Situated in West Japan, Kobe （神戸, pronounced cold-bay）is a less popular tourist destination as compared to Osaka and Kyoto. Being curious and ambitious, and since my friend and I bought the Shinkansen 7-days pass, we decided to include a day trip to Kobe to try their well-known Kobe beef and tour the city a little.
We got the Kobe city maps for tourists (they have English words on it, so fret not!) and asked the lady at the reception for help with directions.
First stop was the Maya Cable Car. We took a local bus and the driver was really nice by alerting us when we were supposed to get off. Well, Japanese standard. And btw, Japanese buses are really friendly, you can change your notes into coins if you don’t have the exact amount (ranging about 230yen per trip, depending on the city, Kobe is slightly cheaper than Kyoto). So there’s no such occasion where you’ll have to pay more because you don’t have enough coins.
We had to hike up this hill around the neighbourhood before getting to the cable car station. This part of Kobe resembles San Francisco so much. The whole ‘cable car’ thing and same steep slopes, and by steep, I mean really steep. I’m not sure if the photos are doing the slopes some justice, because my friend couldn’t stop cursing while we were at it.
And when we finally reached the station, there were no other passengers except for us. (it was truly a LOL moment)
We bought a one-way ticket (440yen) up and thought we could hike down. But after seeing how high and steep the cable car was going, I regretted my decision immediately! Embarrassed, we bought another one-way ticket to go back down after we were done, but this time we were accompanied by an elderly Japanese couple in the cable car. 🙂
The view from Mt Maya was spectacular in the day. TripAdvisor claims that the night view from said location is the best, but I beg to differ. Unless of course if the day is really hazy, I’d advise anyone to go during the day, and you definitely could see better. Furthermore, we all know that night shots are harder than day ones, especially for people who rely heavily on phone cameras or auto mode on their digital cameras. Plus, the colours are much more vibrant during the day! I went when it was quite cloudy, but later on with threatening dark clouds, but the photos still turn out beautiful. Here’s my proof:
See what I mean? Also, you’ll look nicer under natural light than flash, any day. Trust me, I’m the #selfie expert without the selfie stick.
We only managed to go to Nijinoeki Station, though there was supposed to be another cable car to bring us all the way up to the top where there will be a scarier view with shrines and even hotel for you to stay. However the cable car to that (Hoshinoeki Station) was closed indefinitely so… I’ll be back again!
Second stop was the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum. If you love Japanese alcoholic drinks, you can’t miss out on this. It is free, because the museum is just made up of a conference hall sized room. I assume tourists don’t frequent that place because there’s only Japanese explanation – so we were pretty lost in translation and didn’t really understand anything. And once again, we were the only two people ‘touring’ the museum. The main point of going there is to buy (or try) their sake, which was really affordable and oh-so-good, and you probably can’t get them anywhere else in the world.
Third stop was Kobe Fashion Museum. I mean, really, in Kobe? Not even in Tokyo! But yes. I was attracted to it ‘cos of the architecture that shaped like a UFO. But sadly, I was pretty broke then (it was Day 8 out of 11 in Japan) so I didn’t pay to enter. It seems like it’s worth going once though, you can check it out at the website here. We ended up people watching and had some snacks in the vicinity.
Last stop was Kobe Harborland. This part of Kobe now resembles Navy Pier of Chicago, except with the lack of tourists. I swear this place is underrated, but well, it’s good for now. But don’t say I never share! The wind was slightly chilly in Spring (it was May 9), but tolerable. And if you have a sweet tooth like myself, head to the souvenir shop nearby to get their no. 1 pudding. It’s good!
The panorama overlooks the Meriken Park which we didn’t walk towards but only stared at for a good 20 minutes. The Harborland is currently under construction (to become even better than it already is). If you have time to spare, and if you’d love to chill, Kobe is the place to go. I would even think 2d1n is a better idea, and I would totally stay at the Oriental hotel (the white building in the panorama)! It’s not even expensive, and who doesn’t want to wake up to a sea view? After you’re done resting, head back to Osaka on the Shinkansen (only 15min away) or by bus (I’m not too sure but there certainly is) and you’ll be ready to immerse in a busy city life again.
And if the resemblance of Kobe to San Francisco is not enough, here’s my last attempt: