If you find yourself in the Kansai region, the lovely port city of Kobe offers interesting history, colorful culture, architectural marvels, and delicious cuisine! Here are a few sightseeing options in Kobe!
Anyone hungry for a taste of the rich historical culture that Japan has to offer will certainly enjoy a visit to the Ikuta Shrine. A short walk from Kobe-Sannomiya Station, the Ikuta Shrine is possibly one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan. It was founded in the 3rd Century by Empress Jingu, and is dedicated to the god Wakahirume. The Ikuta Shrine was a pivotal location during the Genpei War, and its history is retold in traditional Japanese Noh Theater. Performances of the plays, Ebira and Ikuta Atsumori, can be seen during the annual fall festival, Akimatsuri.
Perhaps you’d rather take in your culture from a birds eye view. If that’s the case, then a stop at Kobe Port Tower ought to be in your plans. Built in 1963, this hyperboloidally shaped lattice marvel stands 108m over the port, allowing for stunning panoramic views of both the city and the sea. The Kobe Port Tower is located near the Kobe Maritimes Museum, and it’s only a short walk to the Hanshin Earthquake Memorial Park. At night the tower is lit in a rainbow of colors, truly a feast for the eyes.
Another unique destination worth adding to your sightseeing activities is Kobe’s renowned Chinatown. Kobe’s Chinatown, or Nankinmachi, was founded in 1868 at the beginning of the Meji Restoration, and is one of the first designated “foreign” neighborhoods in Japan following the end of the 200 year old isolationist foreign policy.
Nankinmachi is touted as the most colorful of the Chinatowns in Japan, boasting festive streets lined with interesting little shops, mahjong clubs, and delectably adventurous dining opportunities. If you can find the right street vendor, I recommend the deep fried scorpion on a stick; it tastes just like shrimp. But even if arachnids aren’t to your taste, the delicious varieties of steamed and fried dumplings, known as gyoza, are sure to satiate your appetite for the exotic.
When you’ve tired of the bright city lights and noisy, bustling crowds, or if you’re a connoisseur of nature’s flare for sublime aesthetics, then take the train to Shin-Kobe Station and make your way to Nunobiki Park. The interior of the park creates the illusion of having left the city for the tranquility of a quiet mountain grove.
Despite being located fairly close to downtown, visitors to Nunobiki Park report feeling like they are much farther away. But the tranquility of the park is just the beginning of this location’s charm. Tucked away in the corner of the park is the breathtaking Nunobiki Falls. Considered to be among Japan’s “divine” waterfalls, Nunobiki Falls is frequently a muse for Japanese poetry, and it is mentioned in the Tales of Ise.
So, should you find yourself in the Kobe City area, know that your sightseeing opportunities are plentiful. Whether your looking for historic sites, modern culture, natural scenery, or exotic cuisine, Kobe has all you could desire and then some.
Photo: Kobe port tower11s3200" by 663highland. Licensed CC by 2.5 via Commons modified