With a population of about 1.5 million, Kobe may not match Tokyo and some of Japan’s other metropolitan giants in size, but this hasn’t stopped it from becoming one of the country’s most popular port cities. Nestled between the stunning Rokko Mountains, Osaka Bay, and the Harima-nada Sea, the capital of the Hyogo Prefecture has a fascinating geography. Natural scenery combines with architectural beauty in Kobe to make it one of Japan’s most attractive destinations.
There is a Japanese worldview called wabi-sabi that focuses on accepting and finding beauty in the world’s imperfections – and nowhere is this attitude more evident than Kobe. Despite a devastating earthquake in 1995, the spirit of the city and its people has never crumbled. Rather, Kobe was rebuilt to become even more vibrant and stylish than before.
Kobe’s appeal is far more than a visual one though; the area is also renowned internationally for its cuisine – Kobe beef and sake in particular. Add to this a thriving nightlife and an international vibe and it’s easy to see why many cruise lines offer itineraries with a stop in this city. The harbour here welcomes vessels from Princess Cruises, Seabourn, Holland America Line, and several other seafarers.
The Port of Kobe has two separate docking facilities: Kobe Port Terminal, which can berth six large ships, and the more recently developed Naga Pier Cruise Terminal, which is tailored to small and medium passenger vessels. Kobe Port Terminal is connected to the city centre by the Kobe Port Liner, which means visitors can get into the heart of Kobe within minutes. Naga Pier Cruise Terminal sits within a popular waterfront development and is also very close to the city centre.
The location of both ports makes it easy for passengers to easily access all the facilities and attractions of the city upon disembarking. Naga Pier Cruise Terminal is adjacent to Kobe Harborland, a shopping precinct full of cafés, stores, and many other facilities.
How to Get Around
Kobe’s relative compactness is a blessing for travellers; many of the city’s significant sites are within comfortable walking distance of one of the many subway stations. If required, taxis are easy to hail and provide reliable and reasonably affordable service. A high-speed rail trip is the best way to get to Kyoto from Kobe.
Travel times from Kobe Port Terminal:
It is an 8 minute journey to Kobe Harborland
It is a 13 minute journey to Sorakuen Garden
It is a 14 minute journey to the Shin-Kobe Ropeway
It is a 20 minute journey to the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum
It is a 36 minute journey to Arima Onset (hot springs resort)
It is a 47 minute journey to Mount Rokko
It is a 1 hour and 24 minute journey to Kyoto.
Currency – Kobe uses the Japanese yen (¥). Tipping is generally not done and credit cards might sometimes be declined for small transactions, so it’s wise to keep some cash on hand. The notes in Japan come in ¥1,000, ¥5,000, and ¥10,000 denominations. Coins are available in ¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥50, ¥100, and ¥500 denominations.
Time Zone – Japan Standard Time (JST) is followed in Kobe. This means the city is 9 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
Weather – Kobe’s climate is humid and subtropical. The summers can get quite hot and the winters can get quite cold, with average temperatures ranging from 27 degrees Celsius in July/August to 5 degrees Celsius in January/February. Snow is fairly uncommon in winter. The warmer months see more rain that the rest of the year; June is easily the wettest month on average.
Drinking and Dining – Home to Kobe beef and world-class sake, Kobe is a dream-come-true destination for anyone who loves meat or alcohol (or both!). Even those who fall into neither camp will find their mouths watering when wining and/or dining at one of Kobe’s myriad restaurants, cafés or bars.
Mount Rokko and Arima Onsen – Sensational views of Kobe and surrounds or superb relaxation at a hot springs resort? Thanks to Mount Rokko and nearby Arima Onsen, you don’t have to choose between the two – you only need to decide which to spend more time at! The climb to the top is an exciting adventure in itself, whether you choose to travel on foot or by ropeway (or a combination of the two). The panoramas are best enjoyed on clear days. Make sure to bring an extra layer as the altitude makes a big difference to the temperature.
Sorakuen Garden – Once the private possession of a former Kobe mayor, this quaint, traditional garden was turned into a public space in 1941 – and Kobe’s appeal as a travel destination is all the better for it. Sorakeun Garden is situated near the heart of the city, is especially beautiful in autumn, and is the epitome of Japanese landscaping.
Kyoto – For many visitors, Kobe’s key feature is its proximity to Kyoto. By taking a high-speed train, travellers can reach the country’s former capital city in about half an hour. With endless old-style buildings, temples and shrines, plus a strong grasp on Japan’s traditions, Kyoto presents visitors with the feeling of stepping into a different century as well as a different culture.