata, while JAL has flights from Kumamoto. A new low-cost airline, Skymark , is offering cheap flights to and from Tokyo.
From Kobe Airport, the Port Liner light rail runs about every 10 minutes, reaching Sannomiya in less than 20 minutes (¥320) for easy connections to the Japan Rail (JR), Hanshin, Hankyu and subway lines. From there, a small trip on the subway will link you to the Shin-Kobe bullet train station (¥200). If coming from Sannomiya to the airport, be sure to board a train marked "Kobe Airport", as some head to the Kita Futo branch line instead.
The nearest international airport is Kansai International Airport. The fastest way to get there is on the Kaijo Access  high-speed ferry from Kobe Airport, which runs every 45 minutes or so, taking 29 minutes one-way (¥1500). However, if coming from central Kobe, it's nearly as fast and less of a hassle to take the Airport Limousine bus. Airport buses cost ¥1800, and the run to Sannomiya takes 65 to 75 minutes depending on whether the bus travels directly to Sannomiya or stops first on Rokko Island. Alternatively, the JR Rapid Express connecting at Osaka about as fast and more dependable. By JR, the ride costs ¥2410 and lasts 90 minutes, taking the Kanku Kaisoku (関空快速) rapid to Osaka station and changing there to the Shin-kaisoku (新快速 - Special Rapid) that runs to both Sannomiya and Kobe stations.
Finally, if you land at Itami Airport in Osaka, airport buses run to Sannomiya in 40 minutes and cost ¥1020.
The nearest station on Japan's high-speed shinkansen network is at Shin-Kobe station. From Tokyo station, Shin-Kobe is 2 hours, 50 minutes away via Nozomi (¥14670); 3 hours and 20 minutes via Hikari (¥14270; no charge with the Japan Rail Pass). From Shin-Kobe station, take the Seishin Yamate subway line one stop to Sannomiya (¥200). If you are traveling light you can walk as well.
From Osaka, there are several ways to arrive in Sannomiya:
- Trains on the Hankyu and Hanshin private lines depart respectively from Hankyu-Umeda and Hanshin-Umeda stations. The Tokkyu (特急) express takes roughly half an hour to reach Sannomiya (¥310).
- The best option via JR is to take the Shin-kaisoku (新快速 - Special Rapid) or Kaisoku (快速 - Rapid) service that departs from JR Osaka station, running to Sannomiya in 20 and 26 minutes, respectively (¥390, no charge with the Japan Rail Pass).
From Kyoto, Sannomiya is 50 minutes away from the main train station via Shin-kaisoku (¥1050; no charge with the Japan Rail Pass). You can also make the run to the area in 30 minutes via bullet train, but it is more expensive, and if you have the rail pass, you can only take one train every hour without changing trains (the Hikari that runs through to Okayama).
From the central area of Kyoto (near Gion and the shopping district), you can reach Sannomiya in 70 minutes via Hankyu limited express, changing once at Juso station (¥600). Hankyu trains depart from the Kawaramachi and Karasuma stations.
In March 2009, the Hanshin Namba line opens, making one-seat rides possible between Kobe and the historical city of Nara.
Traveling to Kobe by bus can result in significant savings when compared to train fares.
The JR Bus Group (Japanese Website) is a major operator of the routes from the Tokyo area to Kansai. Buses operate via the Tomei Expressway (to/from Tokyo Station) or the Chuo Expressway (to/from Shinjuku Station).
Other bus companies offer trips between Tokyo and Kobe, but it should be pointed out that seat reservations for JR Buses can be made in train stations at the same "Midori-no-Madoguchi" ticket windows used to reserve seats on trains.
The following services are available: (Current as of January, 2009)
Daytime buses from Tokyo
Daytime buses only run as far as Osaka Station; there are multiple departures daily to Osaka from Tokyo and Shinjuku stations. You can then take a regular JR train from Osaka to Sannomiya. Expect the bus ride to be approximately 8 1/2 hours to Osaka, and the train ride 20 minutes by shin-kaisoku from Osaka to Sannomiya, for a total of ¥6540 (compared to ¥9030 if taking all local trains).
Nighttime buses from Tokyo
The nighttime bus service from Tokyo to Kansai is called Dream. This route name has several variants.
