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One Day In Kobe - The Ultimate 24 Hour Itinerary

By Stephen Edmunds A Welshman who has lived in Kobe for four of his 12 years as a Japanese resident, teaching, drinking with expat friends and partaking in his main hobby; ”wrestling sweaty men in pyjamas” – a practise otherwise known as Brazilian jiu jitsu
12 February 2020
One Day In Kobe - The Ultimate 24 Hour Itinerary

Edited by Jess Wright

I originally chose to settle in Kobe because when visiting, I felt it so uniquely vibrant, naturally stunning and stress-free a place as to be somewhere I could put down roots. The charming port city has everything you need; small-style restaurants and bars wherever you go, and the perfect mix of international influence and authentic Japanese. With lots of cafés and restaurants with outdoor spaces that appeal in the warmer months (and are quite uncommon elsewhere in the country), a veritable riot of color in the fall, and plenty on the menu for the cooler months, Kobe is a Japanese destination worth visiting all year round. With so much culture and natural beauty to choose from, exactly how to spend a day in Kobe is quite a tough one to solve, but not to worry – I’ve mapped out a Kobe one day itinerary that will see you get the full benefit of your one day in Kobe.


Morning

Morning

Start your Kobe one day itinerary at Sannomiya Station or, even better, at Shin-Kobe Station and take the subway to one of Kobe’s true hidden gems; Arima. Arima Onsen is one of the oldest and best hot springs in Japan. Not only is the golden onsen water rejuvenating and apparently very good for your skin, but the alpine town of Arima itself is charming and picturesque, and nestled in a leafy and serene portion of the mountains en route to Rokko mountain. Once you arrive (whether as suggested by train or by JR bus) there is a variety of pristine walking areas that lead to some of the more historic parts of the city, with many beautiful narrow alleyways, temples and shrines to explore along the way. Arima village is small but widely renowned for its famously beautiful and ancient onsen. While there are some truly spectacular private onsens in the area, there are also public ones that require no entrance fee.

Midday

Midday

Take a moment to dip your feet in the warm, rejuvenating waters of the public onsen while you soak in the mountain air, the fiery colors of fall, aglow with fireflies, or the gentle flutter of the cherry blossoms depending on the season. Sip local Rokko "gold" and "silver" beer while you explore the weaving roads and quintessentially Japanese buildings in the little mountain town, far removed from city life. This has to be, without a doubt, one of the top options for what to do in Kobe Japan for a day. Stay in Arima for lunch in one of the cool cafeś or take a stroll down Yumotozaka shopping street or stop in at a tea house for local tea Moushicha from the Tanba countryside area. Doukatei (housed in a refurbished shop from the Showa Period) is a popular pick for handmade organic dishes. As far as the question of what to do in Kobe goes, this is a winner.

Afternoon

Afternoon

Get the subway back and hop off at Shin-Kobe bullet train station, and from there grab a cable car for the 5 minute trip up to Nunobiki Herb Gardens, one of the best Kobe attractions. The walk around the fragrant herb garden is well marked and nothing short of breathtaking, with glasshouses (where you might decide to stop in for an herbal foot soak) and a pageant of fresh floral blooms. There are some interesting interactive learning opportunities along the walkways. Once you’ve had your fill of the lush plantings and scents you could either take the cable car back down or – my suggestion – hike the forty-odd minutes through the green forest, over bridges and past waterfalls to the bottom. The hike is an easy one and boasts some great views with a route that takes you past the main Kobe reservoir as well as several Nunobiki waterfalls. You might even catch sight of some wildlife. While 24 hours in Kobe is not nearly enough to fully explore the Rokko mountains, if you ever return be sure to look into some of the spectacular hiking trails offered by the region.

Evening

Evening

Once you find yourself back where you started at the bottom of the cable car you have the option to take the train home. Of course, if you’re still feeling energetic (and with so much left to do I sure hope you are) head over to a place called Kitano; an area popular with Chinese and Korean visitors. When the port of Kobe was opened to foreigners after the second world war, the host of wealthy merchants that settled in the area at the foot of the Rokko mountain range left a collection of European style mansions in their wake. The former mansions, known as Ijinkan, are open to the public as museums that can be visited for a small entry fee. Instead of paying a fee you could opt to drop in at the Kitano Starbucks; not only is the coffee franchise located inside one of the old mansions, entry is free and comes with the bonus of an opportunity to grab a much-needed energy boost. Grab a coffee to go and head down the hill past Kobe mosque and the Ikuta Shrine, and through the covered shopping streets to Chinatown (Nankinmachi in Japanese). When it comes to what to eat in Kobe, this is fundamental favorite; get yourself some delicious finger food in the way steamed buns and yummy gyoza to energize yourself for another 10 minutes of walking to Meriken Park.

Night time

Night time

Nightlife in Kobe is a unique experience. With an action-packed drinking district neatly tucked into a square kilometer between mountains and sea, it’s easy to bar hop here unlike elsewhere in Japan where the drinking districts are more spread out. Here you are destined to encounter all the authentic quirks of Japanese drinking from hostess culture (a strange concept of paying women to sit with you, pour your drinks and laugh at your jokes) to tachinomi (standing bars) along with some truly spectacular nighttime views that don’t need anything in the way of beer goggles to aid in their spectacular beauty.

Night time

Night time

But with just one day in Kobe, make Meriken Park your pick. With Harborland only a stone throw away, hang around for the onset of twilight when things begin to light up and a well-known attraction turns into an unknown gem. While Meriken Park might be well known to travelers, the magic that descends on the area with nightfall – when everything becomes illuminated in a symphony of light and color – is, I’d wager, one of Kobe’s finest hidden treasures. Undoubtedly one of the prettiest you’ll get in Kobe at night, take in the exquisite view of Meriken Park the waterfront and Kobe’s port area across to Harborland where you could choose to stop in for dinner at one of the restaurants. Alternatively, head to the Sannomiya/Motomachi area to delve into some great Kobe eats enjoyed in some of the best restaurants. While it’s not strictly where the locals would eat you could indulge yourself in the Kobe beef restaurant Royal Mouriya, near Sannomiya Station, to sample the best of the best in beef cuisine. 

Late night

Late night

If you’ve had your fill of the nibbles of your choosing, and aren’t quite ready to hit the hay, head out for a night on the town! I suggest you start in Starboard where everything is brewed by the owner (who also happens to be a good mate of mine). It’s a quiet place to kick off your nighttime revelry, drinking Rokko beer with (if you’re still hungry) some excellent finger food. Nest I would probably suggest you head into one of the tachinomi standing bars. Beware of the possibility of a table charge to enter one of these very typically Japanese bars. After that, the world is your oyster. In Kobe, the waitstaff really try to get to know you and will help guide you to all the good places to end off your one day in Kobe. Midnight bar is a personal favorite and is, close by, makes for a pretty relaxed night out! In nice weather, you could head to Ember Room to sip cocktails in the trendy rooftop bar. If you’re still going (and in the festive atmosphere of the city you likely are) there’s only one place to go; Denial. If you are feeling a thirst on way over, go into Iznt where they have live music and sexy samba to waylay you. Finally, if you want to carry on till the wee hours, find a good spot in the karaoke spot Denial, the perfect joint to round off your 24 hours in Kobe.