5 ways to delight in Kobe: from cosmopolitan charms to natural wonders

Located in the Kansai region, Kobe is a vibrant port city with a plethora of attractions, including its renowned Kobe Beef. Here are five ways to enjoy the cosmopolitan and natural splendours of Kobe…

Team Wanderlust
30 March 2023
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Kobe Japan

Located in the Kansai region of Japan, Kobe is a vibrant port city that boasts a plethora of attractions including its renowned Kobe Beef. Just a 30-minute ride on the Bay Shuttle (High-Speed Boat) from Kansai Airport, or a one-hour limousine bus ride, Kobe is easily accessible from Osaka (20 minutes by train) and Kyoto (one hour by train), making it an ideal destination to incorporate into your Japanese itinerary. Here are five ways to savour the cosmopolitan and natural splendours of Kobe.

1. Sample Kobe beef

Kobe Beef is a globally famous type of Japanese beef, recognised for its tender, marbled meat that literally melts in your mouth. Kobe beef’s flavour and texture come not only from the Tajima beef breed but also from the meticulous care the cattle receive. Raised in a stress-free, healthy environment, with the best feed and pure water, only beef that meets strict standards can be certified as Kobe beef.

Why not experience the real deal in the city that bears its name? Whether you opt for authentic teppanyaki or casual local fare like hamburgers and croquettes, Kobe offers a range of delicious options to satisfy your craving for this exquisite beef.

2. Sip on sake

Kobe’s renowned culinary scene is not just limited to Kobe beef, it also boasts the best sake in Japan. The city is located in Hyogo Prefecture, which produces the largest volume of sake in the country. Among the many famous sake breweries in the area, “Nada Gogo” stands out for its long-standing reputation for quality sake.

Nada Gogo’s success in sake production can be attributed to its excellent brewing conditions including high-quality mineral water perfect for sake-making, cool sea breezes to lower the temperature of the steamed rice, proximity to top-quality sake rice production areas, and skilled toji, or master brewers.

Take a stroll through Nada Gogo and you’ll find yourself surrounded by rows of sake brewery factories as well as a museum that showcases traditional sake brewing tools and practices. The highlight of any visit is the opportunity to sample different types of sake at each brewery’s tasting corner and to discover your favourite flavour profile. With each brewery boasting its unique characteristics, such as the Kiku-Masamune Sake Brewery Museum, where you can witness the artistry of creating barrels solely from cedar and bamboo, and the Kobe Shu-shin-kan, renowned for its “Fukuju” sake, which was served at the Nobel Prize banquet, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

In addition to offering tours and tastings, some breweries have their own restaurants serving Japanese cuisine so you can enjoy a delicious meal paired with your favourite sake. Take your time to explore the breweries and soak up the ambiance of Nada Gogo.

3. Soak in an onsen

For over a millennium, Arima Onsen has been a go-to destination for those seeking the healing power of hot springs. Nestled on the northern slope of Mt. Rokko, this Japanese hot spring resort is renowned for its striking brownish gold and clear silver waters which are said to possess restorative properties.

Despite its long history, Arima Onsen remains easily accessible, only a 30-minute train ride from central Kobe or a one-hour bus ride from Osaka. What sets this hot spring apart is its source, which is not volcanic but seawater from 60 km underground. This rare geological feature, over 6 million years old, gives Arima Onsen its salinity, which is 1.5 times that of seawater, and superior heat and moisture retaining effects.

Whether you opt for a stay in a traditional ryokan or a day trip to the public bathhouses “Kin no Yu” and “Gin no Yu,” you’ll experience the rejuvenating power of the springs firsthand. But that’s not all. Arima Onsen is also known for its geiko, or geisha, who perform the traditional arts of singing and dancing. For a truly immersive experience, stop by the café run by one of Arima’s geiko, where you can chat with them, watch them perform and even try your hand at becoming a geiko yourself.

4. City and nature

The Nunobiki Herb Garden is located about 10 minutes from the city centre by ropeway and is one of the largest herb gardens in Japan, boasting 75,000 flowers and herbs of about 200 species that spread out before your eyes. From the mountain’s high point, visitors can gaze upon the cityscape of Kobe and the sea. In addition to enjoying the rich and colourful fragrance of the herbs, visitors can savour herb-based cuisine at the café lounge and restaurant.

Near the Nunobiki Herb Garden, there is also a hiking course where visitors can enjoy an hour-long hike while viewing Nunobikino-taki Waterfall, a scenic beauty that has been selected as one of the top 100 waterfalls in Japan.

When sightseeing in Kobe, the waterfront is a must-visit area with photogenic landmarks that represent the city. The Port Tower, called the “Beauty of the Steel Tower” for its beautiful drum-shaped exterior, the Kobe Maritime Museum with its white roof resembling a sail, and the “BE KOBE” monument installed to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Port of Kobe, are all popular photo spots. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the seafront, feel the sea breeze, take a cruise ship to see the city of Kobe from the sea, or enjoy the glittering night view.

5. Admire the shrines

As you make your way up the hill, an impressive torii gate appears before you. This marks the entrance to the Kitano Tenman Shrine, famously known as the “Shrine in the Sky”. It’s not hard to see why with its breathtaking panoramic view of Kobe city and the majestic sea below. The Kitano area where this shrine resides has a rich history of foreign influences, dating back to when Kobe first opened its port to the world. Here, Japanese and foreign cultures have mingled to create a fascinating atmosphere that’s worth exploring.

Venture further west to discover Takatori Shrine, offering splendid views of Kobe city, Awaji Island, the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, and even the Kii Peninsula on clear days. The gentle slope leading up to the shrine is also perfect for novice hikers.

On the eastern side of Kobe lies the Hokura Shrine, boasting an awe-inspiring view of Osaka Bay, the Port of Kobe, and, weather permitting, the Wakayama mountains. The stone lanterns in the shrine’s precincts were once used as guideposts for sailors, as they provided a guiding light that could be seen from far out at sea. In the spring, the shrine is decorated with 250 plum trees and enchanting weeping cherry blossoms that paint the landscape in shades of pink and white.

Feeling inspired?

For more information, head over to the official Kōbe website.

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