With around 44,000 foreign nationals living in the city, Kobe has a sizeable expat community that includes many Americans and other English-speaking residents. The city has many international bars, nightspots, and venues where you can go and meet other expats as well as a few clubs, organizations and facilities geared towards helping expats settle in Kobe. Here are some of the best places for meeting expats.
The Kobe Club has been a social and cultural hub for international residents living in Kobe and beyond for many years. It’s a non-profit private membership club that organizes various events and activities as well as a restaurant and bar; open daily except for Mondays. The club often arranges special get-togethers for occasions such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. It’s situated about 5 minutes drive from Motomachi, Sannomiya and Shin Kobe stations.
Kobe City established the KICC as a way of helping foreign residents settle in addition to developing the city as a place to welcome international residents. It provides information on a range of local services as well as volunteering activities for international exchange. Many events take place at the Kobe International Community Center, located on Hamabe-dori in the Chuo ward. This is a one-stop information hub for expat residents and international students, hosting various classes and activities where expats can meet and form new friendships, such as Japanese classes or dance classes.
Founded in 1870, the KRAC has been providing services for foreigners and Japanese nationals alike for almost a century and a half. It’s a membership club with monthly subscription fees of 12,500 yen for full membership. The club, which is located about 10 minutes from Sannomiya station, provides a range of sporting and social activities and boasts facilities that include two bars, a restaurant, an events space, meeting rooms, various sporting facilities, and a children’s play area.
For expat women, there is the Kobe Women’s Club, which offers a meeting place and an events calendar that aims to bring together English-speaking female Kobe residents of all nationalities. Originally called the Saturday Morning Club, the club is just over 100 years old and meets at the Kobe Club every month from September to May. In addition to this, members can enjoy monthly field trips, exclusive talks and events, and study opportunities.
JAWK (Japan America Women of Kansai) International was founded in 1977 to develop relations and provide inter-cultural exchange between Japanese and American women in the region. It’s a non-profit membership club with around 200 members (100 Japanese and 100 expats). Membership is 5000 yen a year. Members get the chance to meet regularly throughout the year for art shows, cultural events, charity bazaars, Christmas parties and more. The organization also provides international student scholarships and donations to welfare groups.
Another great way of meeting expats is to sign up for a Japanese language class or join a conversation meet up. The Kobe English and Japanese Conversation Circle is a meetup group founded in 2014. The group meets every Monday at 7.30 p.m. at Tully’s Coffee in the Chuo ward. There are around 30 members, and it gives English-speaking residents the chance to meet new people in a relaxed environment.
Kobe has plenty of vibrant bars and clubs around Sannomiya that cater to international residents and visitors as well as the local community. These can be ideal for meeting other foreigners in a more informal setting. Worth checking out is Avery’s Irish Pub on Kitanagasa-Dori, International BAR 1134, which operates as a free club on weekends, and Bar IZNT, which hosts events and creative activities aimed at Kobe’s international community.