By Jaime Wong
Kobe has a personality all its own and is one of the reasons I want to keep going back.
In 1995 they experienced a devastating earthquake with 6,500 deaths and over 30,000 people injured. Sadly, 20% of the houses in this metro area of 2.5 million were badly damaged and over 100,000 businesses were destroyed. International experts predicted it would take 10 years to recover economically from this disaster. But 15 months after the quake, manufacturing was at 98% of what is was prior to 1995 and in another 3 months most of the retail stores were re-opened for business. The Japanese people are very resilient and work together as a population to restore what has been lost.
Upon leaving the station and taking the excellent loop bus to Kobe Tower we witnessed a part of the port that was destroyed that remains as a reminder of what was and how much change can be made. We rode to the top of the tower for a panoramic view of this modern city and nearby Mt. Rokko.
Thanks to the loop bus we were able to eat a great knife cut noodle lunch in Chinatown and see Kitano, the western style area. One building I especially liked was the Rhine House built in 1915 and fully restored to its original image after receiving heavy damage during the earthquake. Just across the street was a real nice café where we enjoyed afternoon sweets with coffee. While visiting Japan, be sure to include several stops at the local cafes. Their sweets are a complete work of art and it is almost a sin to go ahead and eat them. I usually take a quick picture and then dig in.
This particular trip was a short stop over on our way to Osaka, so we decided to return in November to stay at the top of Mt. Rokko. It was an exciting ride taking a bus from Kobe station to the Maya cable car and ropeway to the top of Mt Maya (there is very nice park right at the top) and then finally a shuttle to the Grand Hotel Sky Villa on Mt. Rokko. The view of the city from the ropeway is very nice.
After check-in we walked to the Alpine Botanical Garden and onto the Rokko Observation Deck for a view of Kobe and Osaka off in the distance. We then strolled through many of the very nice shops connected to the observation deck. There is a wooded path that led us right back to our hotel.
The Grand Hotel Sky Villa was a pleasant experience. It is located in the Setonaikai National Park. The rooftop terrace offers a beautiful night view of the Kobe and Osaka skylines. In 2015 the Mt. Rokko and Mt. Maya view qualified as one of the 3 major night views of Japan. It was a clear and crisp night allowing us to see even Wakayama way off in the distance. This hotel had exceptional friendly service and the meals were way beyond expectations. The chefs prepare special seasonal cuisine that will keep you coming back for more. The dinning area had large windows with panoramic views. Miwa and I enjoyed hiking in the nearby woods. There is also an onsite library with many quiet spaces throughout the facility. In the morning, our breakfast was almost as sensational as dinner. When visiting the Kobe area I highly recommend you experience the Grand Hotel Sky Villa. It is reasonably priced and they offer special package deals year round. The free shuttle picked us up at the Ropeway and when we left took us directly to Kobe station.
Kobe is another Japanese city that requires multiple visits in order to experience it all. I for one will be returning many times.
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Born in the U.S.A. - Worked 30 years in executive management high tech Industry, owned a management consulting firm and a wildlife art publishing company. In 2012 completed the Ultimate Travel Writer’s course and published my first article Tower Hopping in Japan with Travel Post Monthly. Since then I have published travel related articles and books in the U.S., Japan, and Costa Rica. As of 2018 I have traveled all 8 regions in Japan. My objective in writing articles is to expose prospective tourists to areas of Japan outside the Tokyo - Kyoto corridor. I enjoy writing about the outdoors, festivals, crafts, museums, local food, history, and the wonderful people I have met along the way. Residing in Yokohama for over five years, I have explored the entire city by foot and have written about my experiences. There is so much to see in Japan.