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One of the first cities to open to outside trade in the 1860s, Kobe has long been a prominent port. Though the city suffered extensive damage in the 1995 earthquake, it has since rebuilt much of what was lost, though it did drop to fourth busiest port in Japan (prior to the earthquake, it was the busiest port). Today, Kobe is a cosmopolitan, cultured city, home not only to relaxing hot springs, Kobe beef (derived from Japanese Wagyu cattle), but also a wealth of historical and cultural attractions - the best of which may well be Himeji Castle, widely regarded by experts as the last, finest remaining example of Japanese castle design.
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Visit Himeji Castle, located in Hyogo Prefecture about one hour west of Kobe. Comprising 83 wooden buildings, it is occasionally known as Shirasagijo ("White Heron Castle") because of its brilliant white exterior. Explore the castle grounds and learn about Japan's feudal era, when shoguns and samurai held sway.
Visit a small batch sake brewery. Besides its ubiquitous beer brands such as Sapporo and Asahi, Japan's most famous alcoholic export is sake. There are varying grades of sake based on the polishing of the rice; the more the rice is polished, the stronger the flavor. Have a private tasting with a sake sommelier and learn more about the intricacies of sake making and the culture of sake drinking.
Sample Kobe’s most famous export – its beef. Raised from a special strain of Japanese Wagyu cattle, Kobe beef is famous for its distinct flavor, tenderness, and its fatty, marbled texture. This meat can be prepared a number of ways, either in stews like sukiyaki and shabu-shabu, raw in sashimi or grilled on teppanyaki. Pair the meat with an assortment of Japanese beverages, from umeshu, or plum wine, to shochu, a distilled liquor native to Japan.
Earthquake Memorial Museum
Visit the state-of-the-art Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial Museum, whose several floors of interactive, multimedia exhibits include a theatrical recreation – not for the faint of heart – of 5:46 a.m. on January 17, 1995, the moment the earthquake struck.
Take a deep breath and inhale the sweet scent of cherry blossoms on this 7-day luxury tour of Southern Japan. You’ll travel from Osaka to Hiroshima, visiting ancient temples and museums, and being entertained by puppets and Geishas, while staying at luxurious Japan hotels like Hoshinoya Kyoto along the way.
Discover beautifully-preserved French architecture and decor in the heart of Kobe, one of Japanâ€™s most cosmopolitan cities. Enter the red brick building to find the charming courtyard and lovely interior garden, a venue ideal for the hotelâ€™s afternoon tea set, which you may sip amongst the native Japanese flowers. The hotelâ€™s 30 beautifully-equipped rooms, with special-order furniture from Britain, are decked out in the hotelâ€™s signature elegant, aristocratic decor. The main attraction, though, is chef Hiroshi Yamaguchiâ€™s unequalled skill in the kitchen, creating dishes to entrance, amuse, and indulge your palate. Choose from both a classic dining room setting, with an open-kitchen twist, or a more relaxed, casual dining cafe - both venues are ideal spots to sample the chefâ€™s latest culinary innovations.
Kobe Meriken Park Oriental Hotel
Though built in the shape of a luxury cruise liner, Kobe Meriken Park Oriental Hotel isn’t going anywhere, and why would it? Its unique location, surrounded 270 degrees by sea, offers visitors and guests breathtaking views of the harbour and cityscape below. The hotel is located within Meriken Park, which is also home to the city’s symbol, the Port Tower, as well as the Maritime Museum. Furthermore, the hotel’s dining options will ensure every palate is satisfied, with an oceanfront terrace restaurant, a steakhouse where chefs will prepare world-renowned Kobe beef right before your eyes, a fine dining lounge overlooking the harbour, and, of course, a Japanese restaurant serving up the freshest sushi in town, amongst other great dining venues. The hotel’s location is also ideal for onward travelers, with the JR Kobe Train Station only a five-minute drive away, and the Minato-Motomachi Subways Station just a 10-minute drive. There is even a daily complimentary shuttle to JR Sannomiya Train Station.
Oriental Hotel Kobe
One of Asia’s most historic hotels, dating back to 1870, the Oriental Hotel Kobe effortlessly melds modernity with tradition. The hotel offers expansive views of both the ocean and the city, from air-conditioned, comfortable rooms, where luxury toiletries and complimentary WiFi access are standard features. Its many facilities will help guests feel right at home, from concierge services, to child-minding services, to a day spa, as well as great restaurants, including The House of the Pacific, serving up traditional Italian food with a twist, and the J.W. Hart bar, the ideal spot to sip on a glass of wine while looking out over the vibrant Kobe evening views. Should guests decide to check out the city, the neighborhood surrounding the hotel offers several bars and restaurants serving up a variety of cuisines.