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Kobe is a cosmopolitan port city with an international flavor, hemmed in by Mt. Rokko, it constantly comes up number one in expatriate rankings of the best place to live in Japan.

Kobe's main attraction for the Japanese is its concentration of Western-style houses, some dating back to the days when Kobe was opened for foreign trade in 1868. These Ijinkan or Foreign Houses are 19th-century residences of Kobe's foreign traders, clustered in the Kitano area. The Weathercock House is arguably the most-often photographed house among the Ijinkan.

Sorakuen Garden is a nice Japanese-style garden in the middle of the city. Very good value and a great attraction to see after going through the Ijinkan area. Fruit Flower Park is surrounded by a lot of flowers and greenery. Many people hold their wedding ceremonies here every year. In spring, the park becomes even more beautiful as about 10,000 tulips bloom.

Kyu-kyoryuchi near Motomachi station (Hanshin Line or JR Line). This is where foreign consulates and trading companies built their offices. Several 19th-century buildings have been converted into restaurants and shops. Notable buildings include Chartered Square, once the Chartered Bank branch and the 15th Building, once the American consulate. The area is also packed full of high-fashion boutiques like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Fendi. Chinatown was the original settlement of Chinese merchants. Today, it is rather touristy though it offers some Japanese versions of Chinese food.

Tetsujin 28 statue is a 18 meter tall statue of a manga robot that was built to help rebuild the Nagata ward of Kobe both financially and morally after the great earthquake. The Nagata ward was one of the worst hit areas and the character of the statue has a long history to Japan as a whole and specifically this area.

Kobe is a well-known center of sake production and many sake breweries are in the Nada area. Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum is located inside a former brewery, and features traditional tools, dioramas and English-language videos to explain the sake-making processes. At the end, you can sample some sake, which is non-pasteurized, presumably because it doesn't have to travel far from the factory.

Mt. Rokko and its Rock Garden, the first an easy cable car trip for suitable romantic evenings, the second a light day's hiking with an excellent view. The view over the glittering expanse of Osaka Bay is canonized as one of the Three Great Night Views. The Mt. Rokko Ice Festival is held here every February around Valentine's Day. Nunobiki Falls is one of three of Japan's most important waterfalls. A 15 minute walk up Mt. Rokko from Shin Kobe station. Seeing the waterfalls and Herb Garden is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon.

Kobe is known worldwide for its Kobe beef, exquisitely marbled, very fatty and very expensive beef. At the opposite end of the culinary spectrum is sobameshi, a concoction of fried rice and noodles mixed together, which is cheap, filling and pretty much unique to Kobe.


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