- The Seishun Dream Kobe makes two round-trip runs on the Tomei Exprssway from Tokyo station. Both runs stop at the Sannomiya Bus Terminal and Kobe Station. The first southbound bus leaves Tokyo at 9:20PM and makes a pick-up stop at Shinjuku Station (10:00PM) before running directly to Kobe. The second bus leaves Tokyo at 10:30PM and runs via Kyoto Station. The return buses leave Kobe station at 9:40PM (via Kyoto Station) and 10:10PM (discharging at Shinjuku en-route). ¥5000 each way. The bus offers 4-across seating (2x2) with limited amenities.
- The Dream Kobe makes two round-trip runs on the Tomei Expressway from Tokyo Station. Both runs stop at the Sannomiya Bus Terminal and Kobe Station. The first southbound bus leaves Tokyo at 10:10PM and runs via Osaka Station. The second bus leaves Tokyo at 10:40PM and makes a pick-up stop at Shinjuku Station (11:20PM) before running directly to Kobe. The return buses leave Kobe station at 9:10PM (discharging at Shinjuku en-route) and 9:50PM (via Osaka Station). ¥8690 each way; ¥1000 discount on most departures if ticket is purchased 5 days in advance. The bus offers wider, comfortable 3-across seating (1x1x1) and offers more amenities such as blankets.
Note that the Japan Rail Pass is not valid on the Tokyo-Kobe bus route. As with taking a daytime service, you can take an overnight bus to Osaka (covered under the pass) and then transfer to train service for the final leg of the journey.
Other bus operators
Another bus provider on the Tokyo-Kobe route is 123bus . An advantage over the JR Buses is that the 123bus website offers bus descriptions and booking services in English. However, many services from this company do not allow you to carry large luggage (e.g. suitcases) with you. It is best to confirm with the company whether or not there will be space for luggage before making your booking.
A number of ferry services are available from Kobe, including routes to:
- Takamatsu: Jumbo Ferry, 078-327-3111. 3 1/2 hours; ¥1,800.
- Kitakyushu: Hankyu Ferry, 078-857-1211 . 12 hours; ¥7,400+.
- Oita: Diamond Ferry, 078-857-9525. 12 hours; ¥8,800+. Also stops at Matsuyama.
- Beppu: Kansai Kisen, 06-6572-5181 . 12 hours; ¥8,800+. Also stops at Matsuyama.
- Okinawa: Maruei Ferry, 078-857-3901. 3 days; ¥18,800+. Also stops at Miyazaki.
- Shanghai: Japan-China Ferry, 078-321-5791 (Japan) or 021-6326-4357 (China). 45 hours; ¥20,000+.
- Tianjin: China Express Line, 03-3537-3107 (Japan) or 022-2420-5777 (China) . 50 hours; ¥22,000+.
If you are planning to travel beyond city limits you might want to consider using the tickets from Surutto Kansai. For use in West of Japan include Kobe ,there are some other useful tickets: A rechargeable smart card, ICOCA, is used on rail, subway and bus networks in Kansai area,Okayama,Hiroshima,Nagoya (Kintetsu) and Tokyo (JR East). These cards are available at vending machines at these rail stations, and cost 2000 yen, which includes a 500 yen deposit that will be refunded when the card is returned at JR West Station.
The Hankyu (阪急), Hanshin (阪神) and JR lines cross Kōbe in a west-east direction, and provide the cheapest and fastest way to travel across town. Each of these three lines have their own station located around the busy central Sannomiya shopping district and each provide access to different points of interest.
For visitors with a Japan Rail Pass, JR will be of the most use. Shin-kaisoku (新快速 - Special Rapid) trains stop at both Sannomiya and Kōbe stations and provide the best way to travel west towards Akashi and Himeji or east towards Kyoto and Osaka. Boarding a Futsu (普通 - Local) from either Sannomiya or Kōbe stations will allow you to easy access to Motomachi (for Nankin-machi and Meriken-park) Nada (for the sake brewing district and museums) Rokkomichi (for buses to Mt. Rokko) and Sumiyoshi (for the Rokko Liner to Rokko Island).
The Hankyu and Hanshin lines are of less use to tourists but you may be forced to use them to visit certain sights. Koshien Stadium, home of the baseball team the Hanshin Tigers, is easily accessible from Hanshin Koshien Station and both lines provide service to Shinkaichi for transfer to the private Kobe Dentetsu line and access to the famed Arima Onsen hot-spring district.
