We sat around the grill with our kids wondering if the hype about the steak that made this town famous is as good as everyone talks about.
We had walked the streets and showered google reviews to find just the right Kobe Beef Steak House.
The blade chopped through it like it was warm butter. The smells were intoxicating, and the sounds of the meat as it sizzled got my mouth watering. The old Japanese man behind the grill moved more like a samurai than a cook. Join us to find out more about how we spent one-day enjoying Kobe Japan.
Where in the world is Kobe?
Kobe, Japan is well known for its mouth-watering, tender, delicious beef. It is also beautifully situated along with the coast and nestled at the bottom of the foothills of the Rokko mountains. Kobe is directly across the bay from Osaka, the capital city of Japan.
It is located between Osaka, Kyoto, and close to Nara. If you plan to visit any of these well-known destinations, take an extra day and go to Kobe. From Osaka, it is a little over an hour’s drive or one-hour train ride.
Our one day in Kobe Japan
We arrived in Kobe from a cruise in the late fall. The mountain hills lit up with beautiful fall colors of orange, red, and yellows. As we got off the boat and headed to the local train stop, we found the city easy to navigate and to use public transportation.
Like all public transportation in Japan, the trains were clean and easy to use. Every train station was also immaculate. It still amazes me how clean the bathrooms are throughout Japan, even in a subway stop.
So if you are venturing from a cruise, Osaka, or Kyoto and only have a day to see Kobe here are some of our top things to see and do in a short amount of time.
Best itinerary for one day in Kobe Japan
- Start your day going up Rokko Mountain.
- Then make your way back down to the city of Kobe for lunch. Making sure to try the Kobe Beef.
- Next, do some shopping along Ikuta street heading towards Ikuta Shrine. Take our time at the shrine, but when you are ready, start heading towards Merikan Park and Kawasaki world.
- If you have the time, you can do the Maritime Museum but make sure you do the Kawasaki Good Times World. Hopefully, by the time you are done, the sun will be setting and you can get your night shot of the Port Tower, Be Kobe sign, and the Maritime Museum all lit up.
Take a trip up the Rokko mountain
Besides the amazing views of the city of Kobe and across the bay to Osaka, Rokko mountain offers various other sites. Rokko boasts a botanical garden, Japan’s first golf course, and the music box museum.
How to get up Rokko mountain
If you are in central Kobe at the Sannomiya Station, take the Hankyu Kobe Line to Rokko Sation. At this stop, you will need to get a bus. You will take bus 16 to the base station. Here you will get the Rokko Cable car. The bus and train ride will cost you about 190 yen (about $2.00 USD)
The Cable car to the top will take about 10 minutes but gives you a 360 panoramic view. The cable car ticket is 590-yen one way, or 1000 yen for a round trip ticket (about $6 one way, or $10 round trip).
Once at the top you will find the Garden Terrace. Here you will find a few restaurants and shops. A French restaurant and of course a couple of Kobe beef restaurants, yum. Each with a great view. These make for a great place for dinner and an evening view.
Now it’s time to head back down the mountain for some shopping and lunch! Follow the same route you used to get here but go backward now. Take the bus back to the Sannomiya train station. Or you can always take an Uber back to the station as well.
What is Kobe Beef?
If you’re a foodie or not, you’ve probably heard of Kobe beef. But what is it and why is it famous around the world?
Kobe beef has a higher marble count than any US beef that you can purchase. Making this meat extra tender and flavorful. Since it has a higher fat content, you may think it is unhealthy but actually it’s just the opposite.
Kobe beef is the healthiest red meat you can eat. It has a higher monounsaturated fat (300 times more than most red meat) which is high in omega 3 and 6. It is also low in cholesterol, in fact, it is surprisingly lower in cholesterol than chicken and even fish!
Since it is so unique, it is also expensive, especially if you happen to find it outside of Japan. Read more below to make sure you don’t pay for fake Kobe beef.
Where does Kobe beef come from?
Kobe beef comes from the Japanese black Wagyu, Tajima is the specific breed. This is the only type of cow that produces true Kobe beef. The cows must be raised and slaughtered according to very strict protocols set by the prefecture.
