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Kōbe 神戸 - Attractions around the Port of Kōbe

Meriken Park & Port of Kōbe (photo by 663highland - CC BY 2.5)

Harborland & Meriken Park 神戸ハーバーランド & メリケンパーク

A short walk south of the Sannomiya district is the harbour, with the Meriken Park and the Harborland, separated from one another by the iconic Kōbe Port Tower (108m). Harborland, best accessed through Kōbe Station, is a perfect place to hang out on a sunny day, or at night when the giant Ferris wheel cheers up passers-by with its illuminations. The area is a paradise for shoppers, be it at the upmarket Hankyu Department Store, the modern commercial centres Ha-Re and Canal Garden, or along the waterfront, the very pleasant Umie Shopping Centre housed in Meiji-era brick wharf buildings. The latter offers a vast choice of cafés, restaurants, boutiques and giftshops.

In the middle of Meriken Park stands the extravagant-looking Kōbe Maritime Museum. It was designed to look like an immense set of white sails, but the rigidity of the metal-pipe framework gives it an apperance of a giant origami foldings. The museum is dedicated to the local naval history. The most striking exhibit is perhaps the 9m-long model of the HMS Rodney, the flagship of the first foreign flotilla to enter Kōbe Harbour after its reopening to Westerners, on 1st January 1868. Also worth noting is the 1.5m replica of the Osho Maru (忍路丸), one of Japan's oldest sailing vessels, which is embedded with gold, silver, pearls, diamonds and rubies. Outdoor, visitors can gape at a life-size replica of the Santa Maria, one of the three ships with which Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas. It sailed all the way from Barcelona to Kobe in 1992, for the 500th anniversary of the explorator's fateful voyage.

Next to the Maritime Museum is the Kawasaki Good Times World, the showcase of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, best known for its motorbikes, but manufacturing anything from robots and supertanker ships to bullet trains and helicopters. Still in Meriken Park are two of the city's most famous hotels, the traditional Hotel Okura surrounded by fine Japanese gardens, and, at the waterfront edge of the park, the Oriental Hotel, a 14-storey white half-circle resembling a cruise ship moored at the port.

Kōbe harborland (photo by 663highland - CC BY 2.5) Akashi Kaikyō Bridge from the Kōbe Maiko Park, (photo by 663highland - CC BY 2.5)

Port Island ポートアイランド

South-east of Meriken Park is Port Island. It houses the Kōbe Women's University and Kōbe Gakuin University, the Kōbe Convention Center, a heliport, an IKEA store, and numerous hotels. Its tourist attractions are limited to the moderately interesting UCC Coffee Museum, Kōbe Science Museum (for children) and the Kōbe Kachōen, a bird and flower park. The Port Liner, an automated guideway transit runs from Sannomiya through Port Island then crosses over to Kōbe Airport, deeper in the bay.

Rokkō Island 六甲アイランド

6 km east of Sannomiya lies the rectangular Rokkō Island, in the Higashinada ward. With its high concentration of multinational companies and expat apartments, the island has become a favourite among the Japanese seeking to feel Kōbe's international atmosphere. The Canadian Academy has been operating in the city since 1913. The private Kobe International University was relocated on the island in 1995.

The main attraction is the Kōbe Fashion Museum, the rendezvous of everybody interseted in the history of (mostly Western) fashion. The exhibits rank high in 18th and 19th century European clothing. There is even a replica of the garments worn by Napoleon during his coronation ceremony.

Map of attractions in Kobe

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