Kōbe has two subway lines. The Kaigan Line runs along along the coast, and the Yamate-Seishin Line runs toward the mountains. Both are more expensive than ordinary trains and unlikely to be of use for the traveler, except when connecting to Shin-Kōbe, the station located north of the city where the Sanyo Shinkansen stops. The small jaunt between Shin-Kobe and Sannomiya costs ¥200. If you want to explore Kobe, there is a one-day-pass for both lines (1日乗車券; Ichinichijoshaken), costing ¥800 (kids: ¥400) or subway plus bus for ¥1000 (¥500).
North of Shin-Kobe station, the Yamate subway runs over the Hokushin Express Line. Trains run 7.5 km under ground and terminate at Tanigami Station, from which you can transfer to the Shintetsu Arima Line for Arima-guchi Station and Arima Onsen.
By light rail
The automated Port Liner links Sannomiya to the reclaimed port district south of the city, and continues over the Kobe Sky Bridge to Kobe Airport. Likewise, the Rokko Liner links the Rokko Island area to JR Sumiyoshi station.
Kobe has a comprehensive city bus system, which is often your best choice when travelling to areas located north of the city, away from the predominately east-west running train and subway lines. Schedules and boarding locations can be obtained from the tourist information office below JR and Hankyu Sannomiya stations.
The city also operates a loop-line tourist bus that travels around scenic spots and famous tourist locations in Kobe including the Kitano Ijinkan streets, Nankin-machi and Meriken Park. These distinctive old-fashioned green buses can be boarded are 15 stops between the Shin-Kobe area and Harborland and cost 250 yen for a single loop or 650 yen for a day pass. Boarding locations are indicated by green and red signs on the side of the road. Buses run at 15-20 minute intervals and one loop takes approximately 70 minutes.
Kobe has several ropeways that travel up Mount Rokko. One that is near a major station is the Shin-Kobe Ropeway, a 5-minute walk from Shin-Kobe station. The ropeway, reputed to have one of Kobe's best scenic views, runs up to the Nunobiki Herb Park. Adults ¥550 one-way, ¥1000 round-trip. Combination tickets are also sold which include the Nunobiki Herb Park (see below).
Kōbe is thin in the north-south direction, but long in the west-east direction. Since much of it is built on a hill, a reasonable itinerary is to take the bus up the hill, and walk down.If you get lost, find the mountains or the harbour. The mountains are on the north, and the harbour’s on the south.
Kobe's main attraction for the Japanese is its concentration of Western-style houses, some dating back to the days when Kobe was opened for foreign trade in 1868. Europeans who grew up in similar scenery may find them less fascinating.
- Ijinkan (異人館) (walking distance from either Sannomiya or Shin-Kobe stations) Kōbe's number-one attraction is the Ijinkan or Barbarian Houses. These are 19th-century residences of Kobe's foreign traders, clustered in the Kitano area.
- Kyu-kyoryuchi (旧居留地), near Motomachi station (Hanshin Line or JR Line). This is where foreign consulates and trading companies built their offices. Several 19th-century buildings have been converted into restaurants and shops. Notable buildings include Chartered Square, once the Chartered Bank branch and the 15th Building (十五番館), once the American consulate. The area is also packed full of high-fashion boutiques like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Fendi.
- Meriken Park (メリケンパーク) near the harborfront has a poignant memorial to the devastating Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, which killed 6,433 people. Kobe Tower nearby is the unofficial symbol of the city and offers a viewing pavilion (¥600).
- Fruit Flower Park(フルーツ・フラワーパーク), 35 min by bus from Sannomiya, Open daily is 10 AM to 6 PM (except on holidays). Phone: 078-954-1000. This park is surrounded by a lot of flowers and greenery. Many people hold their wedding ceremonies here every year. In spring, the park becomes even more beautiful as about 10,000 tulips bloom. The Hotel Fruit Flower is near the park, which is visited by many families.
- Chinatown (南京町 nankinmachi) was the original settlement of Chinese merchants. Today, it is rather touristy though it offfers some "Japanised" versions of Chinese food such as pork buns (豚饅頭 buta-manjū). Its architecture is still rather pleasant though.
- Nunobiki Herb Park (布引ハーブ園) is a 40-acre garden located on Mount Rokko. It is accessible by the Shin-Kobe Ropeway, located near Shin-Kobe station. It features over 200 varieties of herbs, as well as greenhouses, exhibitions, and a restaurant. Admission for adults, which includes the round-trip ride on the Ropeway, is ¥1200.
