“Should I visit the city where the world’s most famous beef comes from?”
Seems like a bit of a silly question when you word it like that, right?
If you’re traveling to Japan, you’re probably going to be in Osaka at some stage. Visitors commonly ask, “Should I visit Kobe or should I stay in Osaka?”, or something to that tune.
Kobe is just 30 minutes away and costs only 450 yen one way from Osaka Station. Commuting a couple of stations on the Osaka Metro from your accommodation to Osaka Station will set you back by about 280 yen. Heck – instead of exploring a new station, you could explore a new city. Seems like a no brainer, huh? Well, why would you go to Kobe…?
1. It’s got beef
If you’re a hip hop fan, it’s not that kind of beef. It’s very welcoming and is an incredibly diverse city. It’s actually nicknamed Japan’s “international city”.
But I digress – it’s got beef. That’s the point. Certified Kobe beef. If you’re looking for the authentic stuff, look for the gold certification plate outside the restaurant.
For the beef to be certified as Kobe beef, the cow needs to have been raised in Hyogo Prefecture. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of how they’re raised – you just need to know that it tastes good. Real good. But it’s expensive. So take those savings from the train, and put that into your beef.
2. It’s got a significant history
When you come to Kobe, you’ll notice that it’s pretty modern. Architecturally, it’s reminiscent of a foreign city. Not typically Japanese. Why is this?
There’s no single factor behind this, but one of the reasons is the massive 7.2 magnitude 1995 earthquake – the Great Hanshin Earthquake. The most severe earthquake to hit the region in the past century. According to the BBC:
“The Kobe earthquake was one of the worst in the country’s history – 6,433 people died. Nearly 27,000people were injured, and more than 45,000 homes were destroyed. The total cost of repairing the damage was estimated at more than $100 billion.”
There are symbols of this all over the city. For example, there’s an eternal flame that burns in honour of the victims and their families. In the port area, there are small sections of sidewalk that were not rejuvenated to visually show the damage from the earthquake. There’s a museum. Go check it out – it’s important to know these pieces of history of the country you’re visiting. It means a lot to the locals.
3. Beautiful scenery and districts
Head down to the port area and check out the stadium, the Kobe Port Tower, and the Mosaic Big Ferris Wheel. Particularly at night – it’s a futuristic beauty. While you’re heading back up to the station area, walk along the main road that has the flower clock. Look up to the hills. In the dark, you can’t see the hills. Instead, you’ll see the bright word of “Kobe” or the city logo floating in the sky. A small touch that makes a big difference.
One station down from Sannomiya station – the main station in the city – is Motomachi. A popular shopping district with a really fun China town. Well worth checking out.
Once you’ve seen the city from the ground, head to the hills! Shoot up the hillside with a cable car and admire the city basin from above, with the ocean stretching out behind it.
How much would visiting Kobe cost?
All in all, Kobe is a pretty cheap city if you skip the beef, which isn’t recommended to do. It’s a popular day trip, but we recommend staying for a night or two. It’s very local and authentic – not heavily congested with tourists at night. If you want to meet locals in Japan and experience the local social culture of Japan, Kobe is the place. At times, it feels like it’s just you and Japan. 🙂