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Kōbe 神戸

Harborland in Kobe (photo by 663highland - CC BY 2.5)
Harborland in Kōbe

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Kōbe (pop. 1,533,000) is Japan's 6th largest city, and a part of the Keihanshin metropolitan region (Ōsaka-Kōbe-Kyōto) totalling 18.5 million inhabitants. Kōbe is to Ōsaka what Yokohama is to Tōkyō. Both are the extension of their respective metropolis, and both were greatly influenced by foreigners.

Along with Nagasaki and Yokohama, Kōbe is one of the port cities which opened to foreign trade in the late 19th century. Many European and Chinese communities settled there and the architectural influence can still be seen. Although a sizeable number of Westerners (mostly expats) still live in Kōbe, there isn't a particular Werstern settlement anymore. On the other hand, Chinese maintain their presence in Chinatown, Japan's second largest after Yokohama's.

The city made the headlines around the world in 1995 as thousands of buildings crumbled under the tremor of the Great Hanshin Earthquake, Japan's most deadly seism since 1923.

Nowadays, little can be seen of the effects of the earthquake and Kōbe remains one of the most liveable Japanese city, thanks to its Western and Chinese food and great location between the sea and the scenic Rokkō hills. The neighbouring municipality of Ashiya, also in Hyōgo prefecture, boasts the highest average income in Japan, and is often referred to as the Beverly Hills of Japan.

Kōbe port tower and Nihonmaru replica (photo by Tomomarusan - CC BY 2.5)
Kanteibyō, Kōbe (photo by 663highland - CC BY 2.5)
Choueke House, Kitano, Kōbe (photo by 663highland - CC BY 2.5)

Kōbe has an especially vibrant nightlife, with great bars, restaurants and sophisticated nightclubs. The local culinary speciality is the fatty Kōbe beef, considered by many gourmets to be the best in the world. The local baseball team, the Hanshin Tigers, is one of the best and most enthusiastically supported teams in the country.

There are over 100 international corporations with Japanese or East-Asian headquarters in Kōbe, including Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Boehringer-Ingelheim, Toys "R" Us, and Tempur-Pedic.

Nearly opposite Kōbe, the Akashi Kaikyō Bridge (or pearl Bridge) links the Kansai to Awaji-shima Island, en route to Shikoku. It is the longest suspension bridge on earth with a central span of 1,991 m (6,532 ft) and a total length of 3,911 m.


This Nishiki-e (Colored woodcut) shows a foreign steamboat entering Hyogo Port shortly after its opening to the West in the late 19th century (from Wikipedia under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License)

History of Kōbe

From the ancient founding of Ikuta Shrine to the opening of Kōbe Airport in 2006.


Chartered Building, Kōbe (photo by 663highland)

City Centre

Historical centre around Sannomiya Station, Chinatown, the Western residences of Kitano, and Mount Rokkō.
Night view of the Meriken Park (photo by Tomomarusan)

Kobe Port

Kōbe's seafront : Harborland, Meriken Park, Port Island and Rokkō Island.

How to get there

Kōbe is an urban continuum of Ōsaka. It is easily reached from Ōsaka by train on the JR Tōkaidō or Sanyō lines (25 min, ¥390). Coming from Okayama, Hiroshima or further west, you should change train at Himeji is (40 min, ¥950).

The brand new Kobe Airport (18 min by train from Sannomiya station, #65509;320) has flights to/from Tokyo Haneda, Sapporo, Kumamoto and Naha (Okinawa). For long-distance flights, the nearest airports are Osaka International Airport (Itami) (40 min by bus from Sannomiya station, ¥1,020) and Kansai International Airport (70 min by bus from Sannomiya station, ¥1,800). Both have flights to the major destinations in Japan and abroad.

Map of attractions in Kobe

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