After spending a couple of days in Osaka and Nara, we took a Hanshin train to Kobe and arrived in just about an hour. Kobe was one of the earliest harbors that Japan opened to the world around 1868, and parts of the history have stuck around in a few former foreigner houses in the area. I loved how the city is backed by the mountains and eases into the Osaka Bay, with an incredible night view from the Moya Mountain.
Kitano Ijinkan-Gai (北野異人館)
Since Japan opened up Kobe to the world for trading more than 150 years ago, business people moved to Kobe from around the world. Kitano Ijinkan-Gai used to be the area where the business people and their families reside. While most of them no longer live in this particular neighborhood, a few houses and buildings stay well maintained and are open to visitors. We picked two houses to visit, a combo ticket to the Weathercock House (風見鶏の館) and Moegi House (萌黄の館). I enjoyed walking through these two beautiful houses, reading the story about the German family in the Weathercock House.
Half a day in Rokkosan Mountain
From the main train station area, we took the city bus 18 to the cable car station. We had the 1-day pass for Moya and Rokkosan mountains from the tourist information center at the time, and different passes might be available at various times of the year. During the day, the cable car ride was really scenic.
Surrounded by sheep in Rokkosan Pasture (六甲山牧場)
The pasture was the highlight of the mountain for me, a nature fan. We took the bus to the pasture, and it was a huge space. Right after the entrance, I spotted a sheep strolling past the vending machines. We took the trails up and down the green hills, and encountered many sheep chilling at the barns. Other than sheep, they also had ponies, bunnies, and goats. After walking for a while, we took an ice cream break at their creamery.
Amazing night view at Kikuseidai (掬星台) on Moya Mountain
Moya Mountain has one of the top three night views in Japan, also known as the “ten million dollar night view.” It was a chilling afternoon when we arrived, and we had to get 2 bottles of BOSS hot chocolate from the vending machines in addition to the hand warmers. The seating areas in the park were lively with a scenic view, some people brought portable burners to cook hot water for tea and mini hot pot. We watched the sun go down at Kikuseidai, when the temperature went down to around 4C/39F.
Walking along Kobe harbor in Merikan park
After dinner, we took a stroll to Merikan park that leads to the shopping area centered at Kobe Harborland umie. The park was spacious and not crowded at all, and the trails were wide enough for bicycles as well. There were 2 hotels in the park, and a few shops and restaurants including a beautiful Starbucks. Kobe Port Tower, an iconic building in Kobe, was always visible and the “BE KOBE” sign was lit up in its energetic orange color.
Taking a walk on the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge (明石海峡大橋)
We went on a half-day trip to Maiko JR station, after our Kobe beef lunch at Plaisir. The ride was about 30 minutes, and we visited Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and a memorial museum for Sun Yat-Sen nearby. If planning in advance, the bridge tour seems like a really cool activity. We came here on a whim, and just walked through the promenade (about 200m/656ft into the bridge). Walking on the bridge could be a bit scary, and I found it quite thrilling at the part with the glass floor while the wind whirled by.
Beef katsu lunch at Yoshoku no Asahi (洋食の朝日)
I first found this Western-style restaurant since 1961 on Tabelog, and there was already a line when we got there a few minutes before its opening. They have very limited hours, weekday lunch only, and just about 30 seats. Almost everyone got the beef katsu set, and it was interesting that they gave Tony a bigger bowl of rice than mine for the same order 🙄. Every part of the meal was tasty, and the portion was pretty generous for me.
Kobe beef at Plaisir
Despite its scandal when the restaurant served a different type of beef for certain customers a few years ago, we felt like the Kobe trip wouldn’t be complete without trying Kobe beef. We considered a few Kobe beef restaurants and picked Plaisir for its ambiance and fried rice at the end. More than a month before, we made a reservation on a Friday at 11am, and we enjoyed the experience from the beginning to the end. We got the Tajima and Kobe beef lunch sets, with a few appetizers, fried rice, and dessert & tea time afterward.
Beef bowl at Red Rock
After spending half a day in Rokkosan Mountain, we had a fulfilling dinner at this beef bowl restaurant near the main train station. We got a roast beef rice bowl and a loco moco dish. The beef bowl was elegantly presented and I finished my loco moco so quickly.
Curry rice at Ittottei (いっとっ亭)
We stumbled upon this curry shop tucked away in the San Plaza food court. It was early dinner time, and the shop was empty with about 10 seats at the counter. We both got meat curry rice with an egg and shared a katsu. The curry was rich with meat and went so well with the rice. There were also a few pickled jars on the table for additional toppings.
Croquette at Moriya (森谷商店)
Embedded in a meat shop, we walked by this croquette stand and were drawn to the line immediately. During our short time in Kobe, we came here twice for their croquette. My favorite was their ebi/shrimp croquette, it was a perfect snack between meals and in the chilly winter time. Depending on when they made the croquette, it could come to the hand slightly colder or warmer.
Brunch at Nishimura coffee
Before heading up to Rokkosan Mountain, we got brunch at this old-school coffee shop, a local chain founded in 1948. They had a breakfast menu in the morning with a variety of ingredients. There were a few other people chatting or reading newspapers near our table by the window. We both got the breakfast set that came with bacon and white asparagus on the bread, a fruit salad, and coffee.
Coffee & waffle at Blue Bottle
Blue Bottle Coffee only had 2 locations in the Kansai region during our visit, the other one in Kyoto. After moving out of the US, I missed their New Orleans iced coffee a lot. We came to this Kobe location near the Daimaru department store for breakfast. The price was similar to the other shops in the US, and the coffee and pastry tasted just like in my memories.
After a few good experiences of staying at Tokyu hotels, we picked their REI hotel in Motomachi near Chinatown. The location was perfect for us, close to the train Motomachi station and also within walking distance to Merikan park and numerous restaurants. This REI hotel was slightly smaller than the other Tokyu hotels without self-laundry service, but the room was spotlessly clean and we liked the hotel brand even more.
Osaka to Kobe
There were two main ways to go from Osaka to Kobe, one is Hankyu railway from Umeda to Sannomiya in Kobe and the other is Hanhsin railway from Umeda/Namba to Sannomiya/Motomachi in Kobe. Since our hotel in Osaka is closer to Namba and the hotel in Kobe is near Motomachi, we bought a Hanhsin tourist pass and we arrived in Kobe within an hour.
Kobe Airport <–> Kansai Airport Bay Shuttle
We ended our trip with a boat ride from Kobe airport area to Kansai airport. I highly recommend this bay shuttle between Kobe to Kansai airport, it was a smooth and short ride and was only 500 yen for foreigners. The waiting area was also cozy with plenty of seating and captain uniform for fun.
I really enjoyed our time in Kobe, with a lively downtown and within a bus and cable car ride away from the Rokkosan and Moya mountains with so many sights to see. It felt like a much more relaxing city than Osaka, and I would love to spend more time in the mountains and checking out the onsen in Arima next time.