Kobe is the capital of Hyogo Prefecture and is the sixth-largest city in Japan. Kobe has been an important port city for many centuries. Its port was among the first to be opened to foreign trade in the 19th century alongside the ports of Yokohama, Nagasaki, Hakodate and Niigata. Kobe did not exist in its current form until its founding in 1889. Its name comes from “kanbe” , an archaic title for supporters of the city’s Ikuta Shrine. Kobe became one of Japan’s 17 designated cities in 1956.
In 1995, Kobe was hit by the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, which killed over 5000 people and destroyed tens of thousands of buildings. Today the city is completely rebuilt, and few signs of the terrible event remain. Today, Japanese port of Kobe is a thriving metropolitan city with an international feel.
Tools found in western Kobe demonstrate the area was populated at least from the Jomon period[14000BC-300BC]. The natural geography of the area, particularly of Wada Cape in Hyogo-ku, led to the development of a port, which would remain the economic center of the city. Some of the earliest written documents mentioning the region include the Nihon Shoki, which describes the founding of the Ikuta Shrine by Empress Jingu in AD 201.Read More
During the Nara and Heian periods, the port was known by the name Owada Anchorage and was one of the ports from which imperial embassies to China were dispatched. The city was briefly the capital of Japan in 1180, when Taira no Kiyomori moved his grandson Emperor Antoku to Fukuhara in present-day Hyogo-ku. As the port grew during the Kamakura period, it became an important hub for trade with China and other countries. In the 13th century, the city came to be known by the name Hyōgo Port .During this time, Hyogo Port, along with northern Osaka, composed the province of Settsu.
Later, during the Edo period, the eastern parts of present-day Kobe came under the jurisdiction of the Amagasaki domain and the western parts under that of the Akashi domain, while the center was controlled directly by the Tokugawa shogunate. It was not until the abolition of the han system in 1871 and the establishment of the current prefecture system that the area became politically distinct.
Hypgo Port was opened to foreign trade by the government of the Bakufu at the same time as Osaka on January 1, 1868, just before the advent of the Boshin War and the Meiji Restoration. The region has since been identified with the West and many foreign residences from the period remain in Kobe’s Kitano area.
Kobe, as it is known today, was founded on April 1, 1889, and was designated on September 1, 1956 by government ordinance. The history of the city is closely tied to that of the Ikuta Shrine, and the name “Kobe” derives from “kamube” (later kanbe), an archaic name for those who supported the shrine.
Places Not To Miss:
- Arima Onsen:
This onsen is the one of Japan’s oldest, with Dogo Onsen in Ehime Prefecture and Shirahama Onsen in Wakayama Prefecture. Although Arima Onsen has a modern look today and is pretty built up, one can still find several narrow lanes and wooden buildings when strolling around the center of town. Due to its compact size, the small town can be explored entirely on foot, and there are several hot spring sources, nice temples and shrines and a small hot spring museum (200 yen) to be discovered.
- Mount Rokko:
Mount Rokko is the highest peak in the Rokko mountain range, which provides the pleasant green backdrop to the city of Kobe. Panoramic views of the heavily urbanized Hanshin region can be enjoyed from the mountain and are particularly spectacular around sunset. the Rokko mountain area is a centerpiece of a popular sightseeing and hiking area for people in the metropolitan Kansai region. Mt. Rokko is a symbol of Kobe as well as Osaka.
Various small tourist attractions can be found on Mount Rokko, including a botanical garden, a music box museum, a pasture with flowers and sheep, Japan’s first golf course and Rokko Garden Terrace, a tourist complex with a few restaurants, shops and an observation deck.
- Nada Sake District:
Nada is the Japan’s largest sake producing area. The area spreads along the coast from about 5 km east of central Kobe to Nishinomiya city. It has long been famous for its sake due to the availability of high quality rice, suitable water and favorable weather conditions in the area. These areas have many historic sake breweries and are renowned for sake production in Japan. The areas are ideally located near the production area of the high-quality “Yamada Nishiki” brewer’s rice, where the subsoil “Miyamizu” water of the mineral-rich Rokko Mountains is gathered and the cold winter wind blows down from Mount Rokko to enhance the flavor of the sake.
- Sorakuen Garden:
Sorakuen Garden is the only urban traditional Japanese garden in Kobe and has been designated as a national registered monument. . The garden used to be part of the residence of Kodera Kenkichi, a former mayor of Kobe, but was opened to the public in 1941. The former Hassam House, former Kodera Barn, Boat House. Azalea and Chrysanthemum Exhibition worth seeing.
Nankinmachi originated in 1868, when Kobe’s port was opened to foreigners including Chinese immigrants from Guangdong and Fujian. The newcomers settled in the western end of Kobe’s foreign district, which soon became the focal point for subsequent Chinese migrants. During that time, the Chinese people were referred to as “people from Nanking” by the Japanese, hence the name “Nankinmachi” . By the early 1920s, Nankinmachi was a vibrant area bustling with businesses, restaurants, and homes.
Nankinmachi is a popular tourist attraction and shopping and dining district. Two main streets run through the district, meeting each other at a small plaza in the center. They are packed with shops, restaurants and food stands that sell popular items such as steamed buns (manju), ramen, tapioca drinks and various other Chinese dishes.