Kobe (神戸市 Kōbe-shi , Japanese pronunciation: [koːꜜbe]), is the fifth-largest city in Japan and is the capital city of Hyōgo Prefecture on the southern side of the main island of Honshū. With a population of about 1.5 million, the city is part of the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area. (Kobe is approx 365 miles SW from Tokyo)
Kobe did not exist in its current form until its founding in 1889. Its name comes from "kanbe" (神戸), an archaic title for supporters of the city's Ikuta Shrine. Kobe became one of Japan's 17 designated cities in 1956.
Kobe was one of the cities to open for trade with the West following the 200 yr policy of seclusion and has since been known as a cosmopolitan port city. While the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake diminished much of Kobe's prominence as a port city, it remains Japan's fourth busiest container port. Companies headquartered in Kobe include ASICS, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, and Kobe Steel, as well as over 100 international corporations with Asia or Japan headquarters in the city such as Eli Lilly and Company, Procter & Gamble, Boehringer Ingelheim and Nestlé.The city is the point of origin and namesake of Kobe beef as well as the site of one of Japan's most famous hot spring resorts, Arima Onsen.
During World War II, Kobe was bombed in the Doolittle Raid on April 18, 1942 along with Tokyo and a few other cities. Eventually, it was bombed again with incendiary bombs by B-29 bombers on March 17, 1945, causing the death of 8,841 residents and destroying 21% of Kobe's urban area. It is this incident that inspired the well-known Studio Ghibli film Grave of the Fireflies and the book byAkiyuki Nosaka on which the film was based.
On January 17, 1995, an earthquake measuring at 7.2 on the Richter magnitude scale occurred at 5:46 am JST near the city. 6,434 people in the city were killed, 212,443 were made homeless, and large parts of the port facilities and other parts of the city were destroyed. The earthquake destroyed portions of the Hanshin Expressway, an elevated freeway that dramatically toppled over. In Japan, the earthquake is known as the Great Hanshin Earthquake (or the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake). To commemorate Kobe's recovery from the 1995 quake, the city holds an event every December called the Luminarie, where the city center is decorated with illuminated metal archways.
The landmark of the port area is the red steel Port Tower. A giant Ferris wheel sits in nearby Harborland, a notable tourist promenade. Two artificial islands, Port Island and Rokkō Island, have been constructed to give the city room to expand.
Mount Rokkō overlooks Kobe at an elevation of 931 meters. During the autumn season, it is famous for the rich change in colors of its forests.
Kobe has a humid subtropical climate with hot summers and cool to cold winters. Precipitation is significantly higher in summer than in winter, though on the whole lower than most parts of Honshū, and there is no significant snowfall.
The four most common nationalities in Kobe are Korean (22,237), Chinese (12,516),Vietnamese (1,301), and American (1,280) out of a population of 1.5 million (foreigners from more than 110 different nations currently reside here, and there are a number of fine restaurants serving every kind of cuisine -- Western, Chinese, Korean, and Indian -- as well as many steakhouses offering that famous local delicacy, Kobe beef.)
Kobe is most famous for its Kobe beer and Arima Onsen (or "hot springs"). Notable buildings include theIkuta Shrine as well as the Kobe Port Tower. It is well known for the night view of the city, from mountains such as Mount Rokkō, and Mount Maya as well as the coast. Kobe is also known for having a somewhat exotic atmosphere by Japanese standards, which is mainly as a result of its history as a port city.
The city is also widely associated with cosmopolitanism and fashion, encapsulated in the Japanese phrase, "If you can't go to Paris, go to Kobe." The biannual fashion event Kobe Fashion Week, centered around the Kobe Collection is held in Kobe. The jazz festival "Kobe Jazz Street" has been held every October at jazz clubs and hotels since 1981.
And don't forget to check out Kobe's fashion museum when you are in town!
(Kobe is also home to the world's longest suspension bridge, Akashi Kaikyo, one of a series of bridges linking Honshu with Shikoku at 12,831 ft. - the longest span of the bridge is in the middle at 6,500 feet!)