2-Day Kobe Sightseeing Course: Spend A Meaningful Time in Attraction-Filled Kobe
Kobe is one of the leading tourist destinations in Japan, with lush nature including famous Mt. Rokko and the gorgeous Seto Inland Sea. It is loaded with fascinating sightseeing spots, such as Kobe Port which commands gorgeous views and Arima Onsen, one of Japan's oldest hot spring districts. At night, the city transforms into a romantic vision that glitters with lights, landing it a spot in Japan's Three (New) Major Night Views. With that, here's a sightseeing course that'll let you fully enjoy Kobe in a meaningful way.
Sep 25 2019 (Nov 13 2020)
Start Your Trip at Motomachi Station!
Begin your journey at JR Motomachi Station, which is considered as the gateway to Kobe. The area around the station is known for housing rows of shops that have long been loved by the locals, including dining and shopping establishments. If you are in the area, you should check out the vicinities of Sakaemachi Street and Otsunaka Street! They have plenty of cute variety stores, elegant galleries, stylish cafes, and other unique shops. How about exploring what the variety shops have to offer or sampling some Kobe beef?
After Strolling Around Motomachi Area, Head to Ikuta Shrine
When you’re done exploring the Motomachi neighborhood, proceed to Ikuta Shrine. Nicknamed “Go-Enmusubi no Ikuta-san” by locals, this shrine is perfect for praying for the safe delivery of children and success in love, marriage, or matchmaking. It has a history that dates back more than 1,800 years ago, and is actually the origin of the city's name Kobe as the family that protected the shrine's god was called Kanbe (神戸, exactly the same kanji used to spell Kobe today). This shrine is visited by a lot of tourists since it is located at the heart of Kobe. You have to visit it with your loved ones or friends!
Don’t Miss the Kitano Ijinkan District
Perched on top of a gentle slope is the area called Kitano Ijinkan (“ijinkan” refers to Western-style residences) where you can glimpse into the past, back when foreigners lived in the area after Kobe Port opened up to foreign trade. This area was created after foreigners who left their motherlands set up their residences on the hill overlooking the sea to somehow be able to remember their homelands. Setting foot on this place will make you feel like you have slipped back in time.
One of the fun ways to enjoy the Kitano area is by trying various dishes from different countries. There are restaurants serving Chinese, French, Italian, Swiss, and other dishes in Kitano. You can savor traditional flavors that have been spread by foreign chefs for the foreigners who lived in the area since the port opened to the rest of the world. In autumn, the jazz music playing throughout the town is sure to make your trip here even more enjoyable.
This is the Uroko House, the first luxury residence that was opened to the public in Kobe. It came to be called the Uroko House because the natural slate stones on the outer wall resemble fish scales ("uroko" in Japanese). This Western-style residence that has become a symbol of Kobe is registered as a tangible cultural property of Japan and is one of the 100 best houses in Hyogo. Its interior is enveloped in a classic ambience and when you’re there, you have to see the sophisticated antique furniture and furnishings, as well as the famous Western-style porcelain collection including old Meissen pieces.
After strolling through Kitano Ijinkan a bit, take a break at Starbucks. The Starbucks here is located in a foreign residence that was built in 1907 for an American and was later rebuilt to house this cafe. The 2-story ijinkan that has been registered as a tangible cultural property has a stylish white and green finish that makes it look just like Starbucks. You might find yourself stuck outside gazing at the facade, but it's worth going inside to gaze at the decor comprised of paintings, foreign books, and vintage typewriters. This cafe has an exotic feel to it that fans of Starbucks and Western-style architecture surely won’t get enough of.
Stay the Night at Arima Onsen
When you’ve had your fill of the Kitano Ijinkan area, head to Arima Onsen and stay there for the night. From Sannomiya Station, get on the Seishin-Yamate Line, transfer to the Kobe Electric Railway’s Arima Line, and then get off at Arima-Onsen Station. Arima Onsen is one of the most famous Japanese hot spring areas, listed as one of the three most ancient in the country alongside Dogo Onsen and Shirahama Onsen.
Arima Onsen contains seven of the nine major categories of hot springs designated as curative by the Ministry of Environment: simple (springs whose components do not reach a specified level to be designated as another type of hot spring), chloride, carbonated, sulfate, carbon dioxide, iron, and radioactive. Even Hideyoshi Toyotomi, a feudal lord said to have united Japan in the 16th century, loved the hot springs in this area for soothing his body that was exhausted from the war.
