Nestled between the Rokko Mountains and the Seto Inland Sea, Kobe stands as a vibrant testament to Japan’s rich history and cultural diversity. While many travellers are captivated by its scenic beauty and delectable cuisine (I won’t even get started on Kobe Beef here!), there’s more to this city than meets the eye. Let’s take a look at the lesser-known aspects of Kobe, revealing ten intriguing facts that might just surprise you….
Kobe has a long history of international trade, dating back to the opening of its port in the 19th century. This cosmopolitan influence is reflected in the city’s architecture, with well-preserved Western-style houses and buildings peppering the landscape. The Kitano district, in particular, showcases these elegant structures, offering a glimpse into the city’s international past.
Kobe is renowned as a sake-producing region, boasting a variety of local breweries. Nada district, in particular, is famous for its high-quality sake, owing to its pristine water source from the Rokko Mountains. Take a sake brewery tour to witness the meticulous process of sake production and savour the nuanced flavours of this Japanese rice wine. Lexis Japan does regular visits to some of the great little sakegura that dot the ‘old town’ area…interesting to check out, and not just for all the free samples!
Beyond its urban charm, the area around the city is blessed with abundant natural beauty. The Nunobiki Falls, a series of waterfalls cascading down the Rokko Mountains, provides a refreshing escape from the city hustle. Visitors can hike along scenic trails, immersing themselves in the serene ambiance of the lush forest and the soothing sounds of flowing water.
Sorakuen Garden, a hidden gem in the heart of the city, offers a tranquil oasis reminiscent of ancient Japan. Dating back to the 17th century, this traditional Japanese garden features winding paths, picturesque ponds, and meticulously manicured landscapes. It’s a perfect spot for contemplation and appreciating the beauty of nature, and one that is often missed by international visitors. Particular late in the afternoon, it’s possible to have much of the garden entirely to yourself. Sorakuen is just a short walk from the Lexis campus.
Unique Fashion Hub
Kobe’s fashion scene is as diverse as its cultural heritage. The city is home to countless boutiques and designer stores, showcasing avant-garde fashion trends. Additionally, the city hosts the Kobe Fashion Museum, a fascinating institution dedicated to preserving and promoting Japanese fashion through the ages, making it a must-visit for fashion enthusiasts.
Kobe has a deep-rooted love for jazz music, evident in its numerous jazz bars and clubs. The city hosts the Kobe Jazz Street Festival, an annual event that draws musicians and jazz enthusiasts from around the world. Kobe’s jazz scene provides a soulful ambiance, making it an ideal destination for music lovers seeking intimate live performances. Lexis students report that the original bar, Sone (opened in 1969), is still among the best. You can find it up on the other side of Sannomiya Station, and it’s really worth a night out. Check it out here – https://kobe-sone.com/index_e.php
Unique Hot Springs
A visit to Kobe wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the Arima Onsen, one of Japan’s oldest and most famous hot spring resorts. Nestled in the mountains, Arima Onsen offers two distinct types of thermal waters: “Kinsen” (gold water) and “Ginsen” (silver water). These mineral-rich waters are believed to have therapeutic properties, making the onsen a rejuvenating retreat for travelers seeking relaxation and healing. You can check out our blog on getting naked with your classmates(!) at Arima Onsen here – https://lexisjapan.com/the-arima-onsen-experience/
Kobe’s dedication to the arts is evident in its vibrant cultural scene. The city boasts an array of museums and galleries, including the Kobe Art Village Center and the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art. Additionally, Kobe hosts the Kobe Biennale, a prestigious art event that showcases contemporary artworks from both local and international artists, fostering creativity and cultural exchange.
A City of Artisans:
Kobe is a haven for craftsmen and artisans, where traditional skills are passed down through generations. The city is famous for its exquisite handcrafted Nambu Tekki, cast ironware known for its durability and intricate designs. Visitors can witness skilled artisans at work, shaping molten iron into beautiful teapots, cookware, and decorative items. Exploring Kobe’s workshops offers a unique opportunity to appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship that define the city’s heritage.
Traces of the Samurai past
While Kobe is often celebrated for its modernity, it also holds hidden gems from the samurai era, offering a fascinating glimpse into Japan’s feudal past. In the heart of the city stands the Ikuta Shrine, one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan, with roots dating back to the 3rd century. This sacred site not only exudes an aura of spirituality but also serves as a testament to Kobe’s enduring history. Take a time to learn the fascinating history of the shrine (about 15 minutes’ walk to Lexis Japan)…it really is quite remarkable.
During the samurai era, Kobe was a bustling port town, and remnants of this time can be found in the historic Nofukuji Temple. Established in the 9th century, this temple boasts stunning architecture and ancient artifacts, offering visitors a rare opportunity to step back in time. The nearby Shin-Kobe Ropeway, a modern cable car, provides a scenic journey to the Nunobiki Herb Gardens while offering panoramic views of the city, emphasizing the contrast between Kobe’s historical roots and its contemporary skyline.
Kobe is a city that continues to captivate the hearts of travellers with its eclectic blend of tradition, innovation, and natural splendour. As you explore its hidden treasures, you’ll discover a city that not only embraces its past but also celebrates the diversity and creativity that define its present. Perhaps more than anything, Kobe has always been a ‘city of villages’, with each district and area offering something entirely unique and different. It’s a city that rewards patient exploration…make sure you make the most of it during your time at Lexis Japan!