Kobe Japan – The word Kobe is synonymous with two things in the world: A globally recognised basketball player, and the supreme melt-in-your-mouth beef that hails from a humble city in Japan. We’ll be enthusiastically discussing the latter for this article!
From those who just like to try different things, to those who travel the world in search of gastronomical delights that blow your mind, Kobe beef is the adventure you definitely want to go on with your tastebuds. Imagine seriously soft beef morsels that have been cooked to such perfection that the moment you put them in your mouth, they disintegrate into flavoursome nothingness. Kobe is a luxury that you just have to afford when you’re in Japan, and there’s no better place to eat it than in its birthplace, Kobe Japan.
The city of Kobe itself, being the capital of the Hyogo Prefecture, is nothing short of entertaining. From delicious beef, to wonderful shopping centres, to alleys of local stalls, to a thriving Chinatown, there’s plenty to do in this city that’s just a day trip away from Osaka, or the gateway to the rest of western Japan that you might not have considered to include on your Japan itinerary. Kobe has also been selected to host some games of the Rugby World Cup 2019 that will take place in Japan.
If you can’t fathom the idea of traveling here just for the beef, why not stay here for a few days to enjoy some world-class shopping by the harbour? You can also visit one of the oldest onsen towns in all of Japan, located right in Kobe itself! There’s plenty to do to fill your time, so read on as we break down just how you can make the most of your time.
How To Get There
From Tokyo, you will need to catch the JR Tokaido Shinkansen to Shin-Kobe station. The trip will take between 160 – 190 minutes, and is fully covered by the JR Pass if you use the Hikari or Kodama trains. Otherwise, you can use the Nozomi train which is the quicker option and it will cost you roughly 14,000 yen.
From Osaka, you can catch the JR line from Osaka to Sannomiya station, which will take 20-minutes and cost only 410 yen. Otherwise, you can take the Hankyu Kobe line from Hankyu Umeda station to Kobe-Sannomiya station in 25-minutes for 320 yen.
Obviously, all the JR lines mentioned above are covered by your JR Pass, in case you got one for your trip to Japan. And if you are planning to travel around the Kansai Area, you should get your Kansai Pass to same money on transportation costs.
Where To Stay
Kobe Japan Guesthouse – Hostel Anchorage
The Hostel Anchorage is one for the bargain hunters who don’t want to skimp on anything. It’s centrally located, clean with decent-sized bedrooms, close to many attractions such as Harborland and Merikan Park, offers a hot tub for all guests as well as a well-equipped kitchen that you can use anytime of the day. All rooms comfortably feature air-conditioning and a shared bathroom. It’s ridiculously low-priced, and thus is almost always booked, especially during the peak seasons.
Why Guests Love It: “The property is located 5 minutes walk from the station and is located in a local market street. It’s a quiet area so it feels like a real local place away from all the noises of the busy city.”, “This was a beautiful guesthouse centrally located near one of the main train stations in Kobe. There are lots of shops and restaurants within easy walking distance. I thought it looked even nicer in person than it did in the photos.”
Book It Now: Guesthouse Sannomiya
Kobe Japan Hotel – Portopia Hotel
This hotel is the epitome of glamour and luxe. Onsite, it features an impressive 13 restaurants, cafes, and bars, free Wi-Fi throughout, a shuttle bus between JR Sannomiya Station and Shin-Kobe Station, flat-screen TVs, a welcome green-tea set, an indoor pool, a fitness centre, and a tennis court. Have a problem that needs to be fixed? Simply call up their 24-hour front desk and they’ll help you out. You’ll find concierge, currency exchange, and luggage storage services at your disposal here, so you won’t have to worry about a thing. The staff here are multilingual as well, and the variety of cuisines available (choose from Japanese, French, Chinese, and Western) makes you feel like you’ve never left home, and at the same time are a completely different country.
Why Guests Love It: “The hotel is very beautiful, wonderful view from the top floor. It’s very quiet and clean. For this price, you get a lot of luxury, like a king. It’s very close to the station and airport.”, “The free shuttle to Sannomiya every 30-minutes is great. This hotel is like a resort, several restaurants, a convenience store, and everything you could need, even a patisserie!”, “The best value for money in Japan. Wonderful breakfast with all possible food available (both Japanese and European), with wonderful view.”
Book It Now: Portopia Hotel
Kobe Japan Ryokan – Negiya Ryofukaku
Located in the heart of the Arima Onsen village in Kobe, Negiya Ryofuku is a stunning example of how a traditional Japanese inn should look and feel. It hasn’t cut any corners in its décor, furnishing, or services, and you can just feel the quality permeating through the place the moment you step in. Prepare for traditional Kaiseki multi-course meals, hot-spring baths overlooking gorgeous forests, and spacious Japanese rooms with nature views. Massages and karaoke rooms are available onsite, and free Wi-Fi is also available throughout the entire property.
