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Explore Kobe, Japan (Incredible Chinese Food, Beautiful Sea Views, And More)

Kobe, Japan is a bustling city nestled between the ocean and mountains. Due to its history as a major international port, Kobe offers a variety of top-notch global cuisines and beautifully reflects its multi-cultural background.

During my recent trip there, I appreciated how condense the city is and how easy it is to walk between all of the major sights. I loved the gorgeous views of the harbor and city skyline, the delicious food, and exploring the historic temples and lush botanical garden.

In this guide, I’ll share my trips about how to best explore Kobe, Japan.

What is the best way to explore Kobe, Japan?

How To Get To Kobe

View of Mt. Fuji from the Shinkansen to Kobe, Japan

View of Mt. Fuji from the Shinkansen

The best way to get to Kobe from Tokyo is by taking the Shinkansen (high-speed bullet train). From Shibuya Station to Shin-Kobe Station, it takes about 3 hours including a transfer at Shinagawa Station in Tokyo. The total cost of a one-way trip is about ¥15,000 (~USD $120).

Sit on the right side of the Shinkansen on the way to Kobe so that you can see the fantastic views of Mt. Fuji!

Tip: Buy an "ekiben" at the train station before boarding the Shinkansen. An "ekiben" is a bento boxed meal specifically made to be enjoyed on long train rides. They are typically made up of several small dishes so that you can have a variety of things to eat. 

Where To Stay In Kobe

One of the perks of Kobe is that the city is relatively condense compared to other major Japanese cities. As a result, no matter where you stay, you’ll be somewhat close to the action. I stayed near Shin-Kobe Station (at ANA Crowne Plaza Kobe, an IHG Hotel), which is where the Shinkansen from Tokyo stops, so I was able to walk directly from the station to my hotel.

Check out my hotel recommendations below:

What To Do In Kobe

Kobe has a variety of great activities to offer. I suggest allocating at least one full day to see the highlights of the city, but more days if you’d like to explore more off-the-beaten-path options or travel at a relaxed pace.

I listed the below suggestions of things to do in my recommended chronological order if you choose to do them all on the same day.

Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens

View from the gondola heading up to Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens in Kobe, Japan

View from the gondola up to Nunobiki Herb Gardens

An empty thermal pool for feet at Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens in Kobe, Japan

The thermal foot bath where you can sit and enjoy the view

Visiting the Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens was a personal highlight of my trip to Kobe, Japan. The gardens sit on the side of a mountain, so you will get expansive views of the city as you head up to and walk around the gardens.

This large botanical garden has restaurants, a spacious greenhouse, thermal foot bath, restaurants, and gift shops. You can easily spend half a day getting lost on the myriad of pathways.

Red flowers in the botanical gardens of Nunobiki Herb Gardens

Fruit and flowers growing inside the greenhouse of Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens

The fastest way to access the botanical garden is via the gondola. However, it’s also possible to hike up the entire way through the public Nunobiki Park, which has waterfalls and scenic trails. The gondola takes about 10 minutes to bring you from the city to the park, while hiking from Shin-Kobe Station to the top of the gardens takes about 1.5 hours. The gondola costs ¥1,800 for an adult round-trip (~USD $14).


Orange arches at the entrance of Ikuta-jinja, a shinto shrine in Kobe, Japan

Ikuta-jinja is arguably the most well-known Shinto shrine in Kobe, Japan.

While smaller than many of the shrines or temples you’ll find in cities like Kyoto, Ikuta-jinja is a beautiful shrine that is definitely worth visiting. You can wander around the grounds and pay your respects with a small donation and prayer at the main hall if you’d like.

What is Shinto?

Shinto is an ancient Japanese religion and alongside Buddhism, is one of the two main religions in Japan today. Highly simplified, Shinto is an animistic religion and adherents believe that gods/supernatural entities (“kami”) exist in everything, including nature such as forests, mountains, and seas.

Kobe Chinatown

A busy street full of people in Chinatown in Kobe, Japan on a sunny day

Kobe’s Chinatown is one of the largest Chinatowns in Japan and is packed with vendors selling food and souvenirs. These bustling streets are an excellent place to venture around for a delicious lunch or variety of snacks. There are many different options for dumplings, noodles, soups, and more, so arrive hungry!

I really enjoyed spending time meandering through the alleys and sampling different dishes from a few stalls and restaurants.


Motomachidori is a condense shopping street lined with restaurants, department stores, and boutiques. This street is one of the best areas in Kobe to look for souvenirs, rest for a snack break, or enjoy a meal. It is geographically close to Kobe’s Chinatown, so I suggest wandering over to Motomachidori once you’re done exploring the Chinese cultural area.

Meriken Park

Brilliant sunset over Meriken Park in Kobe, Japan

Meriken Park

Meriken Park is a spacious waterfront park with the iconic “BE KOBE” sign. It is near the Kobe Maritime Museum, so you can easily add a visit to the museum to your itinerary if you’d like. I arrived at the park around sunset and experienced a stunning view of the port lit up in golden rays.

On a warm day, it might be nice to bring a picnic to Meriken Park or enjoy a drink outside from the large Starbucks that sits in the park.

What To Eat In Kobe

Steaming dumplings held in front of a pagoda in the Chinatown in Kobe, Japan

Delicious dumplings from Kobe’s Chinatown

Particularly because the city is so international, Kobe has an incredible food scene. While trying Kobe beef is an absolute must, venture beyond the steakhouses and taste delicious Chinese food and loads of different traditional Japanese sweets.

One of my favorite parts of exploring Kobe was sampling the many different vendors in Chinatown. Arrive hungry so that you can buy a few things from as many different stalls as possible!

Frozen drink from Freundlieb, a German-style cafe in Kobe, Japan

Desserts from Freundlieb, a German-style cafe in Kobe, Japan

A matcha, anko, and dango dessert set from Kobe Fugetsudo

A dessert and tea set from Kobe Fugetsudo

Kobe has an awesome selection of restaurants, particularly for Kobe beef (of course!), Chinese food, and traditional Japanese desserts. Try some of my recommendations below:

  1. Beyond Coffee Roasters (coffee shop)

  2. Kobe Fugetsudo (Japanese desserts)

  3. Freundlieb (German-style cafe)

  4. Rōshōki (Chinese dumplings) – just head to Kobe Chinatown and explore!

  5. スタンド クラシック(Izakaya, Japanese pub food)

  6. Aragawa (Steakhouse) – trying Kobe beef is a must

  7. Misono Kobe Main Restaurant (teppanyaki, grilled Japanese dishes)

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