The rules are so strict there are only about 3,000 cows that met the criteria each year. Almost all of these are consumed in Japan. Most likely if you have purchased “Kobe beef” outside of Japan, it has not been true Kobe beef.
In fact, Kobe beef was banned in the United States in the early 2000s. The US banned beef during the mad cow scare, but they have relaxed since and there are a few restaurants in the US that do serve real Kobe beef.
If you are interested in trying it but can’t make it to Japan, this article in Business Insider said they found 8 restaurants in the US that do serve true Kobe Beef.
If you happen to be in Japan, make sure to splurge and try this beef!
Myths surrounding Kobe Beef
There are a lot of myths surrounding the treatment of handling the cows to ensure quality and taste. Here is the truth behind the myths:
- The cows used to be feed beer to give them more of an appetite. This practice has slowed down and is not generally used in today’s time.
- The cows are not mistreated. They do live in closer quarters than other breeds of cows, but they are treated very well by the farmers.
- They do receive massages from their caretakers. This is because this type of cow is made for heavy-duty work but they don’t work. These cows are bred for the meat so they don’t do any manual labor. In turn, the massages help the cows’ muscles.
- The cows do listen to classical music while they eat. The thought behind this is that by always listening to classical music while they eat, they will be more hungry when the music is playing.
Is it really worth it?
It is totally worth it! I am here to tell you that it is really different than any steak I have ever tasted. As soon as it hits your mouth, it begins to melt. You barely have to chew it!
Our kids are not normally big steak eaters, but we ordered one steak for them to share and it wasn’t enough! They were begging for more when they finished. Every one of them is still talking about how good the beef tasted.
I would say Kobe beef is a must-do when you are visiting Japan with kids. They will love the “show” while the meal is cooking and they will love the taste!
So how do you find Kobe beef?
There are a lot of tourist restaurants around that will serve Kobe beef. My best suggestion is to go to Google. Do a search for the best Kobe beef in the area where you are staying.
Make sure to check prices, Kobe beef can be extremely expensive. You don’t need to spend a ton to get a really good steak. We bought lunch for 3 people and the total was around $60 USD.
Ikuta Shrine – Inari Shrine
The Ikuta Shrine was founded in the 3rd century, making it over 1800 years old and possibly one of the oldest in the world. The shrine is surrounded by now modern buildings, shopping, and cafes, but it is still a hidden gem and sanctuary.
Imagine the shrine surrounded by acres and acres of forest. Behind the shrine is a grove of large trees with a peaceful stream. This shrine has withstood the test of time. It looks ageless.
How to find the shrine
The Shrine is located near the famous Sannomiya Shopping street, and a short walk from the Kobe Sannomiya Station, Kobe’s main station. The walk from the station can lead you past the Sannomiya shopping street.
The streets are lined with local shops, Kobe beef restaurants, and patisseries. As you turn the corner to head to the Ikuta Shrine, you will see the tall-red torii gate. Between the gates, the shrine sits perfectly framed.
Ikuta Inari Shrine
As you approach the shrine, remember to be reverent and talk quietly as there are worshipers using the shrine. Feel free to offer your own prayer. You can communicate your prayers and wishes by throwing a coin into the collections chest. This is located as you walk to the entrance of the shrine. Although, entrance to the shrine is free, feel free to offer a donation.
The Ikuta Inari Shrine is a beautiful place to take pictures. It is located behind the Ikuta shrine to the right or the Northeast corner. The Torii gates all in a line makes a great place to take pictures.
Remember to be respectful of others during your visit here. There are a lot of people saying prayers and it’s best to not disturb them.
Ikuta Shrine information:
– Address: 1 Chome-2-1 Shimoyamatedori, Chuo Ward, Hyogo Prefecture 650-0011, Japan
– Closest Metro/Transit stop: Sannomiya Station, Kobe’s main station. Short 10 minute or less walk.
– Best Time to visit: 07:00 am to 06:00 pm
– The time needed to visit: 30 -60 minutes
– Cost: Free!!! (Donations are always accepted)
– Tour: Tours not required. Enjoy this beautiful shrine and the grounds at your leisure and enjoy its peacefulness.
Ikuta Road Leading to Ikuta Shrine
The streets that surround the shrine are lined with shops and restaurants. Enjoy an afternoon wandering in and out of shops. Don’t miss the Japanese bakeries. They are delicious!
