The vibrant Japanese city of Kobe is possibly most known for its devastating earthquake that rocked the port city in January 1995 claiming the lives of more than 6000 people. Having risen victoriously from the depths of the ashes, the rebuilding of the city is a true testament to the sheer tenacity of the Japanese people who live there.Modern day Kobe is a bustling cosmopolitan metropolis perched on the fringes of the booming Kobe port, between the ocean and the resplendent Rokko mountain range. Considered to be one of the most beautiful Japanese cities, Kobe is nestled between famous neighbours – expat central, Osaka and Kyoto.
Vivacious, dynamic and diverse, the small yet popular city has been declared as the ultimate place to live, and although always popular among residents, the tourist trend is very much on the rise. Just a hop, skip and a jump away from Osaka, many people love coming to experience the effervescent ambience of Kobe, and the incredible contrasts of modern day city juxtaposed with a glorious natural reserve on the foot of the Rokko Mountains.
Sensational waterfalls, lush Japanese forests and an abundance of wildlife including wild boars, gorgeous giant butterflies, raccoons, the most beautiful and colourful birds that you have ever seen and insects that are the size of dinner plates, are all perched majestically along the slopes of the mountain ranges that peer down over the buzzing port city that never seems to sleep.
The capital city of Hyogo Prefecture, Kobe has roots that are seeped way back before the 19th century, when the Kobe was one of the leading ports, and significantly was the first Japanese port ever to open their channels of trade internationally.
Kōbe (神戸) is a city in the Hyogo Perfecture of Japan.
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A cosmopolitan port city with an international flavor, hemmed in by Mt. Rokko, Kōbe is often ranked as the best place for expatriates to live in Japan. The city has a population of over 1.5 million people.
History of Kobe
A port in what would become Kōbe was established as a concession to western powers in 1868, during the time when Japan was opening to the world. Nagasaki and Yokohama had already begun serving foreign ships nine years earlier. Today, a synagogue, Japan’s first mosque, Japan’s first Sikh temple, a Chinatown, and European architecture mark Kōbe as a place where foreigners and foreign culture first arrived in Japan.
Great Hanshin Earthquake
At 5:46 AM JST on January 17, 1995, the Great Hanshin Earthquake, measuring 7.3 on the Richter Scale, struck near the city. The quake killed 6,433 people, made 300,000 people homeless and destroyed 10,000 buildings and large parts of the port facilities, and toppled the Hanshin Expressway, an elevated freeway. It was one of the most costly natural disasters in modern history. However, visitors will not see any of the aftermath of the quake as the city has been restored.
- Kobe Airport (神戸空港). Built on reclaimed land in front of the harbor, opened in February 2006. The airport handles domestic flights only: both Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) have flights to Kobe from Tokyo Haneda, Sapporo, Sendai, Okinawa, and Kagoshima. ANA also offers service from Niigata, while JAL has flights from Kumamoto. A low-cost airline, Skymark, operates cheap flights to/from Tokyo, Naha, Ibaraki, Kagoshima, Nagasaki, and Sapporo.
From Kobe Airport, the Port Liner light rail to Sannomiya Station runs about every 10 minutes (18 minutes, ¥330). Sannomiya Station offers connections to the Japan Rail (JR), Hanshin, Hankyu and subway lines. From there, a small trip on the subway will link you to the Shin-Kobe bullet train station (¥200). If coming from Sannomiya to the airport, be sure to board a train marked “Kobe Airport”, as some head to the Kita Futo branch line instead.
Kansai International Airport is 70km from Kobe and is the nearest international airport. The quickest way to get there is on the Kaijo Access high-speed ferry from Kobe Airport, which runs every 45 minutes (29 minutes, ¥1,850 or ¥1,000 for foreign visitors). However, if you are coming from or going to Sannomiya Station or Rokko Island, it’s nearly as fast and less of a hassle to take the Airport Limousine bus (60-75 minutes, ¥1,980 one-way, ¥3,080 round-trip). Alternatively, you can take the JR Kanku Kaisoku (関空快速) rapid to Osaka station and change there to the Shin-kaisoku (新快速 – Special Rapid) that runs to both Sannomiya and Kobe stations (90 minutes, ¥2,410).
Itami Airport, officially known as Osaka International Airport is 30 km northeast of Kobe. Airport buses operate service to/from Sannomiya Station (40 minutes, ¥1,050).
The central business district and many attractions are near Sannomiya station, 1.7km south of Shin-Kobe Station. Sannomiya station. Sannomiya station has a tourist information office well-stocked with area maps. Be sure to ask for the coupon book, which offers discounts of 10% to 20% for many attractions. The Japanese characters for Sannomiya station on Japan Railways (三ノ宮) differ from the Sannomiya station on other railways (三宮).
The nearest station on Japan’s high-speed shinkansen network is at Shin-Kobe station. From Tokyo station, Shin-Kobe is 2 hours, 50 minutes away via Nozomi (¥14,670); 3 hours and 20 minutes via Hikari (¥14,270; no charge with the Japan Railway Pass). From Shin-Kobe station, take the Seishin Yamate subway line one stop to Sannomiya (¥200).
From Osaka, there are several ways to arrive in Sannomiya:
- Trains on the Hankyu and Hanshin private lines depart respectively from Hankyu-Umeda and Hanshin-Umeda stations. The Tokkyu (特急) express takes around half an hour to reach Sannomiya (¥310).
- Hanshin trains also operate to Kobe from Namba station. Kaisoku Kyuko (快速急行) trains depart every 20 minutes, reaching Sannomiya in 45 minutes at a cost of ¥400. In some instances you may have to switch trains at Amagasaki.
- The best option via JR is to take the Shin-kaisoku (新快速 – Special Rapid) or Kaisoku (快速 – Rapid) service that departs from JR Osaka station, running to Sannomiya in 20 and 26 minutes, respectively (¥390, no charge with the Japan Railway Pass).
From Kyoto, Sannomiya is 50 minutes away from the main train station via Shin-kaisoku (¥1,050; no charge with the Japan Railway Pass). You can also make the run to the area in 30 minutes via bullet train, but it is more expensive, and if you have the rail pass, you can only take one train every hour without changing trains (the Hikari that runs through to Okayama).
From the central area of Kyoto (near Gion and the shopping district), you can reach Sannomiya in 70 minutes via Hankyu limited express, changing once at Juso station (¥600). Hankyu trains depart from the Kawaramachi and Karasuma stations.
From Nara, direct Kintetsu trains operate to Sannomiya Station on the Hanshin line via Namba every 20 minutes (75 minutes, ¥940).