Once the busiest port in Japan, this attractive city was devastated by an earthquake in 1995 and even after rebuilding never regained its maritime dominance. Nevertheless, its ultra-modern Harborland, crowned by the Kobe Port Tower offers a warm welcome to the Kansai district of Japan. Kansai is ruled by a trio of Japan’s most important cities: Kobe, Osaka and Kyoto. One of the first cities in Japan opened to trade, Kobe has a cosmopolitan air that includes a venerable Chinatown and a section of 19th-Century Western-style buildings in the Kitano neighborhood. The city’s history began in the 3rd-Century with construction of the Ikuta Shrine. Many visitors ascend looming Mt. Rokko via the Shinkobe Ropeway, for panoramic views over the city and the glass-domed Nunobiki Herb Garden on the slopes. The Arima Onsen hot springs right in Kobe is one of Japan, most famous spas.
Massive Osaka is the largest of the trio of cities, with over 2.5 million people and attractions of its own including a reconstructed castle, the impressive Kaikuyan Aquarium and the odd-ball Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum commemorating the man who invented the ubiquitous cup-of-noodles.
The richest repository of Japanese culture, however, is centered in Kyoto, where a UNESCO World Heritage Site encompasses no fewer than 17 structures as the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. Castles, gardens, temples and other treasures abound, and make a compelling reason for visitors to make the pilgrimage from Kobe for the day.