Kobe (map) is the capital city of Hyōgo Prefecture, about 30 km (19 mi) west of Osaka. Together with Kyoto and Osaka, it makes up the three-city agglomeration of Keihanshin (京阪神), Japan’s largest after greater Tokyo.
A port in what would become Kōbe was established as a concession to western powers in 1868, during the time when Japan was opening to the world. Nagasaki and Yokohama had already begun serving foreign ships nine years earlier.
Today, a synagogue, Japan’s first *mosque, Japan’s first Sikh temple, a Chinatown, and European architecture mark Kōbe as a place where foreigners and foreign culture first arrived in Japan.
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The landmark of the port area is the red steel Port Tower (map). A ferris wheel sits in nearby Harborland (神戸ハーバーランド), a notable tourist promenade.
Kobe is most famous for its *Kobe beef (Hyōgo Prefecture) and Arima Onsen (map). Arima Onsen in Hyogo Prefecture is said to be the oldest onsen (hot springs) town in Japan, with a history that dates back more than 1,000 years. You can enjoy a day trip there, but you can fully experience the charms of Arima if you stay one or two nights.
Chinatown (南京町, Nankin-machi, map). The original settlement of Chinese merchants. Today, it is rather touristy though it offers some “Japanised” versions of Chinese food such as pork buns (豚饅頭 buta-manjū). Its architecture is still rather pleasant though.
Tetsujin 28 statue / Gigantor (Kobe project, map). 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.
Kōbe is a well-known center of sake production and many sake breweries are in the Nada (灘) area and have tours or museums open to the public. You can pick up a map of the sake breweries at the tourist information office (map) in Sannomiya.