Summer in Japan, 9 things to do in Kobe on a Day Trip from Osaka
Kobe beef, Kobe Bryant, Kobe Japan!
Kobe is a port city close to Osaka and is almost like how Yokohama is to Tokyo. For travellers who want a slower pace of life instead of the bustling city of Osaka, you should consider heading over to Kobe!
Aside from its famed marbled Kobe beef, there are still some scenic places to visit in Kobe, and we'll cover some of them here!
How to get to Kobe from Osaka?
A. Tokaido-Sanyo Line (25 minutes)
If you have a JR pass, take the Tokaido-Sanyo line from Osaka Station to Sannomiya Station in Kobe. The entire journey takes about 25 minutes and you'll get there in no time! There are also frequent trains from Osaka to Sannomiya so you don't have to book anything in advance. Just do note that it may be slightly crowded during the peak travel timings (e.g. morning commute to work timings and in the evening).
B. Hankyu-Kobe Line (30 minutes)
Alternatively, should you not have the expensive JR pass, ride the Hankyu-Kobe line from Osaka Umeda Station to Sannomiya Station in Kobe. You can consider to get the Hankyu Tourist Pass for $9.90 SGD (1 day pass) that will allow you unlimited travel on trains Osaka, Kobe, and even Kyoto.
This is a good option especially if you are intending to also visit Kyoto from Osaka. A quick calculation for your reference:
- Two way transport Osaka-Kobe-Osaka = 640 yen ($7.91 SGD)
- Two way transport Osaka-Kyoto-Osaka = 1260 yen ($15.58 SGD)
TOTAL: 1900 yen ($23.49 SGD)
This would mean savings of about $8 when you get the two-day pass. Furthermore, I haven't even included transport to Arashiyama in Kyoto on the Hankyu Line! This means even greater savings!
C. Shinkansen (15 minutes)
For those with deeper pockets, you may want to try the Nozomi Shinkansen! For a 15 minute ride, tickets can cost 1500 yen ($18.50 SGD) for an unreserved seat, and 2890 yen for reserved tickets.
For the many times that we've been in Japan we haven't got the chance to take any Shinkansen so we decided to just try this route on the way back! Do note, however, that the Shinkansen only takes you from Shin-Osaka to Shin-Kobe which is quite a bummer since you'll likely need to transfer to the metro, leaving the total time to roughly be the same as the other options.
How to get around Kobe?
Since Kobe is a relatively small city, you can get around it easily via walking as well as taking their public transport or metro. Alternatively, Kobe has a hop-on-hop-off bus service that we took as it goes in a loop, covering the various attractions in Kobe.
The City Loop is a relatively new service and started only in March this year. This bus service does help to save a lot of the walking time and bring you to places that you would have taken quite a while to get to!
To ride the bus just for one trip, it costs 260 yen for adults, and 130 yen for children. So it may make more sense to get the 1 day pass to tour the city of Kobe for 660 yen for adults and 330 yen for children. You can learn more about the service here. You do not need to pre-book the ticket and can just purchase it on the spot from the driver using either cash or Japanese IC transportation card. If you do wish to pay by cash, prepare smaller denominations as the drivers may not have sufficient change for you!
There is actually a bus stop at Sannomiya Station (Bus Stop 7) that you can start your journey at. The bus service runs half hourly on weekdays and is a 20-minutes wait for the bus. It would be good to have the schedule on hand so that you can plan when to head to the bus stop!
What to do in Kobe, Japan?
Now that we've covered how to get around, you can actually just follow the bus route and stop at any of the tourist attraction that you want. We took the City Loop and we shall cover some of the must-sees when you are in Kobe!
1. Enjoy Kobe Beef
If you've gone all the way to Kobe, then you definitely have to try Kobe beef. Even though we didn't quite have such a great experience with Kobe when we were there, it is still worth the visit!
We tried Kobe beef at Steakland and wrote about our food-adventure here.
2. Shop at the Malls or streets near Sannomiya Station
For those who love shopping, there are several departmental stores near the Sannomiya Station. You can shop to your hearts content at Uniqlo, Muji, or even Sogo.
Along the station, there are also several restaurants and interesting souvenir shops where you can while away your time!
The Sannomiya Centre Gai (City Loop Bus Stop 6) is of special mention and you'll definitely need to check out the long covered shopping street. It is an extremely long shopping street that stretches all the way till the next station. Good shoes are a must!
3. Nankin Machi - Kobe's Chinatown
Kobe's Chinatown (City Loop Stop 4) is the centre of the Chinese community in the Kansai region. Here, you'll see Chinese Temples, Chinese restaurants (many of which are already heavily influenced by Japanese cooking). You can get to NankinMachi via Motomachi Station if you are not taking the City Loop.
