I’ve called the City of Kobe home for the past 9 years and proudly admit that I am a big fan of the place. This place is a great place to live, raise a family and is a really nice place to visit.
When people think about visiting Japan, they often think of Tokyo, Kyoto and maybe Osaka. Kobe is not always on their lists of “must see” places, but it really should.
In this post I’m going to tell you some of the reasons you should visit Kobe and if you’re planning to live in Japan, make Kobe the place to hang your hat.
Kobe’s International Feel – Kobe was the second city in Japan to open up to the outside world in the late 1800’s. Ever since then it has had an international feel and a large foreign population. With this comes a wider variety of foreign restaurants and import shops than most other places in Japan. It has beautiful Japanese shrines and temples that people often seek out when visiting Japan as well as European architecture.
Comfortable Place as a Foreigner – Kobe has had a large foreign population for the past 150 years and because of that, Japanese residents of Kobe are fairly used to seeing non-Japanese people walking around or working in the city. In more rural areas of Japan or even other large cities, locals aren’t as used to seeing foreigners so you may get stares and surprised people when you go about your business. That’s not really the case in Kobe. People definitely feel more comfortable with foreign visitors and residents.
Vibrant Festivals – Kobe has it’s fair share of festivals throughout the year. There are large ones like the Kobe Matsuri and smaller neighborhood summer festivals. There are Jazz festivals, food festivals and ones that celebrate other cultures.
Closeness to Nature – A lot of Kobe is nature. The M. Rokko Range goes through the city. You can be walking through a bustling and exciting city and then minutes later find yourself wandering along a forest path enjoying birds, flowers and beautiful views. Places like the Nunobiki Herb Gardens and Rokko Farm are easily accessible from downtown or you can head up to the hiking trails behind Shin Kobe Station.
Great Food – Kobe is of course world renowned for it’s Kobe Beef, but there is a lot more here as well. World cuisine is represented throughout the city with many foreign restaurants. There are many import shops with foreign food and of course the Japanese food offerings in the city are amazing. The festival food is awesome as well!
Good Medical Service – If you have any health issues while in Kobe, Kobe City Medical Center located on Port Island is state-of-the-art and offers many services in English. They can arrange translators and a lot of their medical staff can communicate in English. I’ve had two surgeries at this hospital and had no communication issues even though my Japanese is limited.
Quiet Yet Convenient – With a population of about 1.5 million, Kobe is big enough to have everything you want, yet a much slower pace of life than bigger cities like Osaka and Tokyo.
The Ocean – Kobe is a port city. You’re right on the ocean. If fishing or bird watching is your thing, you’re all set. Harbor cruises and the scent of fresh sea air are always on offer.
International Education – If you’re planning to move here with your family, you of course have the local Japanese schools as an option for your children, but there are also several international school. This is something not as common in cities of this size or smaller. Some of these schools have a long history in the city. Schools such as Canadian Academy, Marist Brothers International School, St. Michael’s International School and Kansai International Academy offer English language curriculums and top-notch education experiences.
Friendly People – People in Kobe are friendly and helpful. If they see you walking the streets in an obvious state of confusion because you cannot find the place you’re looking for, there’s a good chance a stranger will walk up to you and offer assistance. Some cities can have a cold feel, but Kobe isn’t one of them.
Kobe is a great city and one I have enjoyed living and raising my children in. It has a safe feel and lots of wonderful culture, both Japanese and foreign. It’s definitely a place you should plan to visit when coming to Japan.
Kevin O’Shea is the host of the Just Japan Podcast and the Just Japan News Podcast. He is also the guy behind JustJapanStuff. Kevin is a Canadian educator who lives in Kobe, Japan with his family.
Follow him on Twitter: @jlandkev