Almost 150 years ago, Kobe opened its ports to the west and has since blossomed into a city of fusion and flair. Chinese influences also remained despite the influx of other cultures from far and wide and has been steadfast in nurturing their colorful and vibrant traditions and way of life. This city that has withstood a devastating calamity has continued to flourish over time and has retained its distinctive cultural identity
The city is more known the world over for delicacies like its beef, sake and sweet treats. It’s also known for its natural gifts like the Arima Onsen. Part of it is even known as the birthplace of Japan. There’s a lot more that this fascinating city has to offer and keep you coming back for more. These landmarks and infrastructures are just some of what makes Kobe even more amazing.
For the shopping aficionados, this one’s for you. It’s one of the most popular shopping and entertainment districts in Kobe. Umie is the most visited and it consists of Mosaic, South and North Mall. At the southern end of Mosaic is the Anpanman Museum and the imposing ferris wheel that you can see in most photographs of the city. There’s also the Manyo Club Hot Springs on the top floors of the complex and the Puromena skyscraper.
The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution
The impressive glass structure was built to commemorate the Kobe earthquake in 1995 that devastated the city as it was closest to the epicenter. 6,000 lives were lost and 400,000 buildings were damaged making it the country’s worst earthquake of the 20th century. There are exhibits and videos that educate visitors about what really happened and also workshops on disaster management.
Hyōgo Prefectural Museum of Art
Also known as Hyōgo Kenritsu Bijutsukan, it is one of the creations of the internationally acclaimed architect Tadao Ando. This municipal art gallery showcases Japanese and foreign works of art like sculptures, paintings and prints. Memorial rooms of two of the greatest contemporary artists, Ryōhei Koiso and Kanayama Heizō, can also be viewed inside its concrete walls.
Kobe Port Tower
The 7,000 light emitting diodes (LED) lighting equipment with 40 artistic lighting effects making this famous landmark a sight to behold at night. It was completed in 1963 by the Nikken Sekkei Company but was refurbished between 2009 to 2010 adding the now iconic colorful lights at night. It is 108 meters high with 8 layers and drew inspiration from the structure of a tsuzumi or a Japanese drum. The 32 red steel staves symbolize the welcoming of ships and other vessels to the city’s shores. There are layers for sightseeing, souvenir shopping and a 360 degree rotating cafe.
Meriken Park Area
This area houses some of the landmarks on this list but it’s also popular in its own right. It’s name is derived from the word “American” because the townsfolk from the Meiji era saw Americans slugging it out with their fists. In addition to Kobe Port Tower, you can also visit the Kobe Maritime Museum and Hotel Okura here.
Built at the beginning of the 3rd century A.D., it is perhaps one of the 3 oldest shrines founded during that era. There is a forest behind it where markers of the Battle of Ichi-no-Tani can be viewed. During the annual Autumn Festival, Noh plays such as the Ebira and Ikuta Atsumori are performed here.
Since Kobe is famous for its western influences, one of the famous landmarks that you can walk around in is a district lined with foreign residences that have been turned into museums. The Weathercock House built in 1909 is one of the structures that’s been well photographed and represents all other houses in the area.
The Akashi Kaikyō Bridge
The longest suspension bridge in the world connects Kobe on the Japanese mainland of Honshu to Iwaya on Awaji Island. Almost 4 kilometers long, it crosses the Akashi Strait and is one of the Kobe-Awaji-Naruto Expressways. The Bridge Exhibition Center at the foot of the structure and the Maiko Marine Promenade, an observatory under the platform of the bridge, that is 50 meters above the water are open to visitors all year long.
When you’re in Japan and your schedule permits it, try to visit Kobe and experience for yourself the different kinds of cultures the city is known for. You’ll surely hit the restaurants right away to try their Kobe beef but do take some time to walk around and explore their historic and contemporary wonders afterwards. There will surely be places in this you’d love to keep visiting every time you’re in the land of the rising sun.