4. Kobe City Hall
The Kobe City Hall (City Loop Stop 14) may not warrant a stop for most, but since the bus will pass by, you may want to look out of your windows and pay a closer look to the TALL building that is 30 stories high. What many may not know is that there is a free observatory deck on the 24th floor that gives you a panoramic view of the port of Kobe.
There is also some restaurants and cafe at the observation deck where you can sip on your tea or coffee as you enjoy the beautiful view! Since the observatory deck closes at 10pm, you may want to visit at night to view the lights of Kobe!
5. The Flower Clock
Located right in front of Kobe City Hall, the flower clock that was constructed in 1957 is Japan's first ever flower clock. It was modelled after the flower clock in Geneva, Switzerland and has a different look every season of the year as a variety of flowers will be planted.
This clock, which was constructed in commemoration of the City Hall building has now become one of the symbol of Kobe and it is a sight for tourists, especially if you haven't seen the one in Switzerland!
6. Kobe Port Tower (Nakkototei)
The Kobe Port Tower (City Loop Station 17) is built out of 32 pipes woven like a complicated lattice. Visitors can head up to the tower to get a bird's eye view of the port. However, since there are not that many attractions here, you may not want to stop and the port tower can actually be viewed on the bus itself.
7. HarbourLand / Mosaic
Kobe Harborland Umie (City Loop Stop 2) is a cultural focal point connecting Kobe city with the sea. It was originally built as the Japan National Railways Minatogawa Cargo Station, but was renovated, and reopened in 1992 as the symbol of Kobe’s waterfront area. For those not taking the City Loop, you can get to Harborland by walking from the Kobe Station.
The open-air mall closer to the sea is one that is quite interesting. It feel almost like you're in another country! This place is definitely recommended for families with children as there is even an amusement park with a large ferris wheel that serves as a good entertainment for children!
Try also Frantz, a Kobe Chocolatier that also has a seating area where you can enjoy their desserts or chocolate drinks.
Cross the bridge over to the other side to find the indoor mall that has more restaurants and stores.
8. Kitano Ijinkan (Former Foreign Resident Mansions)
The Kitano Ijinkan (City Loop Stop 10) is where you can find European-looking mansions. These used to be the residences for many of the foreigners living in Japan in the past. In fact, it is the highest concentration of Foreign Residences that still remains in Japan and of which, 20 of them are opened for travellers to visit! Be transported to Europe when you walk along some of these residences!
9. Nunobiki Herb Garden and Ropeway
This was our favourite attraction and the highlight of our trip to Kobe! You can get to the Ropeway Station on City Loop Stop 11 or the closest station would be the Shin-Kobe Station.
There are two ways to get up to the Herb Garden, either by taking a hike or via the ropeway. Since it was scorching hot, we decided to take a two way trip via the Ropeway. For those who wish to hike, we were told that it is a 40 minute hike to the mid-station and another 25 minute hike up to the top. On your way from the bottom to the mid-station, you'll be able to see the Nunobiki Falls.
(p.s. we managed to get a glimpse of it while on the ropeway and thankfully we didn't have to hike up to see it.. It was... not exactly huge?)
Otherwise, another way is to take the ropeway up and hike down!
We weren't in hiking gear so its up via the ropeway! The Herb Garden looks European and we felt as though we were transported to those factory outlet stores in Europe! Another plus point is that there aren't that many tourists up here so we really felt like we had the entire place to ourselves.
We took our time to explore the place and went through the herb market. They sell lots of various herbs and are great for those with green fingers!
There are also cafes selling snacks, ice-cream, and cold drinks that you can purchase to cool yourselves down! This place would have been even more magical in winter! :)
Walking further in you'll find a building with a theatre of some sort, it looks quite grand and we really can't imagine how it would be like if there really is a concert going on here!
We then made our way down to the mid-station and on your way, you'll find the crystal palace that you've been seeing in all the guidebooks. There's no other way to get there so you'll definitely have to take the stroll. Since it is downhill, it wasn't that difficult after all!
Along the way, you'll also see many greenery and flowers that you can stop by to learn more about it or just take some instagram-worthy shots!
The crystal palace is our destination! There are slopes for those families with strollers and it is definitely wheelchair-friendly. For a faster way, take the stairs to the palace.
It's beautiful! Here, you can roam around the greenhouse where there are lots of plants and interior decoration featuring how you can utilise plants as decoration. There's also a children's playroom area.