Kōbe is a well-known center of sake production and many sake breweries are in the Nada (灘) area, and have tours or museums open to the public. You can pick up a map of the sake breweries at the tourist information office in Sannomiya.
- Sawa-no-Tsuru Museum (沢の鶴資料館) (10-minute walk from Hanshin Ōishi station 大石駅). 078-882-7788. Open daily 10 AM to 4 PM, closed Weds. This museum is probably the best of the bunch, with an informative multi-level exhibit partly labeled in English, and a well-stocked gift shop. Free entry, but no free sake.
- Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum (walking distance from Hankyu Mikage station 御影駅 or Sumiyoshi station 住吉駅), 078-822-8907. Open daily 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM, closed Mon. This museum is located inside a former brewery, and features traditional tools, dioramas and English-language videos to explain the sake-making processes. At the end, you can sample some sake, which is non-pasteurized, presumably because it doesn't have to travel far from the factory. Write your name on a piece of paper provided by the guard and return that at the end. Free entry, free sake.
- Hamafukutsuru-Ginjo Brewery and Shop Open daily 10 AM to 5 PM, closed Mon. 078-411-0492. Reportedly, Hamafukutsuru offers factory tours, rather than just a museum.
- Mt. Rokko (六甲山 Rokko-san) and its Rock Garden, the first an easy cable car trip for suitable romantic evenings, the second a light day's hiking with an excellent view. The view over the glittering expanse of Osaka Bay is canonized as one of the Three Great Night Views.
- Kobe Collection (神戸コレクション).  Fashion event. Held Twice a year (Aug-Sep, Feb-Mar) in Kobe since 2002. Popular with young women.
- Kobe Jazz Street (神戸ジャズストリート).  Famous Jazz event in Japan. Held every October at jazz bars and hotels in Kobe since 1981.
- Chicken George  One of the most famous place with live music in Japan. Near Sannomiya station.
- Nunobiki Falls is one of three of Japan's most important waterfalls. A 15 minute walk up Mt. Rokko from Shin Kobe station.
Kōbe's shopping is clustered around the Sannomiya train station and the Center-Gai shopping arcade leading off from it. Many of the unassuming little cafes and specialty shops in the arcade in fact have histories tracing back well over a hundred years.
Piazza Kōbe (ピアザ神戸) and Motokō Town (モトコータウン) are the two names of essentially one long arcade where all manner of second-hand goods are sold. These stores are underneath the JR lines, running from Sannomiya station, past Motomachi Station, to Kōbe Station. Motoko sells a variety of things such as books, clothes, shoes, accessories, knives, lighters, toys...... You can get heaps of things.
- Harbor Land (adjacent to Kobe station). This is a modern shopping and dining area, developed on the edge of the Kobe Bay.
- MOSAIC. Kobe’s playground. There are restaurants, bars, a movie theatre, a shopping market, an amusement arcade and a little amusement park. Harbour cruises are offered, some of which go as far as the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge.
- Random Walk  (Center-Gai shopping arcade close to Motomachi station). 078-332-9200. Open daily 10 AM to 8 PM. Wide selection of english books and magazines. No japanese books!
- Junkudo (7th floor of the big DAIEI building in front of Sannomiya station). 078-252-0777. Open daily 10 AM to 9 PM. Huge bookstore with big selection of english books and magazines.
- Junkudo (5th floor of JR Sumiyoshi station). Open daily 10 AM to 9 PM. Huge bookstore.
Kobe has a large number of restaurants offering international cuisine.
Kōbe is known worldwide for its Kobe beef, exquisitely marbled, very fatty and very expensive beef. Recommended for a splurge, but expect to pay close to ¥10,000 per head. At the opposite end of the culinary spectrum is sobameshi (そば飯), a concoction of fried rice and noodles mixed together, which is cheap, filling and pretty much unique to Kobe.
Nankinmachi (walking distance from Sannomiya station). Cheap eats can be found in Kōbe's Chinatown.
- Sky Buffet, . It’s a little bit hard to find (several blocks south of Sannomiya Station, but it’s the tallest building one street over on your left), but at 24 floors up, the view is quite impressive especially at night and definitely worth the troubles of finding it. The food’s a reasonably good mix of cultures and well priced.
- Alain Chapel, . It’s a branch of Alain Chapel (France,Lyons. a 3 stars restaurant).Kobe Portpia Hotel 31 floor.
