Kobe in Winter
Probably the most famous winter attraction in Kobe is the light festival known as KOBE Luminarie, an elaborate illumination event held every December since 1995 to commemorate the victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake, which struck the city that year. The lights attract admirers from far and wide with their glorious, festive glow. A more recent winter attraction is the Kobe Night Market, also held in early December next to the central Daimaru department store.
Winter is also the perfect time to enjoy one of Kobe's hot springs. In addition to numerous "sento" public bathhouses near downtown, Japan's oldest hot-spring resort - Arima Onsen - is just 30 minutes or so from Sannomiya and offers a wide choice of bathing, accommodation and dining options. One stand-out option there, apart from the famous Kin no Yu and Gin no Yu, is the newly renovated Taiko Hot Spring complex, said to have been founded by the namesake samurai who was particularly fond of the Arima area. Another option is the Kobe Rokko Onsen Hamaizumi, part of the Sheraton Hotel on Rokko Island, which features hinoki cypress baths and elegant facilities.
Skiing and sledging are available until March at Rokko Snow Park - since all equipment can be rented on the day, feel free to come as you are. When evening draws in, you can keep skiing under the lights or hop over to Kobe Fruit and Flower Park to enjoy the winter illuminations.
Finally, one of the most enjoyable winter highlights is a very Japanese celebration - watching the first sunrise of the new year (hatsu hinode), traditionally regarded as auspicious. Kobe visitors can do just that with early morning rides up to Mount Rokko, Mount Maya or Nunobiki Herb Garden. After that, why not visit a shrine to usher in good fortune for the coming year? Kobe has more than enough choice: Ikuta Shrine (the city's most famous), Minatogawa and Nagata are the top go-to venues.
A beautiful light festival held in downtown Kobe every December since 1995 to honor the memory of the victims claimed by the Great Hanshin Earthquake of that year. The brilliant lights attract visitors from far and wide.
One of Japan's oldest and most famous hot spring bathing resorts, Arima's history dates back over a thousand years, and its health-giving waters and luxurious lodgings have been enjoyed by locals and visitors alike for centuries. Most famous are the 'Kin-no-Yu' (Golden Bath), an iron-rich sodium-choride spring, and the 'Gin-no-Yu' (Silver Bath), which is rich in radium. At around 42-44 degrees C, both will warm the body and soul.
Rokko Snow Park
Its friendly slopes will delight even the absolute beginner skier, and its chairlift accommodates pairs, letting parents and youngsters share their skiing experience. Ski lessons are provided across the board in Japanese, and the whole complex is open until 10pm at weekends, public holidays and winter breaks, making it the perfect escape after a day of work or play.
First Sunrise of the New Year (Hatsu Hinode)
Why not take advantage of Kobe's mountains and enjoy the first sunrise of the new year from the top? Choose from Mount Rokko, Mount Maya or Nunobiki Herb Garden!