Kobe may only be a small city, but it’s packed with fascinating museums. Many are well known, but there are some that few tourists discover.
The building alone of the Kobe City Museum is worth seeing. Formerly the Kobe branch of the Yokohama Specie Bank, it was converted into a museum in 1982 and received the designation of important cultural property in 1998.
Give yourself plenty of time to look around. The first floor has some great insights into the history and culture of Kobe, through exhibitions that are constantly changing. On the second floor, there’s a vast collection of historical items discovered throughout the country.
650-0034 Hyogo, Kobe, Chuo Ward, Kyomachi, 2 4 (map link)
10 AM–5 PM
Whereas the name may not sound particularly appealing, visitors always find the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum captivating. It’s about much more than just tools. For instance, the museum examines how people have used tools throughout history (in Japan and the rest of the world), looks at the works of master craftsmen, and considers how each individual piece of wood has its own personality.
Plus, although it’s still in the city of Kobe, the museum is located in the middle of a forest. It sits at the foot of Mount Rokko, surrounded by trees.
The only museum dedicated to coffee in all of Japan is the UCC Coffee Museum. It has six exhibition rooms, which cover topics like cultivation, roasting, and extraction. There are also smaller sections where you can learn about the history of UCC, find out how to enjoy coffee in a more healthy way, and try your luck on an interactive quiz.
However, a highlight has to be the Tasting Corner. Each month, the museum selects two different (but often similar) coffees for visitors to sample and compare.
Even the building of Kobe Fashion Museum is trendy — it looks like a spaceship jutting out of the side of a hill. Inside, wander around the various galleries, each of which focuses on a different theme, such as structure, color, or fabric. The most fun part is a section where you can have your photograph taken in various costumes.
With its expansive collection, the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art is one of the best places to see artwork from Japan and around the world. The museum has a particular focus on sculpture — it has collected many foreign pieces to show the progression through the ages and the European influences on Japanese sculpture.
The museum also has many pieces of artwork associated with Hyogo Prefecture, including western and Japanese paintings and modern art.
All the items at the Rokko Music Box Museum are rare, automatic musical instruments. Every half hour, the museum holds a concert using several of the instruments. In addition, you’ll have the chance to assemble your own music box that plays a song of your choice.
If you’re spending some time in Kobe, plan to visit all of these top museums. Even if they’re not all about subjects that normally spark your interest, I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised.