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Kobe is a must-explore destination for anyone visiting Japan. While Kobe has always been an important port in Japan’s history, it also has a reputation for being one of the best-kept cities in the country. From classic Japanese gardens to the longest suspension bridge in the world, Kobe is a dazzling mix of tradition and modern influence.
While on your Asia cruise, you’ll feel like you’ve discovered a hidden gem in Kobe, one where locals celebrate and value their city. After experiencing a massive earthquake in 1995, Kobe bounced back, channeling the tragedy to create landmarks and museums to honor the city’s past, like the Kobe Earthquake Museum and the renovated Kobe Port Tower.
While on a Kobe cruise, take a short cable car ride to the top of Mount Rokko for 360-degree views of the city skyline, followed by a dip in the tranquil Arima Onsen, a thousand-year-old hot spring with healing properties. Don’t leave without trying the area’s world-famous, mouthwatering Kobe beef.
Don’t miss this oasis in the center of Kobe. These traditional Japanese gardens are beautiful any time of the year. Walk across tranquil bridges and watch koi as they swim peacefully within the water at Sorakuen Garden, which has been open for the public since 1941. Take a break to drink tea on the lawn.
If you’re headed in the direction of the Arima Onsen hot springs, you should make a pit stop at Mount Rokko National Park. There’s a panoramic view of Kobe from the summit of Mount Rokko, and the honeycomb-like design of the observatory is a true spectacle, lighting up at night as the Kobe skyline glitters in the distance. It’s only a ten-minute cable car ride, and there are restaurants and a terrace at the top, too. Plus, there’s an entire small museum dedicated to music boxes.
In order to fully appreciate Kobe, you can learn about the 1995 earthquake that caused massive damage to Kobe and claimed thousands of lives at this museum. It’s a memorable, must-see museum for anyone visiting Kobe.
Take a stroll along the waterfront at Meriken Park, where you can enjoy a picnic on the lawn or simply take in the architecture of Kobe, like the fire-engine red Kobe Port Tower or the Kobe Maritime Museum. Meriken Park is practically a symbol of the city and is one of its most visited sights as a result.
Kobe has been a critical part of producing some of Japan’s best sake thanks to the weather and the plentiful rice fields in the area. Tour the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum to understand how sake is made and witness the process in person. Samples and sake tastings are a must, particularly along the Nada district in Kobe.
When on a cruise to Kobe, Japan, you can’t miss the world’s longest suspension bridge, the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, which links Kobe with the neighboring Awaji Island. At the Bridge Exhibition Center, architecture buffs can marvel at this feat of engineering and discover how the bridge was built.
When you’re craving some time in nature, head to Nunobiki Falls not far from downtown Kobe. These four separate falls are considered a tranquil paradise, and the hiking trails aren’t too strenuous.
At Arima Onsen, there are two types of springs with different healing properties. The golden spring has a high salt content, meant to help with body aches and pains, but the silver springs are believed to increase immunity. After a day of exploring Kobe, there’s no better way to relax than with a restorative trip to the springs.
When you’re craving baked goods, whether they’re sweet or salty, top-rated Isuzu Bakery is a great choice. Sweet brioche or doughnuts with savory fillings are must-try items here.
Cafe De Beau
While you’re relaxing in the hot springs of Arima Onsen, stop in Cafe De Beau for black tea or coffee and signature sweet rolls. It’ll be a much-needed sugar boost after a tranquil afternoon enjoying the restorative springs.
For a nice dinner where Kobe beef is the standout dish, try Kōbe Plaisir. They serve plenty of vegetables in addition to expertly prepared Kobe beef, and there are a variety of beef dishes for you to try while you’re there, like shabu-shabu, which are thinly sliced pieces of beef served in a hot pot with vegetables.
If you’re craving a burger, you’ll be intrigued by Wanto Burger, which uses Wagyu or Kobe beef. This unpretentious spot offers an interesting spin on the traditional cheeseburger and is great for a quick bite to eat.
The harbor city of Kobe has played a crucial role in global trade and commerce since the 13th century, serving as one of Japan’s gateways to trade with China and many other parts of the world. An earthquake devastated part of the city in 1995, and today the locals of Kobe have created memorials honoring what was lost. Each December, the city holds an event called the “Luminarie” to pay tribute to Kobe’s past. The bright lights pay respects to each person who was lost in the tragedy. Since then, the city has continued to recover, and is home to beautiful Japanese gardens, scenic trails, and its signature Kobe beef. Kobe is a cultural hub and even holds its own fashion week and jazz festivals every October.
After you leave the port, there are a few options available to you. Hop on the free shuttle into the center of Kobe, hail a taxi for independent exploring, or check out the metro, which is conveniently located right beyond the cruise terminal. Take advantage of the terminal’s free wifi for a quick break or get started on your sightseeing. After all, the Kobe City Museum is just a few minutes’ walk away.
Kobe is one of Japan’s more walkable cities, so getting by on foot isn’t impossible like it would be in a more secluded Japanese town like Kochi. In Kobe, green tour buses loop around the city’s biggest sights. Taxis are available from the cruise terminal, and there’s also a complimentary shuttle bus from the port into the center of town.
The main drag of shopping in the city, a covered market of shops and boutiques called Motomachi Shopping Street, is only a 15-minute walk from the Kobe cruise port. There are over 100 shops and restaurants along Motomachi, which is also close to Kobe’s Chinatown. This is one of the oldest, most enduring parts of Kobe and makes a great place to stroll, window shop, and relax with tea or coffee.
Tipping isn’t the norm in Japan. In fact, sometimes tipping can be considered rude. If you do experience exceptional service, you can ask your guide or service professional if it is all right to give them a tip in an envelope, but it’s generally not necessary while on a cruise to Kobe, Japan. The official currency of Japan is the yen.