Arima Onsen is famous for the yellow-brown hot spring water called “Kinsen” that has large amounts of iron inside, and the colorless and transparent hot spring water called “Ginsen” that contains carbonate and radium. Known for being thick to the touch, Kinsen is characterized by its ability to warm the body from the core so that you will not feel chilly after soaking in the bath. It also apparently grants some relief to those with skin diseases. Ginsen, on the other hand, is smooth and they say that drinking it will increase your appetite.
One of the unique features of visiting multiple open-air baths is that it will let you experience and compare their distinct differences. So, make sure to find time to take a break and soak in a bath to soothe your tired body from the day’s journey.
One of the pleasures of staying in Arima Onsen is strolling around in this quaint area while clad in a yukata (light cotton kimono). There are rows of attractive stores offering products such as traditional handicrafts beloved by both local and international visitors (one such shop being Arima Kago) and Arima Onsen’s famous specialty “tansan senbei" (rice crackers made with water from the area's carbonated springs) that a lot of tourists love for its taste that has not changed since it first debuted in the market. There are also long-established shops that have evolved through the course of Arima Onsen’s history, so history buffs and hot spring lovers are guaranteed to fall for the area’s historic buildings.
Time-honored restaurants, fancy cafes, and many other establishments are waiting here for you. Enjoy exploring the different hot springs in the area, search for items that are only available in Arima, or indulge in delicious dishes and have a memorable stay in Arima Onsen!
Start Day 2! Walk Around the Former Foreign Settlement Area
After enjoying Arima Onsen, return to the center of Kobe and take a walk in the Former Foreign Settlement area where you can enjoy rows of commercial buildings and the scenery in back alleys. Explore the Tor Road that is lined with shops selling casual clothing, cute general merchandise stores, cafes, and other establishments that are popular among younger generations; the Sakaemachi area that is dotted with variety stores, restaurants, galleries, and cafes; and the exotic Foreign Settlement area that houses stately Western-style buildings. This shopping district is conveniently close to the train station, so why not try to find a souvenir while you're here that will make you remember your trip to Kobe?
Hungry? Go to Nankinmachi!
After shopping in downtown Kobe, you’ll surely be hungry. So, head to Nankinmachi (Kobe's Chinatown) and savor delicious dishes and desserts! Listed as one of the three biggest Chinatowns in Japan together with the ones in Yokohama and Nagasaki, Kobe’s Nankinmachi is home to more than 100 Chinese restaurants that are famous for their delicious food, shops selling ingredients for Chinese dishes, general stores, and other shops that welcome throngs of tourists every day. There are restaurants where you can indulge in tasty Chinese dishes and Kobe beef, as well as spots serving sweets that will surely delight your tastebuds.
Check Out the Bay Area to Relax While Enjoying the Sea Breeze
The red tower at Meriken Park is a sightseeing spot that has also become a landmark of Kobe. By now, you will probably feel a bit tired from wandering around the city, so why not purchase a ticket to the tower's observation deck? You can see the gorgeous view of the cityscape from it. Alternatively, capture a shot of the bright red Kobe Port Tower. It'll serve as a fond memory of your trip to Kobe!
Once the sun sets, go to Harborland where various ways to have fun are in store for you. This commercial complex is a place where you can shop, dine, watch movies, and enjoy yourself in their amusement space. There are also a lot of events that are held here every month, treating adults to an elegant time with such events as jazz music and live performances by artists.
Harborland gets lit up when evening comes, turning it into a beautiful and romantic place that is totally different from its vibe during the day. Create fond memories of your trip by taking a stroll on the harbor walk with your loved one with the sea breeze blowing on your face or by riding on the MOSAIC Grande Ferris Wheel to enjoy the stunning night view of the city. Enjoy Kobe’s charming Harborland!
Cap off Your Trip with a Dinner Cruise
End your Kobe trip by going on the Concerto dinner cruise that departs from Harborland. Spend a special time with your loved one while gazing at the grand Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and the gorgeous nightscape of Kobe Port. Your night will be made even more special by the selection of exquisite dishes in either the French course or teppanyaki course, the authentic jazz and classical music played by live musicians, and the superb hospitality provided by the cruise staff. The biggest attraction of this cruise is its proposal package for those thinking of popping the question. So, how about executing that once-in-a-lifetime proposal in a space with stunning views of Kobe and live music playing in the background?
Enjoy All the Other Attractions of Kobe!
Aside from the spots featured above, there are many other tourist attractions in Kobe, including the Mt. Rokko area that you can reach via cable car and ropeway, and the seaside Maiko area that has several outlet shops. What are you waiting for? Go ahead, bring your special someone to Kobe and have a memorable time!
Header credit: Lee Yiu Tung / Shutterstock.com
Translated and republished with permission from: SPIRA (formerly known as Relux Magazine)
By the way, you can book a hotel through Relux (run by SPIRA) by clicking here!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.