The city of Kobe is located on the island of Honshu and is known for being one of the most vibrant cities in Japan. The city is located on a scenic harbor and also has its own mountain which offers sweeping views across the region.
Kobe is also known for its devastating earthquake which hit in 1995 and razed parts of the city to the ground, and now you can visit a range of memorials that are dedicated to honoring those who lost their lives during this challenging period of Kobe’s history.
As well as monuments and memorials you can also check out scenic gardens, impressive waterfalls, and of course try the city’s most famous foodstuff – the toothsome Kobe beef.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Kobe…
1. Visit the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum
The Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum is a great spot if you want to know more about ancient tools that would have been used in Japan in the days of old.
There are a range of relics on show here which include axes fashioned from stone which would have existed in the Jomon Period.
There are also more modern artifacts on show and you can also try a range of interactive exhibits here to make you feel as if you have gone back in time.
2. Walk across Akashi Kaikyo Bridge
Akashi Kaikyo Bridge is located in west of Kobe and has the claim to fame of being the tallest bridge in Japan of its kind.
It stands at a height of some 283 meters and straddles the Akashi Strait.
To check out this amazing feat of engineering you need to head to Maiko Marine Promenade and you can cross a walkway here which is 47 meters above the ground and spans some 320 meters.
One thing to note here however is that the floors are made of glass to give you panoramic views over the strait, so make sure you have a head for heights before you visit!
3. Try the local food
Kobe is known for one foodstuff more than any other which is the famous Kobe beef.
This beef is known for being so delicious as it is marbled with fat which makes it tender and juicy, but one thing to keep in mind is that it is not cheap if you eat it in restaurants.
Other top dishes in Kobe include sobameshi which is an unusual mix of fried rice and fried noodles and offers you a cheaper option if you want to dine out in Kobe.
4. Explore Oji Zoo
If you are traveling with younger visitors then you may want to head to Oji Zoo which is one of the main zoos in Kobe.
Here you will find a range of animals and one of the best things about the zoo is that it also has an amusement park attached.
This has rides which are suitable for young children so with that in mind this makes a good family day out.
One thing to keep in mind is that some of the enclosures here are a little small by Western standards, so you may wish to skip a visit here on those grounds, or just visit the amusement park portion of the facility.
5. Climb Mount Rokko
Mount Rokko, also known as Rokko-san is one of the premium attractions in Kobe and you can either walk up the mountain or take a cable car to the top.
Some people choose to hike to the top as part of a day trip but the big draw here is really the night views which are said to be one of the Three Great Night Views in the whole of Japan.
Once at the top you can look out over gorgeous Osaka Bay and also enjoy the scenic Rock Garden that is located here.
6. Tour a sake brewery
Kobe is famous for its sake which is a kind of Japanese rice wine which is made with water from the nearby mountains.
There are a number of different breweries dotted around town which you can tour and there is a good map which will show you the different locations that is available from the main tourist information office.
Some of these include Sawa-no-Tsuru Museum as well as Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum and Kiku-Masamune Sake Brewery Company.
Many of these companies offer you a guided tour to explain the history of sake and you can also sample a range of blends.
7. Explore the Fruit Flower Park
The Fruit Flower Park is a charming attraction in Kobe and is the ideal spot to visit if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city center.
There are flowers of all different species all over the park and this is a popular spot for traditional Japanese weddings, so you may get to check out couples dressed in wedding attire taking photographs here.
If possible try and come here in the spring time as some 10,000 tulips bloom here every year and you can also check out the opulent cherry blossom.
8. Attend Kobe Luminarie
Kobe Luminarie is one of the main festivals held in town and usually takes place annually in early December.
The festival is basically a riot of lights of different colors which is spectacular to see but which also has a deeper and more moving meaning.
The lights are said to represent the life of someone who died during the Hanshin Earthquake that hit Kobe in 1995 and this is a tribute to that dark period in the city’s history.
If you are in town at this time then make sure not to miss it.
9. Visit Nunobiki Herb Garden
Nunobiki Herb Garden spans an impressive 40 acres and is located at the stunning Mount Rokko.
To get to the garden you need to take a cable car and once there you can spend time exploring this quirky and engaging attraction.
The garden is dotted with some 200 different kinds of herbs and you can also explore greenhouses and exhibitions that tell you all about the various varieties of herbs used in Japanese cookery.
10. Check out the Tetsujin 28 Statue
The Tetsujin 28 Statue is basically a large robot which was used when Kobe was crippled by an earthquake in the 1990s.
After the robot rebuilt much of the Nagata ward, it was put on display as a reminder of this dark period of Kobe’s history and also its subsequent revival.
If you like robotics then it is well worth checking out.
11. Explore Kobe Maritime Museum and Kawasaki Good Times World
The Kobe Maritime Museum and the Kawasaki Good Times World are actually two separate attractions located inside one main building.
The Kobe Maritime Museum has a range of different model ships and you can also learn more about the history of the maritime industry in this part of Japan.
If you like motorcycles then you need to check out Kawasaki Good Times World which will tell you how the Kawasaki industry got its start and you can even tour a Shinkansen high speed train here as well as some models of airplanes.
12. Visit the Port of Kobe Earthquake Memorial Park
In January 1995 an earthquake hit Kobe which was one of the strongest ever to hit Japan.
6,000 residents in Kobe were killed and 300,000 buildings were razed to the ground.
If you want to know more about the earthquake then you can visit the Port of Kobe Earthquake Memorial Park and you watch videos of the devastation as well as tour a range of galleries which include artifacts found in the rubble.
Part of the docks here have been left much as they would have been after the earthquake hit which really gives you an idea of the damage that Kobe endured.
13. Admire the Nunobiki Falls
Kobe is primarily thought of as a cosmopolitan city but it also has a range of gorgeous natural attractions that you can easily visit as part of a day trip.
These include the Nunobiki Falls which is actually a series of waterfalls which dip down the mountain side in four separate sections.
Throughout the ages in Japan artists have taken inspiration from this beautiful natural attraction and you can even find some stone tablets here which are an ode to the falls.
One thing to note is that you will need to trek along a path that stretches some 400 meters to get to the falls which is very steep in parts.
14. Visit Ikuta Shrine
Ikuta Shrine is thought to date from around 201 AD and is made of wood.
It is also closely linked to the sake producing industry in Kobe and this makes it a fascinating place to come and feel as if you have been transported back in time.
The shrine is also encircled by a forest which is made up of impressive camphor trees and this makes it the perfect spot to relax and unwind after a long day of sightseeing.
15. Scale Kobe Port Tower
Kobe Port Tower is the place to come if you want to get a look at what many locals think of as the national symbol of the city.
The tower dates from 1962 and was the first structure of its kind to be built in Japan using a complex series of pipes.
The tower stands at a height of some 108 meters and you can check out a range of observatories here that let you look out over the port of Kobe.