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Kobe resonates with a cool, hip vibe, a condition of its internationalism and its position between mountains and sea. With more than 44,000 gaijin (foreigners) living in the city, representing more than 120 countries, Kobe may be Japan's most diverse city. It has great international cuisine, from Indonesian to French. It also has some of the best Japanese cuisine, especially the famous Kobe beef.
Kobe's diversity is largely attributable to its harbor. The port was a major center for trade with China dating back to the Nara period (710-794). Kobe's prominence increased briefly for six months in the 12th century when the capital was moved from Kyoto to Fukuhara, now western Kobe. Japan acquiesced to opening five ports, and on January 1, 1868, international ships sailed into Kobe's harbor. American and European sailors and traders soon settled in Kobe, and their culture and technology spread throughout the city. Cinema and jazz made their debut in Kobe, and that legacy is ongoing. Many original residences have survived, and the European structures contrast strikingly with the old Japanese buildings and modern high-rises.
Prior to 1995, Kobe was Japan's busiest port. But on January 17, 1995, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 hit the Kobe area, killing more than 6,400 people, injuring almost 40,000, and destroying more than 100,000 homes. Communication lines were destroyed, damaged roads prevented escape and relief, and fires raged throughout the city. Kobe made a remarkable and quick recovery.
The city now pulses with the activity of a modern, industrialized city. The colorful skyline reflects off the night water, adding to Kobe's reputation as a city for lovers. Don't come to Kobe looking for traditional Japan; appreciate its urban energy, savor its international cuisine, and take advantage of its shopping.
Kobe at a Glance
- Eikoku-kan (English House)
- Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum
- Hanshin Awaji Daishinsai Kinen (Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial)
- Harborland and Meriken Park
- Himejo-jo (Himeji Castle)
- Hyogo Kenritsu Bijutsukan (Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art)
- Ikuta Jinja (Ikuta Shrine)
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