If you’re a jazz fan, Kobe is a place you must visit during your time in Japan. The city is arguably the origin of jazz in Japan as it was here in April 1923 that the first professional jazz band was formed. Plus, Louis Armstrong and his orchestra famously visited Kobe on two occasions.
One of the best-known jazz bars (for good reason), Sone has live performances every night. The bar provides an intimate experience and every table has a good view of the stage. Accompany the music with a drink, light snack, or full meal.
Location: 7-minute walk from Kobe-Sannomiya station
1-24-10 Nakayamatedori, Chuo Ward, Kobe 650-0004 (map link)
Hours: 5:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. (Sundays 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.)
Every night (except Monday), Great Blue puts on a show from Japanese or foreign jazz musicians. Both the cover charge and food are reasonably priced. This is an ideal place to visit alone or in a group.
Location: 2-minute walk from Sannomiya station
5-5-19 Kotonoocho, Chuo Ward, Kobe 651-0094 (map link)
Hours: Until 12:00 a.m. on weekdays and 11:00 p.m. on weekends (closed Mondays)
Open earlier than many other venues, Yorozuya Sobei always has jazz records playing in the background during the day. In addition, the café frequently hosts live shows in the evening. The atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable, which makes it a great place to hang out when you have some free time.
Location: 3-minute walk from Motomachi station
1-8-4-B1 Motomachidori, Chuo Ward, Kobe 650-0022 (map link)
Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (10:00 p.m. for live shows)
Although it’s a large venue, Day by Day still manages to create a cozy setting where you can listen to live jazz. There are counter seats around the grand piano that allow patrons to get up close and personal but there are also tables if you want more space.
Location: 5-minute walk from Kobe-Sannomiya station
1-10-10 Nakayamatedori, Chuo Ward, Kobe 650-0004 (map link)
Hours: 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. (closed Sundays)
Don’t be confused by the name: Kobe Jazz Street is not an actual street; it’s an event. The festival takes place every year on a weekend in early October in the Sannomiya Kitanozaka area. Both days begin with a marching band that travels through the streets of Kobe.
Held since 1982, numerous artists from all over the country and elsewhere in the world come to perform at the festival. The event stands out from other jazz festivals for its sessions where professionals and amateurs play together.
Serious jazz fans should try to make it to Kobe in the fall to attend the festival, however, if that’s not possible, at least check out all the above jazz and blues clubs for a different taste of Kobe jazz every night.