Beyond Kyoto: Five Alternative Cities in Japan’s Kansai Region

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2. Kobe

A lively and cosmopolitan port city

Surrounded by the sea to the south and the Rokko mountains to the north, Kobe is the capital of Hyogo Prefecture and the seventh largest city in Japan. It is also the origin of the famous Kobe beef, a delicacy from the Japanese Tajima de Hyogo black cattle breed (which meets quality standards) and appreciated for its flavor, tenderness and fatty, well-marbled texture. . To taste this emblematic dish, go to Kobe Meriken Park Oriental Oriental Hotel Steak House which features carefully selected seasonal ingredients cooked in front of you and panoramic views of the Kobe cityscape.

Start the city tour by visiting Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum. First opened in 1984, this elegant and contemporary exhibit is the only one of its kind in Japan, showcasing real and recreated carpentry tools dating from prehistoric times to modern times. Divided into seven sections, the museum not only shares the history of various Japanese tools, but also detailed stories about the masters and artisans who used them.

Kobe is also home to Arima Onsen, one of the oldest and most famous spa towns in Japan. Enjoy a day trip here or, for a fully immersive experience, opt for one or two nights ryokan stay, which is a Japanese-style inn with tatami-covered rooms, communal baths, and other public areas.

About an hour of trekking will take you to the top of the Nunobiki area, located right next to the high-speed train station. The area is famous for its various scenic tree-lined walking trails, viewpoints and monuments. For those who want something less strenuous, the Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway offers a comfortable 10-minute ride to the top, revealing sweeping views of the city and the impressive 140-foot Nunobiki waterfall. Once there, don’t miss the Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens — Japan’s largest herb garden featuring 12 extensive gardens, around 75,000 seasonal herbs and 200 different types of flowers that bloom throughout the year.

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