From the exotic atmosphere of the buildings lining the mountainsides, to the fresh harbor town scenery and the sophisticated aura of old settlements at the seaside, to the night view from Mt. Rokkosan, the Kobe area is full of interesting places and sights. The entire area is within walking distance from the Shinkansen Shin Kobe Station, and you can get around even more efficiently by utilizing the bus and subway system. This article will list up popular sightseeing spots among international tourists based in the Kobe Bay Area.
"Uroko House", with Beautiful Natural Rock Exterior
One thing you can't afford to miss while sightseeing in Kobe is a tour of the Kitano Ijinkan in the mountainside Kitano area. Western-style mansions were built in this area as residences for foreigners during the Meiji and Taisho eras, many of which remain standing to this day.
Among the houses, "Uroko House", built on top of a plateau, has an especially spectacular view. As the first ijinkan opened for public viewing in Kobe, it is also the most well-known. It was built as a luxury rental house for foreigners in a settlement at the end of the Meiji era, and it was moved to its current located after the Taisho era begun. A beloved spot, "Uroko House" was given its nickname because exterior is covered with over 3000 thin slate stones, which give its walls a resemblance to uroko, or fish scales.
Inside the house, there are displays of delicate and resplendent vases, plates, cups, dolls, and more. On display are items of England's famous "Royal Worcester" porcelain, Germany's historic "Meissen" porcelain, and Denmark's "Royal Copenhagen", porcelain maker of the royal family.
In the observation gallery, you can view a wide range of impressive masterpieces from modern period and present day European artwork. In particular, you won't want to miss the large landscape paintings by Troyant (of the Barbizon school), as well as works by Matisse, Utrillo, and Buffet, among other popular modern to present day artists. From the observation room you can look out over the entire Kobe city and harbor area. When the weather is nice, you may even be able to see Awaji Island!
- Address 2-20-4 Kitanocho, Chuo-ku, Kobe
- Phone Number 0120-88-8581
Hours: 9:30 AM - 6:00 PM (April through September), 9:30 AM - 5:00 PM (October through March)
Price: Adults 1050 yen, children 200 yen
Closed: Open Daily
The "Weathercock House", a Brick Mansion with a Spinning Weathercock
Kazamidori-no-yakata, or "Weathercock House" (formerly the Thomas Residence) was built around the year 1909 as German trader Gottfried Thomas' private home. The brilliant hue of the bricks, the stone entryway porch, and other elements dissimilar to most other ijinkan lend a stately atmosphere to the house. The weathercock atop the house's spire is to this day a symbol presence in the Kitano area.
The interior is designed with influences from the art nouveau art movement popular from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, while also incorporating elements of German traditional style throughout. The house is filled with impressive sights, including the visible influences of the art nouveau style in the decoration of the metal door grip first floor entrance, as well as the adornments of the entryway porch pillars, the parlor chandelier, and the caricatures on the study wainscoting.
This ijinkan also puts on an "Exploration Tour", which allows guests a thorough look at the basement rooms and attic, which you normally aren't able to see. Also available are a quiz rally in four languages (Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean), a photo corner, and free concerts, so be sure to try them all while you enjoy your visit.
- Address 3-13-3 Kitano-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe
- Phone Number 078-242-3223
Hours: 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM (entry allowed until 5:45 PM)
Price: 500 yen (free for children through high school age, Kobe residents over the age of 65, and handicapped/disabled persons)
Closed: the first Tuesday in February and June (or the following day in the event those dates coincide with a national holiday)
Enjoy the Seasons in 12 Different Gardens at "Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden"
There are 12 different themed gardens inside. The "Observation Plaza", inspired by the ancient German "Wartburg Castle", is surrounded by a rest house and castle gate. The "Rose Symphony Garden" is host to mainly English roses, and the "Fragrant Garden" is reminiscent of the European countryside, against a backdrop of tranquil mountains. Enjoy the colors and scents of the seasons in the paths, flowerbeds, and hills as you tour each of the gardens.
If you get hungry, head to the cafe lounge or restaurant located on site. From the 2nd floor of the cafe lounge "The Veranda Kobe", enjoy a view of greenery and the ocean out through the large window as sunlight streams in. Twelve types of herbal tea and a colorful dessert plate using seasonal fruit will be waiting for you. The 1st floor has terrace seating, where you can enjoy a quick bite of the garden's original hamburger or an ice cream with a pleasant breeze around you.
