“Should I visit the city where the world’s most famous beef comes from?”
It seems like a bit of a silly question when you word it like that, right?
If you’re traveling to Japan, you’re probably going to be in Osaka at some stage. Visitors commonly ask, “Should I visit Kobe or should I stay in Osaka?”, or something to that tune.
Kobe is just 30 minutes away and costs only 450 yen one way from Osaka Station. Commuting a couple of stations on the Osaka Metro from your accommodation to Osaka Station will set you back by about 280 yen. Heck – instead of exploring a new station, you could explore a new city. Seems like a no brainer, huh? Well, if not for the convenience, why should you go to Kobe…?
1. It’s got beef
I’m not talking about the beef between the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants in the Japanese baseball league. I’m talking about literal beef.
Certified Kobe beef. If you’re looking for the authentic stuff, you’ll need to keep your eye out for the gold certification plate outside the restaurant.
For the beef to be certified as Kobe beef, the cow needs to have been raised in Hyogo Prefecture. Only 3000 cows are raised per year and reared in a way that will make them suitable to be served as Kobe beef. That’s a really small amount of cows, which explains its high price tag.
Eating Kobe beef is a real culinary experience, and it’s hard to describe what’s waiting for you. You just need to try it to know what it’s about. But it’s expensive. So take those savings from the train, and put that into your beef budget.
If you’re really wanting to eat the legit Kobe beef at a decent price, you’ll want to eat it at lunch – not dinner. Lunch menu prices are far cheaper than dinner. And one other thing to bear in mind: arguably the most popular place for tourists to eat Kobe beef is at a place called Steakland. It’s right outside the main station, Sannomiya. Personally, we call it tourist-grade Kobe beef. It’s a good introduction, but if you’re willing to spend double the amount, you can eat what the locals eat and have an experience that few other tourists find.
Side note on this: Many users of Doot Experiences have asked their local hosts to take them to a Kobe beef restaurant. In all honesty, locals often only manage to eat the beef two or three times in their entire lives. It’s a real treat, and something you do on special occasions. So, unfortunately, it’s often not possible to go with Doot locals to Kobe beef spots. What Doot locals can do for you is recommend a great spot to eat it, which is where you can eat lunch before your later meetup with your host.
2. It’s got a significant history
When you come to Kobe, you’ll notice that it’s pretty modern. Architecturally, it’s reminiscent of a foreign city. Not typically Japanese. The only other cities you’ll tend to see this is in Tokyo (where there’s mass development), Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. Why is this?
There’s no single factor behind this, but one of the reasons is the massive 7.2 magnitude 1995 earthquake – the Great Hanshin Earthquake. The most severe earthquake to hit the region in the past century. According to the BBC:
The Kobe earthquake was one of the worst in the country’s history – 6,433 people died. Nearly 27,000people were injured, and more than 45,000 homes were destroyed. The total cost of repairing the damage was estimated at more than $100 billion.
There are symbols of this all over the city. For example, there’s an eternal flame that burns in honor of the victims and their families. In the port area, there are small sections of sidewalk that haven’t been repaired. They’ve been left as a reminder of the damage from the earthquake. One of the most shocking parts of the Great Hanshin Earthquake was the city fires that erupted as a result of the early-morning seismic shaking, burning large parts of the city to the ground.
There’s a museum dedicated to the earthquake. Go check it out – it’s important to know these pieces of history of the country you’re visiting. It means a lot to the locals.
3. Beautiful scenery and districts
Head down to the port area and check out the stadium, the Kobe Port Tower, and the Mosaic Big Ferris Wheel. Particularly at night – it’s a futuristic beauty. While you’re heading back up to the station area, walk along the main road that has the flower clock. Look up to the hills. In the dark, you can’t see the hills. Instead, you’ll see the bright word of “Kobe” or the city logo floating in the sky. A small touch that makes a big difference, and is symbolic of Kobe’s aesthetic appeal and focus.
Once you’ve seen the city from the ground, head to the hills! Shoot up the hillside with a cable car and admire the city basin from above, with the ocean stretching out behind it.
4. Kobe is one of the most international cities in Japan
It’s very welcoming and is an incredibly diverse city. It’s actually nicknamed “Japan’s international city”. It’s got one of the best China Towns in all of Japan, and certainly in the entire region – outshining even Osaka.
Kobe has also been running a startup development program for the past 5 years, which has brought high-potential startups from around the world into the city. This is all thanks to the Kobe City government, which has a huge focus on internationalization and city development.
Since 2016, 500 Startups has held a full-scale acceleration program with Kobe City, which has been supporting the excellent startups in Japan and overseas, as a partner.
Based in Silicon Valley, 500 Startups is known as the world’s most active seed investment fund, supporting more than 2,400 companies in 75 countries. Through a six-week practical program that includes one-on-one instruction from a global team, we aim to create a startup ecosystem originating in Japan from Kobe.
You can see the effects of these innovative startups in the daily running of the city. It’s a really unique environment compared to the rest of Japan, and has one of the most welcoming atmospheres that you’ll find in the country.
How much does it cost to visit Kobe?
All in all, Kobe is a pretty cheap city if you had to skip the beef. It’s a popular day trip, but we recommend staying for a night or two. It’s very local and authentic – not heavily congested with tourists at night. If you want to meet locals in Japan and experience the local social culture of Japan, Kobe is the place. At times, it feels like it’s just you and Japan. 🙂