If you’d prefer to shop in a mall, there is a large modern mall just on the other side of the train station from the shrine, it is an easy 10-minute walk over to the mall.
Kobe Maritime Museum, Kawasaki Good Times World, & Meriken Park
If you have only a short time or even just a couple of hours in Kobe. Make sure that you head to Meriken Park. Meriken Park is a waterfront park on Kobe’s port. This is where you are going to find the Maritime Musem, Kobe Port Tower, and Kawasaki Good Times world.
There is also a small memorial to the 1995 devastating earthquake that hit Kobe. This is well worth your time in Kobe during the day and when it is all lit up at night.
Kobe Port Tower
If you have seen pictures of the city of Kobe, you will notice the red-steel hourglass-shaped tower. The tower looks like a steel lattice interwoven. You can go up the tower during the day for a small entrance fee.
If you are wanting a view of the city, this will give you a good birds-eye view, but I would recommend the views from Rokko Mountain. If you are visiting the Maritime museum or Kawasaki world, it is worth the time to go up the tower as well. But if your only plan is to go up the tower for a view, I feel like you can get just as good or better views from other places.
I do recommend coming at night for some of the iconic night photos. The Museum closes at 6:00 pm but going to Meriken Park makes for great photos. It is also a great place to spend your evening. You can walk through the park, or along the waterfront. Meriken Park is also where the “Be Kobe” sign is located.
Next to the Port tower, you will see the white steel-framed building. It’s designed to give the impression of a sailboat. This is the Kobe Maritime Museum. In the Museum there are model ships, sailboats, and boats throughout. It goes through the evolution of maritime transport.
The replica models are fun to see and it is interesting. If you are into sailing or boats, in general, it is well worth your time. For the average traveler, it was good but not great. We enjoyed the park and outside architecture more.
Kawasaki Good Times World
When I think of Kawasaki, the first and really only thing that comes to mind is motorbikes. I had no idea that Kawasaki also manufactures heavy equipment, bullet trains, helicopters, aerospace and defense equipment, and boats. They also have an active production line of robots, gas turbines, and boilers for other industries.
When I heard about Kawasaki Good Times World, I wasn’t that excited. I’m not into dirt bikes and it couldn’t imagine it being that interesting.
Really it is like a small amusement park full of interactive activities. It has robots, racing games on bikes, jet ski, and a flight simulator. This was actually a great place for all ages. Kids loved the games, and so did the adults since the technology is super interesting.
The museum has displays with many of Kawasaki’s products and a collection of motorbikes. You are able to sit, touch, and climb on many of them.
Kawasaki Good Times World is a little small and actually keeps you wanting more. If you are a motorcycle enthusiast, this needs to be on your list, but even if you are not, you will find it well worth your time, especially if you are traveling with kids in Kobe. I would add this to the top of my list of things to do with kids in Japan.
– Address: Meriken Park, 2-2 Hatobacho, Chuo-ku, Kobe-shi
– Closest Metro/Transit stop: Motomachi Station on JR Kobe Line (about a 10-15 minute walk)
– Best Time to visit: 10:00 am to 05:00 pm for the museums, but Night offers beautiful shots of the architecture, the port tower, and the Ferris Wheel nearby.
– The time needed to visit: 2-3 hours
– Cost: Maritime Museum & Kawasaki Good Times World (Adults: 600 yen, Kids: 250 yen)
Port Tower: (Adults: 700 yen, Kids: 300 yen)
multi-use tickets for both (Adults: 1,000 yen, kids 400 yen)
**Pro Tip~ Tickets for Kobe Maritime Museum include entrance to Kawasaki Good Times World and Port Tower.
Is Kobe worth visiting?
Honestly, I wish we had more time in Kobe. We visited in the fall, so the leaves were in fall colors, the temperatures were cool but not cold. It is a beautiful city with lots to discover and I wish I had more time to spend there. This is a place I would recommend if you are traveling with kids or without.
I also love the cooler weather in the fall. In my opinion, the fall is the best time to go to Japan and Kobe’s mountains that were covered in colors did not disappoint!
So you are all set to spend one day enjoying Kobe, Japan!