You can easily visit Kobe on a day trip from Osaka or Kyoto – it’s around an hour from each. And it’s totally worth the journey.
The most famous thing in Kobe is of course, the beef. Don’t worry, I’ve got a great recommendation for your Kobe itinerary to try it in luxury, and a mid-priced version too. Unfortunately, if it’s ‘cheap’, it’s probably not Kobe. You need to look out for the gold plaque to make sure it’s the real thing.
It’s not just about the beef in Kobe though, there are plenty of fun things to do on your day trip to Kobe, so let’s take a look shall we?
Kobe day trip distances
Osaka to Kobe / Kyoto to Kobe / Tokyo to Kobe
Osaka to Kobe day trip / 31 minute drive / 55 minutes train (320Y)
Kyoto to Kobe day trip / 57-minute drive / 1 hour 4 mins train (420Y)
Tokyo to Kobe day trip / 6-hour drive / 8-hour train (6000Y)
Get the train and arrive into Sannomiya Station. From here you’ll arrive a few minutes’ walk from Nankinmachi Street, and right into the heart of the action.
I was in Kobe thanks to the tourism board. All thoughts and opinions my own, of course.
Best Kobe Day Trip Itinerary
If you only have a day in Kobe, here’s what you can fit in to make the most of your day out.
Morning in Kobe
The top sight to see in the centre of Kobe is the Ikutajinja Shrine. This is one of the oldest shrines in all of Japan and in the Chūō Ward of Kobe. It’s 18 centuries old.
It’s now surrounded by cafes and shops but has survived air raids over Kobe during World War and the damage caused by the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995. Young couples hang out here, and the koi pond is worth a little looksee too.
This needs to be on any Kobe day trip itinerary.
This is a great area if you want to add some shopping time to your Kobe itinerary. Nearby Nankinmachi Street is filled with vibrant sights including restaurants and shops. It’s better described as Chinatown. Unfortunately I didn’t get to go, as we were in the midst of the Corona virus during Chinese New Year. But, it’ll be fine by the time you go (hopefully).
If you want swanky shops, then visit the Yokohama Motomachi Street. Here you’ll find high end fashion shops, coffee shops and beauticians too.
Right, enough shopping. Time to check out a museum – the Takenaka Carpenter Tools Museum in fact. One of the most popular museums in all of Japan.
Honestly, I can see why. I didn’t know joints and wood were so interesting.
We were taken through the process of how they built the Kofukuji Temple in Nara, and how they built joint on joint rather than using any nails, bolts or screws. The workmanship in the joints is incredible to see.
They actually had a cheeky little showcase of German joints vs Japanese at the end, and I’m sure you can guess which were the slickest.
The museum is interactive, you can play with the joints, learn to make your own in the workshop, and go in the exhibits too. Anyone with an eye for design, and an interest in architecture will enjoy an hour or two in here. I did!
Remember you can see my Instagram highlights on Kobe in my Osaka story
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Lunch in Kobe
If you’ve started your day in Kobe right, you’re probably hungry by now. Don’t ignore the street sellers when it comes to food in Kobe, they’ll keep you going.
I saw some delicious looking caramel filled breads, but didn’t have the cash to indulge.
That’s another point actually, make sure sure to have some change in your pockets as once you’re away from the big chain shops they’ll most likely want to see the money, rather than the card.
My recommendation for lunch on your day in Kobe is the Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens. You’ll need to head over to the Shin-Kobe Station, Kobe’s shinkansen station, and get the gondola up on the ropeway.
These gondolas were designed in Austria, and give a great view of Kobe Port, and the sights below.
Keep a look out for the Nunobiki Waterfall, you can see it from the gondola. If you have time it’s only a 15-minute hike up from Shin-Kobe Station. And if you want to hike further you can take the path all the way round and up to the herb garden.
Obviously I went back and got the gondola though.
We only had time for this little look at the falls, which, as you can see, didn’t have much water in January.
Up at the Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens you can enjoy a tasty, healthy meal at The Herb Garden Restaurant. You can choose one main, a drink and an all you can eat buffet for a great price. There was tuna carpaccio on the all you can eat buffet, so I went a bit mad to be honest.
The food was great and I loved having such a great view from the window too.
Normally people would walk back down the path of the herb garden and meander through the displays. A) We didn’t have time. B) It was winter so there weren’t many flowers about.
Afternoon in Kobe
Right, time to get down from the herb garden and go and check out Kobe Port closer up. You’ll have seen it from the top of the mountain, but now’s the time to see some of the cool things to do down there on your Kobe day trip.
