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Kobe, translated as "god's door", is one of the most important port cities in Japan and has been developed rather rapidly since the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The land of Kobe is actually a long and narrow ledge squeezed between coastal mountains and Osaka Bay. On January 17, 1995, the catastrophic Great Hanshin Earthquake struck Kobe, killing more than 6,000 people and levelling entire neighbourhoods, especially in the western sectors of the city. Despite its calamity, Kobe is, for the most part, back to normal. Certain areas still show signs of the earthquake but the port continues to be as busy and most establishments have resumed operations. Perched on hills overlooking the sea, Kobe continues to remain as one of Japan's most livable and attractive cities.

The town of Kobe is actually small enough to explore by foot, as most sights are placed within 30 minutes of the main train stations. Like San Francisco, it makes for a hilly town with narrow paths spiraled through a mountain backdrop. With the Rokko Mountain Range in the north, Kobe is well-sheltered and experiences mild climate for the most part of the year, including winter. It is a haven for gourmets, offering a variety of delicacies such as sake from Nada and fine beef known as Kobe Beef.

Getting There - The best way to get into Kobe is through its rail services. The Shin-Kobe station is the shinkansen (bullet trains) stop for trains to Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo, western Japan, and Fukuoka in Kyushu. The Sannomiya station in Kobe is serviced by two private lines, Hankyu and Hanshin, as well as the JR Shinkaisoku limited express. The private lines are much cheaper although it will take a slightly longer time to reach the city. Of the two lines, the Hankyu line is the more convenient.

Ferries operate from Kyoto to Shikoku, Kyushu, and Awaji-shima Island. There are two departure points. The first is at Naka Pier, which is next to the port tower. This pier services ferries to Matsuyama, Imabari, and Oita. The second pier is at the Higashi-Kobe Ferry Terminal, which has ferries to Takamatsu, Imabari, Matsuyama, and Oita. For more information on ferry departures, visitors can call the Japan Travel-Phone at 0120-444-800, or inquire at the Tourist Information Center (TIC) in Tokyo or Kyoto.

Getting Around - Although, Kobe is small enough to travel on foot, there are rail lines that run from east to west across Kobe, thus providing sufficient transport to the city's more distant sights. Also, a subway line connects the Shin-Kobe station to Sannomiya station. A city loop bus circles most of the city's sightseeing spots, stopping at both Shin-Kobe and Sannomiya stations. Taxis, with rather reasonable fares, are another form of transport in Kobe.


Once the residence for rich foreign traders, Kitano-cho offers a lovely blend of European and American architectural styles. Several of these foreign residences, or ijinkan, are now open for public viewing. There is the restored Kazamidori and Choueke house, which offers an intimate glimpse of the lifestyle of past foreign residents. A unique feature of Kitano-cho is its various places of religious worship, such as the Muslim mosque, Jewish synagogue, and Catholic, Baptist, and Russian Orthodox churches. Visitors will also get to view the trendy boutiques and restaurants that line the streets of Kitano-cho.

Kobe City Museum

The City Museum had merged with the former Kobe Municipal Museum to display Namban (literally translated as southern barbarian) Art, which are paintings and art objects produced under European influence of the 16th Century. These European people referred to the early Jesuit missionaries who came to Japan, and who taught western painting techniques to Japanese students.

Nankinmachi (Chinatown)

Located just west of the exquisite Daimaru department store is Nankinmachi, Kobe's two-block-long Chinatown. Flagged by its dragon gate, Nankinmachi is definitely no rival for other Chinatowns elsewhere, but it does make a good place for a stroll. Furthermore, it offers the ambience of the historic ports of Yokohama and Nagasaki.

Port Island

Located offshore is the conspicuous artificial island, Port Island, which has been heralded as Kobe's main tourist destination. Basically, Kobe had used its surplus mountains to build up from the sea floor two of the world's largest artificial islands. The Port Liner monorail will take visitors to the island from Sannomiya station with stops at other destinations.

Rokko Island

The other artificial island in Kobe, Rokko Island, was one of the hardest earthquake hit areas in Kobe. Nonetheless, the island offers visitors a chance to view the future of container vessels. There are plans to build a hotel, sports and conventions facilities, an amusement park, and sea view apartments for 20,000 residents. The Rokko Liner monorail makes a loop around the island from JR Sumiyoshi station, stopping at several points along the way.

Ikuta Shrine

Placed at the centre of the busy quarters near Sannomiya station, the Ikuta Shrine is dedicated to Waka-hirumeno-Mikoto, who is the goddess of ancient Japan.

Takarazuka Grand Theater

Located in Takarazuka City, this theatre is the home-stage to the Takarazuka Revue, an all female musical group. Interesting features include musical adaptations of Japanese and foreign stories, revues, and foreign operas. All are alternately performed by five troupes who are trained at the Takarazuka Music School, which is attached to the opera house.

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