Kobe Overview

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Due to its big port, Kobe was internationalized earlier than many other cities in Japan. The port opened up for trade with the west in 1853. The traces of the early international settlers are still very visible, especially in the Kitano area where many western-style buildings still remains. In January 1995, a major earthquake that claimed thousands of lives struck Kobe, but the city quickly recovered. Today, very few traces of the massive devastation remain, except for a small portion of the port that has been left untouched as a memorial.

Today, Kobe is a bustling cosmopolitan city with ample opportunities for both shopping and entertainment. The Sannomiya area is the central hub for shopping and transportation, and to explore all of what this neighbourhood has to offer would take several days. The area is notable for the many long shopping arcades (shotengai in Japanese), where you will find everything from household electronics to traditional art and crafts, and of course an abundance of cafes and restaurants. Other notable districts are Motomachi, home to Kobe Chinatown (Nankingmachi), a block where many Chinese immigrants have set up shop.

Due to the location of Kobe, sandwiched between the Osaka bay to the south and the Rokko Mountain Range to the north-east, the city centre of Kobe is long and narrow. Its neighboring towns are Ashiya to the east and Akashi to the west. The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge also connects Kobe to the island of Awajijima. Technically the bridge belongs to the neighbouring city of

Akashi, but it’s close enough to Kobe to deserve a mention here, as most of the buses that take tourists and other visitors across the strait depart from JR Shin-Kobe station.

The geography of Kobe also means that there are plenty of opportunities to see the city from above. The night view of Kobe from one of the neighboring mountains is said to be one of the most beautiful night views in Japan, and there are plenty of ways to experience it.

On the opposite side of the Rokko Mountain range lies Arima Onsen, one of the most popular onsen resort towns in the Kansai region and technically also a part of Kobe City. Arima is connected to central Kobe via the Shintetsu Arima-Sanda train line. There are also buses from Sannomiya station, or you can get there by taking the cable car and ropeway over Mount Rokko. While this is not the easiest nor most convenient way to get there, it’s probably the most enjoyable, as you get treated to a spectacular ride with mesmerizing views.

Kobe is connected to the Shinkansen high speed rail network by JR Shin-Kobe station, providing easy access to most other major cities in Japan. The ride from Tokyo to Kobe takes about 160 minutes.

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