Why Guests Love It: “The kaiseki is fantastic – food choices are primarily seafood, and the way they are cooked is great. First time I had steamed Nabe!! The beddings were comfortable and great.”, “The food was extremely good and very nicely decorated and served. The hot spring bath and the whole hotel was nostalgic, traditional, last-century atmosphere that was very charming and pleasant.”
Book It Now: Negiya Ryofukaku
For more recommendations about traditional inns, feel free to read this article: Ryokan Kobe.
Kobe Japan – Eat Melt-In-Your-Mouth Kobe Beef
Of course the number one thing to do in Kobe is to eat its famous beef. Often people travel to this city just to get a taste of this meal that makes travellers around the world collectively sigh in contentment as they remember the golden hour of their Kobe beef meal the last time they visited Japan.
There’s definitely no shortage in number of restaurants that serve up amazing Kobe beef, and many restaurants will claim to be the best; they might not be wrong! Below, we’ve listed a few different ones for various budgets and tastes:
Kobe Japan – Steak Lane Kobe-Kan
If you’re a budget traveller, but you still want in on the Kobe action, look no further than Steak Lane Kobe-Kan. This is a teppanyaki-style restaurant that serves high-grade Kobe beef. Their most popular meal is the lunch set, which goes for only 2,980 yen! That’s a ridiculously low price for a set of 150g of Kobe beef (cooked right in front of your eyes), grilled vegetables, fried garlic chips, and a drink. It’s definitely the most value for money you can get!
Kobe Japan – ZEN
If you’re after a bit more of a gourmet experience, maybe ZEN is more up your alley. This place takes great care in the preparation of their Japanese Kobe beef fillet steaks, which they serve in 100g for 2,800 yen. The atmosphere is light here, so feel free to grab a drink off the menu to really complete your meal – there’s wine, champagne, beer, and Japanese sake to suit your taste. Their Kobe beef lunch sets range between 3,000 – 4,500, and their dinner sets start at 8.500 yen.
Kobe Japan – Aragawa
The only Kobe beef restaurant to be labelled with 2 Michelin stars, this restaurant has made quite a name for itself as serving the moistest and most tender Kobe beef you’ll ever eat. Dining at this restaurant is a classy affair, so you’ll really feel the luxe in this meal. The recommended course here is the ‘Chef’s Recommendation’, which is a whooping 35,640 yen per person, and whilst that may seem ridiculously high, the level of euphoria you’ll hit the moment you take a bite of that beef will make it all worth it.
Book here: Aragawa Restaurant
Visit Arima Onsen
This onsen town is located further north of Kobe City, and has a history that’s over 1000 years old, making it one of the oldest onsen towns in all of Japan. It’s still a hidden gem in today’s Kobe tourist map, with majority of its visitors being domestic tourists, but that just adds to the allure of this place.
Due to its natural mountain location, away from the bustling cities of Kobe and Osaka, it’s wonderfully peaceful and calming, which is one of the regular compliments of past visitors. The compact size of the town makes it an easy, unhurried stroll for anyone visiting for the day, and for those staying in ryokans in the area.
There are narrow alleyways and beautiful wooden structures reminiscent of old Japan, and within these buildings, you’ll find small restaurants, Japanese souvenir shops, and even a butcher, Takenaka Nikuten, that sells top quality Kobe beef! The Kobe beef and potato croquettes sold at this butcher are simply amazing as well, so don’t forget to pick up one, or two, or ten whilst you’re there!
The entire town can be explored on foot. For those visiting in a day trip, some ryokans open up their onsens to the public during the day for a small fee; otherwise, Kin no Yu and Gin no Yu offer public bath options.
Address: Arimacho, Kita, Hyōgo 651-1401
Access: From Sannomiya or Shin-Kobe station, take the train to Tanigami Station (10-15-minutes). From there, transfer to the Shintetsu Arima-Sanda line to Arima-guchi. From there, transfer to the Arima Line to Arima Onsen station. Although it sounds like quite a distance, the entire trip should only take 40-minutes, and cost between 750 yen – 950 yen.
Takena Nikuten (store to purchase delicious beef croquettes): 813 Arimachō, Kita-ku, Hyōgo-ken 651-1401
If you want more info about Arima Onsen, feel free to check out this blog post: Arima Onsen Japan.
Kobe Japan – Shopping
Kobe Japan – Harbourland
Kobe’s shopping scene is surprisingly vast, vibrant, and very up to date. There are multiple shopping malls and centres that rival even the most popular cities like Umeda and Shinjuku, however, the most distinct shopping area in Kobe has got to be Kobe Harbourland, located right next to Kobe Port and thus the ocean.