"The Herb Dining" restaurant on the 2nd floor of the observation rest house serves nine main dishes (of meat, fish, and pasta) inspired by the herb garden. Each dish is a delicious as well as aesthetically pleasing, with ample amounts of herbs and edible flowers grown right in the herb garden.
There are hammocks throughout the garden for you to feel the breeze while you enjoy a relaxing and soothing rest. On weekends and holidays, the "Forest of Light" exhibition is opened, so be sure to check out the magical display lights and sounds in the forest.
Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden神戸布引ハーブ園
- Address 1-4-3 Kitano-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe
- Phone Number 078-271-1160
Hours: 9:30 AM - 4:45 PM (hours entry to the ropeway is accessible); beginning March 16, on weekends and holidays and the summer season (August 13 - September 1) 9:30 AM - 8:15 PM
Price: Adults 1500 yen, children 750 yen (special night price from 5:00 PM - closing, adults 900 yen, children 550 yen)
Closed: Open Daily
"Nunobiki Falls", an Oasis Near Shin-Kobe Station
Located just behind Shin-Kobe Station is "Nunobiki Falls". The waterfalls' water has been praised by mariners around the world as being "delicious water that won't spoil even after crossing the equator", and its beauty earned it a spot among "Japan's Top 100 Waterfalls". "Nunobiki Falls" refers collectively to four waterfalls - "On-taki", "Men-Taki", "Meoto-daki", and "Tsutsumi-ga-daki". Of the four, On-taki is the tallest, at a grand 43 meters high.
Getting to the waterfalls couldn't be easier. After approximately a 2-minute walk from Shin-Kobe Station, you will find the brick "Isago-bashi" bridge. Cross the bridge and turn left, then take the stairs on the right to reach "On-taki" or continue to the left to reach "Men-Taki".
First, have a look at Men-Taki. There is an observation bridge in front of the waterfall, so you can sit on a bench and relax in a "forest bath" of negative ions from the falls.
Of the Nunobiki Falls, the waterfall with the highest drop is On-taki. The dynamic, fast-flowing waterfall is a true wonder to behold! The beautiful way the water falls from the bottom part of the waterfall like fabric being fanned out is its namesake, with "nuno" meaning cloth and "biki/hiki" meaning to spread out. Look to the basin of the waterfall, and there you will see Meoto-daki. There are bridges in front of both for viewing, so here you can also enjoy watching the "cloth" of the three waterfalls.
Throughout history, members of nobility and poets have visited Nunobiki Falls. There are monuments to their visits set every 50 meters or so as you walk along the waterfall path, so take a look for some recommended reading. You can return along the same path by which you arrived, but for those with more time and physical endurance, we recommend enjoying a hike through nature up to the Observation Platform and the Sarunokazura Bridge.
- Address Fukiai-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe
- Phone Number 078-322-0220
Telephone: 078-322-0220 (Kobe general information center)
Hours: Always Open
Closed: Open Daily
Enjoy Tea Inside a Church at "Freundlieb"
"Freundlieb", a German bread bakery, was opened by German baker Heinrich Freundlieb. The building used to house the shop since 1999 is the former Kobe Union Church, designed by architect William Merrell Vories. Customers can enjoy a leisurely lunch or tea time in the renovated and spaciously opened-up former church chapel.
The shop's featured menu items are juicy sandwiches on bread baked freshly in the bakery next door. The "Original Roast Beef Sandwich" (2052 yen, tax included) is the most popular choice. The special sandwich made with the shop's own roast beef, onions, sunny lettuce, demiglace sauce, mustard, and mayonnaise is as filling as it is extravagant, making it perfect for brunch.
The "Chef Salad" (1296 yen, tax included) is another recommended item. Don't miss out on the hearty salad with chicken, ham, cheese, soft-boiled egg, and croutons.
Pastries and German bread are also for sale in the shop on the 1st floor. The rich and buttery heart-shaped "Sweet Heart" pastries (based on the German "pig's ears") or the "Mixed Cookies" (648 yen, tax included) assortment of different cookies make great Kobe souvenirs.
Be sure to pay a visit to Freundlieb for a double dose of delight in both the modern architecture and the delicious cuisine.
- Address 4-6-15 Ikuta-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe
- Phone Number 078-231-6051
Hours: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM (last order 6:30 PM)
Price: varies by menu item
Closed: every Wednesday (Thursday in case Wednesday coincides with a national holiday)
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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