The Fish in the Forest Restaurant is a cool hipster place for a tea, or something stronger, and to sit and admire the bridges that take you across the waterways.
Check out the size of that fish!
Kobe Port is the site of the Kobe Earthquake Museum, built to celebrate the lives of the over 6,400 who died in the 1995 tremor. You can see how much of the area was shook into rubble, and learn about the consequential clean up and build up.
It’s now quite a cool area with street art, but one that’s never forgotten its history. You can see on the picture on the right here, how they’ve kept the cement slabs as they were left by the quake, and the street lights.
The most famous symbol of Kobe is at the harbour, the Kobe Port Tower. Time your trip for sunset and you’ll get an incredible view across the harbour and across Kobe.
The Port Tower has 360 degree views, which are best enjoyed from the 3rd floor of the observatory, where you’ll find a revolving sake bar.
Look out for the Kobe sign on the mountains, and the logo for the city. There are also plenty of information points within the tower so you can learn a bit more about what you’re actually looking at.
Evening in Kobe
Come down the tower and carry on to the harbour and you’ll pass Harborland. This is a new area filled with a mix of chains and local brands, all wanting you to hand over some cash. The big ferris wheel is here, complete with the most impressive light show I’ve ever seen on a ferris wheel.
There was also an ice skating rink when I visited in January, and a carved out Christmas tree for you to have your picture taken in.
You can’t leave you day in Kobe without trying the Kobe Beef.
Now, you have two options.
You can either splash the cash on a teppanyaki experience at the Steak House Oriental. Or, enjoy some Kobe Beef at the Kobe Beef Gallery in the Shin-Kobe train station. It’s up to you how you experience it, just make sure you do.
I was on a press trip and so luckily for me, I got to try the Steak House Oriental version. Which, became one of the best meals I’ve ever had.
Dinner at the Oriental Steak House in Kobe
We started with lobster. It was fresh and cooked on the teppanyaki plate in front of us by the head chef. He’s been working there for 17 years and obviously LOVED his job, and making other people happy with his food.
I feel it’s ok to admit with you now that I don’t actually rate lobster. I just don’t get it.
But… this lobster.
Buttery, succulent, delicious.
Served up in a tasty salad with some risotto too.
– Kobe Beef is only Kobe Beef if it’s Wagyu beef from the Tajima strain of Japanese Black cattle, raised in Japan’s Hyōgo Prefecture, according to rules set out by the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association.
This beef was certified, and named. The chef asked if that was disturbing for us.
I told him how my Grandpa was a cow farmer and used to name his cows after his grand children. And he’d tell us which one we were eating as we sat down for Sunday lunch. I’d eaten a Victoria before – I was used to it.
He liked that story.
And so slice of Kobe beef after slice of Kobe beef, I savoured every single mouthful. He was laughing at me as I closed my eyes to savour the taste.
Gawd it was good.
Accompanied by beansprouts, as is the way, and a glass of their finest red, I was pretty much in heaven.
He fired up the plate, made us laugh, and fed us some of the best beef in the world. What a guy, and what an experience to top off our day in Kobe.
As our last little bite to eat, we had this tasty, tasty macha brownie.
We finished at 9ish and headed to the the hotel View Bar next door. If you’re only in Kobe for a day trip then you’ll need to start getting back to where you came from. Go and get a pic at the Be Kobe sign before you leave.
If not, the bartenders at the View Bar will fix you up a great Old Fashioned. Best enjoyed to the sound of the bar singer doing a wonderful rendition of Adele.
What a day!
Getting to Kobe on a day trip
If you’re coming to Kobe on a day trip then you’ll arrive into Sannomiya Station. There are many lines into here, but you can also get a bus too. The bus station and connections are plentiful here.
Staying in Kobe
If you want to spend a bit longer in Kobe, and maybe enjoy some of the nightlife too, then it’s worth leaving your baggage at one of the train stations at your origin. This way you can travel light and still check into a hotel without the hassle of your luggage.
I stayed at the Kobe Meriken Park Oriental Hotel in Kobe Harbour. A stunning hotel, this really was an incredible experience. My room was water side and so I could see the sunrise, and wake up to amazing views across the water. I just lay in bed admiring them, before getting up to enjoy the extensive breakfast.
That French Toast though!
My day in Kobe
I actually spent two days in Kobe, but I think you can do a lot with a day here. It’s a great day trip from Osaka, and from Kyoto too. I hope you have a brilliant day in Kobe, and just let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.
More on travelling in the Kansai region of Japan
What to Expect from a Temple Stay in Koyasan
How to Have the Best 24 Hours in Osaka Ever