Keeping busy with work often makes taking a vacation look like a farfetched dream… And yet, snuggled between each hectic week is a much welcomed break known as “the weekend”. Ah yes, the weekend! Often, it seems like too short of a time to get anything done besides catching up on sleep. And yet weekends are perfect opportunities to travel. Enter “In One Weekend”, a series of posts where I will provide sample itineraries for getting the most out of your weekends based on my own travels. This post’s destination is none other than KOBE! Kobe is the sixth largest city in Japan, and it has its fair share of cultural, foodie, and shopping delights. Let’s visit Kobe In One Weekend!
Disclaimer: Because Kobe is surrounded by so many other tourist hotspot cities, many people choose to visit the city only transiently. You can have a good day trip in Kobe, provided you pick and choose what you are most interested in doing. However, spending a full weekend in Kobe does not disappoint either!
Morning: Ikuta-Jinja Shrine
A gorgeous, nearly 2000 year-old shrine that is nestled amongst some of the busier districts of Kobe, Ikuta-Jinja Shrine is a sight to behold. After purifying yourself and praying, you can go behind the main shrine area to find a delightful park, with ample shade and a small stream of water trickling throughout. You can be sure to find yourself relaxed and at peace in this quiet part of town. On some days you might be so lucky as to stumble upon a wedding or festival event.
Afternoon/Lunch: Sannomiya and Motomachi Areas
Sannomiya is the most bustling district in Kobe, where you can enjoy shopping, arcades, izakayas, and heaps of bakeries. Both the Sannomiya and Motomachi areas are great for passing the time, and absorbing the city atmosphere. One recommendation is to enjoy either lunch or some sweet treats at one of the many bakeries in this part of town. Also worth seeing is a small park dubbed “Tits Park”, which as the name suggests, contains mounds that resemble certain body parts… This park has become an unofficial meet-up place for many youngsters.
Dinner: Try Kobe Beef in Sannomiya!
Surely, even if you have never heard of Hyogo prefecture or know anything else about Kobe, you must have heard about the legend that is Kobe beef. Kobe cows receive daily massages and are beer fed to ensure development of relaxed, tender meat. Some say that the cows listen to classical music as they graze in pasture. As a result of such treatment, Kobe beef is said to be so tender that it can literally melt in your mouth… is this a myth? I’ve got news for you- it isn’t. But if you want to partake in the feast you must pay the (hefty) price. Though pricey, many Kobe beef set menus come with plenty of food to fill your tummy. Eat up!
Evening: Harborland and Meriken Park
After stuffing yourself with beef, what better way to shake off the post-meal slug than by taking a walk alongside a harbor? Harborland and Meriken Park are located at Kobe Port, and provide gorgeously lit nighttime views. You can enjoy shopping and dining along the harbor, or you can even ride in a giant neon ferris wheel! Also in this area is Kobe Tower, where you can take in all of Kobe in one sweeping view.
Morning: Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum
The Hakutsuru Sake Brewing Museum is a tad out of the way if you are staying in the main (Sannomiya) area of Kobe, however, it is a worthwhile stop if you are interested in the subject matter. Though small, the museum boasts life-size replicas of brewery equipment and brewery worker figures. After circulating the museum you can enjoy free (FREE!) sake tasting, and even sample the museum’s very own brand of in-house sake. From the museum gift shop you can also buy and ship gift bottles directly to your loved ones. Convenient!
Kitano Foreign Village
Kitano-cho is a unique area where you can visit various residences built by foreigners after the opening of the port of Kobe to the west. Many of the residences are former embassies, and they offer guests the opportunity to explore many different types of architectural styles and world cultures without leaving Japan. Kitano-cho is also filled with shops and cafes specializing in foreign goods and foods. Also in the area is the Trick Art museum and a number of art galleries.
As an added bonus, you can return later in the day or evening to try out one of the many live jazz bars in the area.
Afternoon option: Nunobiki Herb Gardens and Ropeway
Not too far from the Kitano area are the Nunobiki Herb Gardens, equipped with a ropeway from which you can see the Nunobiki waterfall, the Nunobiki Gohonmatsu dam, and various other beautiful Kobe sights. The area also boasts a number of specialty cafes, herbal shops, and even a herbal foot bath.
Afternoon option: Cat Café
If the ropeway sounds exhausting to you, perhaps you would prefer to relax at a cat café. Though cat cafés are by no means exclusive to Kobe, they are one of the quirkier styles of cafes which can be found in the area. For an hourly fee, you can play with cats and order various café drinks or sometimes even parfaits and sweets. If you are not a fan of cats, this is not recommended. Also, keep in mind that many of the cats are sleepy and unless you purchase some of the available food, they may be very hesitant to play with you.
Dinner/Evening: Nankinmachi (Chinatown)
They say to save the best for last… and if you’re a foodie then Kobe’s Chinatown, Nankinmachi, is certainly amongst the best culinary experiences in the city. Nankinmachi boasts vibrant, colorful streets filled with street food vendors. Choose from Chinese style ramen bowls, Peking duck wraps, shumai (dim sum), cha han (fried rice), karage (fried chicken), and more. This is also a great area to buy omiyage, or souvenirs, and to observe beautiful Chinese décor and architecture.
Hopefully you now have some ideas about what Kobe has to offer. Just know that there is so much more out there for you to explore, so feel free to tweak this itinerary to your liking, and to remove or add days depending on your preferences. Happy weekending!