- Grill Ippei (グリル一平). Specializes in yōshoku, or Japanized Western dishes. Specialities include Ebi furai (breaded shrimp), kaki furai (breaded oyster), hamburger steaks and tonkatsu (pork cutlets). There are several branches near Sannomiya station, Motomachi station and elsewhere.
Kōbe's specialty are tachinomiya, literally stand-and-drink bars.
- New Muenchen Kobe Taishikan (ニューミュンヘン神戸大使館), Sannomiya-cho, 2-chome, 5-18 (on Ikuta Road a block south of Center-Gai, about 3 blocks south of the JR tracks, under 10 min. by foot from either Hankyu, Hanshin, or JR Sannomiya station), tel. 078-391-3656, . Open 11:00 am to 11:00 pm, lunch hours are 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. A long-time Sapporo Beer brewpub and restaurant newly rebuilt after the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995 that serves seasonal brews and dishes as well as the timeless favorites of German and Japanese beer halls. Bar service on ground floor, table service on higher floors. Capacity 540. Beers range around ¥550-950, food ranges around ¥750-1500.
- Sone, 1-24-10 Nakayamate-dori (in Kitano just north of Sannomiya station), tel. 078-221-2055, . Not only an excellent place to relax with a drink, Sone also happens to be one of the best jazz clubs in Kansai.
- Pizza Kitchen (PK), 1-12-4 Nakayamate-dori (at the intersection with Kitano-zaka, just north of Sannomiya station), tel. 078-333-0350, beer 600 yen, pizza 1000 yen, free wireless internet access for customers.
Kōbe has a wide variety of accommodation, ranging from love hotels near Shin-Kobe to luxury hotels by the waterfront. If you don't find hotel, you can move to JR Osaka Station for 21 min. 390 yen.(From JR Sannomiya station.)
- Kobe Harborland New Otani, 1-3-5 Higashi-kawasaki-cho, Chuo-ku, tel. 078-360-1111, . A member of the prestigious New Otani chain. While not quite swanky as its Tokyo flagship, the location near JR Kōbe station is good and internet rates can be had for around ¥10,000 a night (plus taxes).
- Hotel Tor Road, 3-1-19 Nakayamate-dori, Chuo-ku, tel. 078-391-6691, fax 078-391-6570, e-mail email@example.com. Convenient location in the heart of Kobe's main shopping and dining area between Sannomiya and Motomachi train stations. New Muenchen Tor Road beer cellar right next door. Singles ¥7500-9000, doubles/twins ¥15,000-19,000.
- Kobe Bay Sheraton, 2-13 Koyocho-naka , Higashinada-ku, tel. 078-857-7000,or 1-800-325-3535 (from U.S. only), . The location is in Rokko-island near Island-center station (Rokko Liner Line).35,000 Yen (But other stay plans available).
- Kobe Kur Haus (神戸クアハウス), 3-10-15 Ninomiya-chou , Chuo-ku, tel. 078-222-3755. Near Sannomiya station (Hankyu,Hanshin,JR Line) for 8 minutes. It is hot spa and capsule-type hotel (tube hotel). It has a floor exclusive use for women.3,300 to 4,600 yen.
- Ninomiya Ryokan (二宮旅館), 1-10-6 Kotonoo-chou , Chuo-ku. Near Sannomiya station (Hankyu,Hanshin,JR Line) for 6 minutes.single 4,000 yen.
(Near Sannomiya Station,there are several hotels like this.)
- Kobe Kitano hotel (神戸北野ホテル), 3-3-20 Yamamoto-dori , Chuo-ku. Near Sannomiya station (Hankyu,Hanshin,JR Line) for 15 minutes.Twin room From 26,250 yen. , . It's owner and chef was a cook at Le Relais Bernard Loiseau (a restaurant in France, Michelin 3 stars restaurant),this hotel's plan include dinner and breakfast.In Kitano-area.
- Arima Onsen, a hot-spring town located on the other side of Mt. Rokko
- Himeji, a nice city with Japan's most beautiful well-preserved castle, is a 30 minute train ride away.
- Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, the world's longest suspension bridge leading to Awaji island is 10 km far to the West. (10 minutes by train.)
This page was last edited at 23:16, on 26 March 2009 by Adam Ballard. Based on work by Jose Ramos, Mark Sheffield and Jani Patokallio, Wikitravel user(s) Geqo, Edmontonenthusiast, Texugo and Episteme, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.