During the day, the area from afar is gorgeous, but at night when the lights make the buildings come alive, it’s absolutely magnificent. Within Harbourland there is the Mosaic shopping, eating, and entertainment precinct which is totally worth a chunk of your time. Here, you’ll be able to shop for adorable Japanese souvenirs, quirky Japanese fashion, eat restaurants from the likes of cuisines such as local Japanese, Indian, Italian, French, etc. There’s also a mini amusement park complete with a ferris wheel, and plenty of shops for everyone to enjoy.
Access: It’s located just outside of Kobe Station (JR Sanyo Honsen Line) or Harborland Station (Kobe City Subway Line).
Kobe Japan Outlets
If you’re after some outlet shopping nearby, there are a few outlets that might take a few hours of your time and a whole load off your wallet. Massive discounted prices across local and international brands will draw you into all the stores and even if you arrive from the opening time and stay until closing time, you’ll probably still feel like you need more time.
– Mitsui Outlet Park Marine Park Pia
Access: From JR Sannomiya or Kobe Station, take the JR Sanyo Main Line towards Tarumi Station, and walk 9-minutes to the shops.
– Kobe-Sanda Premium Outlet
Access: From Sannomiya Station, take the bus for 50-minutes to the shops. Check the timetable here.
Kobe Japan – Chinatown
Also known as Nankinmachi, Kobe’s very own Chinatown is a wonderful and exciting destination for those who love to love to eat. The bright red extravagant decorations strung across all the stores and stalls throughout the maze that is Chinatown is alluring to even the most sceptical traveller, and once you enter, you’ll feel inclined to explore just about every inch of this place.
On any given day, restaurants will open their doors and wholly welcome anyone who’s keen on some fried rice and dim sims, however, most stores will also set up a stall out the front, selling their portable foods such as peking duck pancake rolls, egg rolls, egg tarts, soups, and fried noodles. We’re warning you, it’ll be so hard to resist when you see piping hot manju (steamed buns) being brought out from the oven, steam still rising rapidly from their juicy exteriors (we’ve been there, we know). Some places even sell adorable buns in the shape of panda bears and pigs, but then again, you’re in Japan so you can’t see you’d be surprised!
The prices are relatively low so feel free to continuous eat and eat (and eat) without worrying that you’ll burn a hole in your pocket. Tapioca ball drinks are available at the drink stands if you want to take a moment you wash down everything you’ve eaten before you go back for round two!
Access: It is only a 5-minute walk from Motomachi station, a 10-minute walk from Sannomiya Station, or a 5-minute walk from Meriken Station.
Kobe Japan – Meriken Park
If you’re after some unique sights, head to Meriken Park for a few hours of admiring unique pieces of outdoor art. This park is similar to Sapporo’s Morenuma Park, where, stretched across their grassy lawn, there are multiple modern art piece installations that can be viewed for free. The park also hosts the popular Port Tower (where visitors can take an elevator up to top five floors for gorgeous views), and the Maritime Museum (a museum which exhibits models of modern ships and talks about the history of the port).
This park resides next to the popular Harborland precinct and so a good idea would be to combine these two activities within the one day. The views of the harbor during sunset are said to be stunning, so make sure you’re in the prime position to view the red and orange skies during that time.
Access: It is a 10-minute walk from Motomachi Station.
Kobe Japan – Shin-Kobe Ropeway
If you’re after a gorgeous night view of the city, then consider the Shin-Kobe Ropeway, one of the three services that takes visitors up to the Rokko mountain chain. This particular ropeway will offer stunning views of the popular Nunobiki Waterfall and Herb Garden as it ascends from Shin-Kobe station. Once you’re at the top, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Kobe from the observation deck – this is a pretty popular spot for couples and locals at night!
If you’re feeling rather adventurous, you can also hike from Shin-Kobe Station all the way up to the observation deck. It’s a 15-20-minute climb to get to Nunobiki Waterfall (43m of cascading water), and then a further 20-minutes to the Nunobiki Herb Garden (one of Japan’s largest herb gardens), which is at the middle station of the Shin-Kobe Ropeway. You can also skip the garden altogether and hike straight to the top station and observation deck on a 30-minute trail.
Access: The Ropeway is a 5-minute walk from Shin-Kobe station. To access the hiking trail, use the exit on the 1st floor of the south exit at Shin-Kobe. Follow the tunnel that leads below the station towards the mountain.
Hours: Mon – Fri: 9:30am – 5:00pm, Sat – Sun: 9:30am – 10:30pm
Cost: 1,500 yen (round trip including admission to herb garden); 950 (one-way, including admission to herb garden)
Kobe is a fantastic way to break up your trip with some great food, awesome shopping, spectacular views, and simply good vibes. Being less than an hour away from Osaka, it may even be a good idea for you to base yourself in Kobe for your Osaka leg for something a bit different – less crowds, harbor views, and Kobe beef for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Come to think of it, that sounds like a great idea! 🙂 Enjoy your trip and feel free to give us your feedback about this lovely city in the comments below.