There’s nothing like the perfectly fatty, utterly delicious cut of medium-rare cow otherwise known as Kobe beef. But does it really make you want to visit the place? Probably not. Luckily, you’ll get far more out of Kobe than just excess calories. One of Japan’s prettiest cities, Kobe’s cosmopolitan atmosphere has survived even the 1995 earthquake that killed over 6,000 people and levelled neighbourhoods.
Head to the Kobe Golf Club for a round at the country’s oldest course, or indulge in less frustrating (and more spiritual) pursuits at the Ikuta Shrine, one of the oldest buildings in the city. There is a Japanese saying ‘If you can’t got to Paris, go to Kobe’, and the Kobe Collection fashion district proves its point. Moto-machi isn’t exactly Parisian with its indoor shopping streets and strong scent of Ramen, but you’ll be able to pick up some great threads.
Kobe’s Top 10
10. Wakamatsu Park Sit, ponder or picnic in this immaculately manicured garden.
5. Mount Rokko Provides not only an amazing view over the entire city and harbour, but also a botanical garden, a museum and Japan’s first golf course.
9. Rokkosan Farm One step above a petting zoo and one step below a functional farm.
4. Kobe City Oji Zoo Not the most amazing collection of animals, but it’s filled with old favourites and exceptionally detailed exhibits.
8. Kobe Botanical Garden With over 1,200 kinds of flora from all around the world, it’s difficult to find a bad time of year to view this garden.
3. Kobe Harbourland A hub of shopping, entertainment and eating out, it also numbers amusement park rides among its distractions.
7. Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art Home to an impressive collection of local and international impressions of beautiful Japanese landscapes.
2. Kobe City Suma Marine Aquarium Visit an active (and acrobatic) collection of sharks, stingrays and sea turtles.
6. Nankinmachi Kobe’s Chinatown isn’t just cheap, tasty noodles – the shopping is actually rather good.
1. Kitano Ijinkan-gai These 34 European-style brick buildings interspersed with traditional Japanese structures look entirely out of place, but are attractively unique – and uniquely attractive.
Chinatown shows its wares with fireworks, intricate decorations and metre-long dragons in February for Shungsetu-sai.
Attracting dancers and street performers from around the world, the Kobe Festival in July is famous for a huge procession topped off by beautiful fireworks.
July’s Kitani International Festival is a great time to give your tastebuds a wonderful workout. Sample the delicacies and let your waistline feel the wrath.
With autumn in full swing, the Great Arima Tea Festival in November is a great way to experience the real Kobe as you sip your way through its history.
In memorial for those lost in the 1995 earthquake, December’s brightly lit Kobe Luminarie is impossible to forget.
When To Go
March through May is when the countryside is in full spring bloom.
From September to November, temperatures are verging on the chilly, but the calendar is packed with exciting events.
Winter is harsh, while summer is warm but surprisingly slow-paced.
Trains provide the cheapest and fastest way to travel around Kobe.
Kobe has a comprehensive network of buses.
Walking around is easy as the city is small, but beware of big hills when plotting a path.
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