Experience Kobe from its tradition, modernity, multiculturalism, and nature (Day 2)
Started off my second day nice and early in Sannomiya. Most Japanese stores and cafes open at 10am, but you know you can count on places like Starbucks to be open. You might be wondering “Why Starbucks?” This particular store in Kitano Ijinkan is a little different from your usual stylish Starbucks store and you will see why in just a bit. Instead of going straight to Starbucks, I decided to visit Ikuta Shrine on the way there.
So I went along Ikuta Road that led me straight to the shrine.
The shrine is actually dedicated to the god of women, so it is famous as a shrine for marriage and health.
This might remind you of the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto. Although Ikuta Shrine is of a smaller scale, it’s great for photos because it’s much quieter than Fushimi Inari Shrine,
which is constantly packed with visitors!
After making some wishes, I was on my way again.
The Kitano area in Kobe is lined with a diverse range of stores from all around the world
like Russia, Europe and India to name a few.
Being a port city, Kobe has been influenced by foreign cultures from over a century and it can be seen and felt throughout the city.
With its location in Ijinkan, or the foreign settlement in Kobe, Starbucks Kitano Ijinkan
contains many of the architectural features common to the residences of foreigners who settled in Kobe during the Meiji Period.
It also has a retro interior that isn’t what you would expect from looking at its exterior!
It feels like I’ve stepped back into the early 20 th century.
They’ve also got a great selection of sweet and savoury pastries and cakes that will satisfy any cravings.
They’ve also got sandwiches, wraps and baguettes.
After I collected my order, I went up the stairs and was utterly surprised by the layout of the rooms I could choose to dine in.
Each and every room has a different setting which was pretty cool.
This is the ‘Study Room’.
I decided on the sun room for its sunshine and scenery.
For my meal, I went for the Tuna and Avocado Sandwich as well as the Orange Cranberry Scone with my Starbucks Latte. I also received a free Earl Grey cake to try. The whole atmosphere of Starbucks Kitano Ijinkan was relaxing and it gave my day a great start. They open from 8am and the store does get busy from 10am onwards, so my tip would be to get in early.
Next I was headed for Sorakuen Garden. I went on the subway from Sannomiya Station to Kenchomae Station, which is just a stop away.
There are many exits at Kenchomae Station, but the one that will get you closest to Sorakuen Garden is the West Exit 2.
Sorakuen Garden is just a few minutes’ walk from Kenchomae Station.
Although it’s just a stop away from the bustling Sannomiya, it’s unexpectedly quiet, calm and relaxing.
As soon as you enter the garden, you will be greeted by a whole range of flowers.
Sorakuen Garden is the only traditional Japanese-style garden in Kobe.
Alongside the traditional layout, you can also spot the wave of westernisation experienced during the Meiji Period on the same premise.
There is also a Japanese garden and pond in Sorakuen Garden where people would
sketch and paint at. It is very picturesque and I may have been a tiny bit early to catch the Momoji, or autumnal colours in the gardens.
After leaving Sorakuen Garden, I made my way to Shin-Kobe Station for the Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens, or “Habu-en”, as the locals call it.
Since it’s one of the main attractions in Kobe, there were signs to the gardens as soon as I left the station.
So all I had to do was follow the signs and there I was at the ropeway that leads to the garden.
Entrance to the ropeway.
Entrance to the ropeway.
Herb Gardens Bottom Station
They also have a weather forecast board that tells you the temperature, wind speed, and visibility at the top of the gardens on the day.
Apparently even Kobe Airport is visible on a clear day!
I hopped into one of their cable cars and off (or up) I went. Since it was mid-Autumn, the weather was a little chilly so they had blankets in each carriage to keep visitors nice and toasty. I was pretty impressed!
Scenic view of Kobe from the cable car.
There is also an information sheet that tells you what you can see from inside the cable car.
After a 10-minute ride, I arrived at the Herb Gardens Top Station.
Different herbs and flowers bloom throughout the four seasons. There are many events that take place in the gardens, such as the German Festival, Herb and Spice Carnival and so
on. So be sure to check them out in advance.
After all that walking, I decided to have lunch at Herb Dining, one of the restaurants near the Welcome Garden. It’s a buffet-style restaurant known for incorporating various herbs into its dishes.
There was a wide spread of appetisers, hot food, bread, rice, soups and desserts.
Selection of hot food.
There was also a selection of floral and herb tea. Some include Rose, German Chamomile, and Lavender. I went for ‘Beauty’ since it was one of the highly recommended ones, and because I needed some.
Just too pretty to eat. But as soon as I started eating, it was gone within seconds.
Their hot food selection was great as well. There was actually a wider spread but I had to surrender because I was still full from breakfast.
I’d definitely come back again, next time on an empty stomach.
Just next to the building where Herb Dining is, you can find your favourite scent from over 50 scents available. You can then pop over to the gift shop to purchase it before you leave the gardens.
It’s very therapeutic walking through the gardens.
You can even get Lavender flavoured ice cream here!
IThe Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens was more spacious than what I had anticipated.
I’d say setting aside 2 hours is just the right amount of time.
Herb Gardens Mid Station
I then hopped onto the cable car from Herb Gardens Mid Station to Herb Gardens Bottom Station where I started from.
By the time I was done with the Herb Gardens, it was still early, so I decided to head off to Mt. Rokko to visit the Rokko Shidare Observatory via the Rokko Cable Car. After getting off the cable car at the top of the mountain, I took the bus that goes towards Rokko Garden
Terrace and got off at Rokko Garden Terrace bus stop. The Rokko Shidare Observatory is just a short walk from there, you won’t miss it!
Illumination at the Rokko Shidare Observatory.
Its dome shape structure changes colour every few seconds.
View of Kobe from inside the dome.
The Rokko Shidare Observatory is shaped like a giant tree with its trunk covered with branches and leaves.
It was time for dinner and fortunately there are quite a number of restaurants in GardenTerrace.
I decided on Granite Café because of their spectacular view of Kobe City.
Overlooking Kobe City.
I went for the Autumn Special set meal that included a soup of the day, salad, and main.
I also ordered a brown sugar Umeshu (Japanese plum wine) with my meal.
The main meal was inspired by the Rokko Shidare Observatory.
When I was done with dinner and enjoying Granite Café’s ambience, I took the bus fromGarden Terrace back to the cable car and headed back down to the city.
I managed to get front seats in the cable car! The ride back down was amazing. The lights in the carriage were dimmed during the ride for visitors to fully enjoy the Autumn light-up of the maple leaves along the way.
And that was the end of my 2-day Kobe trip. I left feeling very accomplished and satisfied.
Kobe has so much to offer and I’m glad I got to experience many of its hidden gems.
There’s still so much to explore which I will do so before I leave Japan.