Kobe (神戸 Kobe?) is a large city located along the southeast coast of Hyogo Prefecture with a population of about 1.5 million people. Kobe is located west of Osaka. At a time the largest port city in Japan, it has since become the 3rd largest port city, due to the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. More general background information here.
To/from the airportEdit
Kobe Airport is easily accessible via the Port Liner train line to and from Sannomiya (the last stops on either end are downtown Kobe and Kobe Airport). However, international travelers will probably prefer Kansai Airport in Osaka, most easily accessible by the Airport Limosine bus service. Tickets from Kobe can be purchased easily in Sannomiya from ticket counters or vending machines. Take note, however, that the Airport Limosine service does not depart from the bus stop outside of the Sannomiya JR Station, but rather just outside of the Mint Kobe.
Kobe has several major train lines and stations distributed throughout the city, including the JR, Hanshin, and Hankyu lines which connect Kobe to other cities in the Kansai area. In addition, there are the Seishin-Yamate and Kaigan subway lines which run from suburban Seishin-Chuo, through downtown Sannomiya, to Shin Kobe, with the Kaigan line having several stops along the coastal area. There are also other train lines, including the Kobe Dentetsu and Sanyo Dentetsu lines.
A number of online services exist for determining the best train routes to get around Japan, and these are even quite accurate within a city. | Hyperdia has a nice English section for entering your origin and destination, and seeing a range of possible travel options by train.
Kobe also has regular transportation available by city buses, which cost 210￥ regardless of the destination. There are also privately owned bus services where cost varies according to destination.
Transportation in Kobe is most easily achieved by a combination of trains and buses. Cars are generally seen as unnessecary for the casual commuter, as train and bus schedules run regularly from early in the morning to fairly late in the evening. Bicycling in Kobe varies, as many areas are extremely hilly while others are fairly flat (Sannomiya, Motomachi). Serious cycling culture is not as prevalent as in other flatter cities, notably Osaka, although many people use normal "mama-chari" bicycles in their local neighborhoods.
The downtown areas of Sannomiya, Motomachi, and Harborland are easily navigated on foot.
Kobe JETs generally live in 4 suburban locations: Gakuentoshi, Hanayama, Port Island, and Tamondai. As of 2014, all incoming JETs will live in either Hanayama or Tamondai.
Gakuentoshi (学園都市) is located in Nishi ward (西区 - Nishi-ku) of Kobe and is currently home to roughly 10 JET program participants. It lies on the Seishin-Yamate Subway line and is approximately 25 minutes train ride away from Sannomiya (三宮). JETs placed in this area live in close proximity to one another, as well as many city conveniences. Kobe's Costco is located within walking distance of Gakuentoshi.
Hanayama (花山) is located in Kita ward (北区 - Kita-ku) and is home to about 30-40 JETs. It is on the Kobe Dentetsu line, in the mountains located to the north of Kobe. Hanayama is as little as 13 minutes away from Sannomiya by train, thanks to the Hokushin Kyuko railway line (北神急行), which runs for under the mountains for 7.5 kilometres. Hanayama is noted for its beautiful scenery and the strong sense of community among its JET residents.
Port Island (ポートアイランド) is located in Chuo ward (中央区 - Chuo-ku) and is home to many of the JET families. The area is served by the Port Liner (ポートライナー), which runs between Sannomiya, the Kobe airport, and several stops on Port Island. Kobe's Ikea store is located on Port Island.
Tamondai (多聞台) is the newest area for housing accommodation. It is about a 10-15 minute bus ride away from Gakuentoshi in one direction and Maiko station in the other. Tamondai is located in Tarumi ward (垂水区 - Tarumi-ku) and is currently home to roughly 40 JET program participants.
School placements are influenced by but not limited to housing arrangements. The vast majority of Kobe JETs teach at the junior high school level, while a few teach at high schools throughout the city. Schools are distributed throughout the city, ranging from rural to urban. Many Kobe JETs also make elementary school visits, while a select few teach at elementary school full time.
Kobe is well-known as a relatively international-friendly city, and there are large populations of zainichi Korean and Chinese people (in addition to other minorities), as well as a thriving and tight-knit English-speaking foreigner community. With occasional excursions to Osaka, the majority of Kobe JETs are happy to hang out together in the Sannomiya area on weekends. A generally agreed-upon location for Friday happy-hour drinks is the Hub, a foreigner-centric chain pub located just outside of Sannomiya station.
Places to visitEdit
Shopping Shopping in Kobe is quite convenient, and fairly all-encompassing. Sannomiya could be considered the shopping hub of the city, although there is still plenty to see in many of the other areas. Clothing (major brand and boutique, second hand, and other) can be found easily in Sannomiya and Motomachi. A supermarket or convenience store is usually never far away, and there are also a few excellent foreign grocery stores as well.
JETs that live in Gakuentoshi are only a <5 minute walk from Daiei, and surrounding shops also include a book store and several resaurants.
JETs that live in Hanayama can choose from the small Co-op Mini in Hanayama, Max Valu in Oike, or Gyomu Supermarket (業務スーパー) near Tanigami. Gyomu is a longer walk, but it offers by far the best prices in the area, as well as some rarer non-Japanese food items.
Another option for Hanayaman JETs is to go to Okaba Station (about 18 minutes by train from Hanayama). In addition to a Daiei and a full-sized Co-op, there are also two foreign food import stores, one of which does imported alcohol. The shopping complex also features three 100-yen shops, several clothing and shoe stores, a fabric store, a garden centre, an electronics store, a sportswear store, and a Saizeriya.
- Co-op Mini (Hanayama) (コープミニ), (Located in the Hanayama Shopping Centre next to Buildings 25 and 26.), Daily, 9 am to 10 pm.. Sells basic food and household items (cleaning supplies, stationery, etc.). Not the cheapest option, but it is the most convenient for Hanayama residents.
- Max Valu (Oike) (マックスバリュ), ((by train) From Oike Station, turn right and walk toward the main road. Turn left onto the main road. After about 5 minutes, you'll find Max Valu, Daiso, Baskin Robbins, Welco, and a few other shops in a shopping complex.
(on foot) From Hanayama, follow the main road past the Family Mart for about 15 minutes. The shopping complex is on the right.), 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.. Full-size supermarket with reasonable prices. Also has a small bakery.
- Daiei (Gakuentoshi) (ダイエイ), Located behind "the round", a large dome-shaped structure adjacent to Gakuentoshi station (it looks like a poke-stadium), (N/A), Daily from 9:00 to 10:30. Description here
- Daimaru (大丸), Southwest of the Sannomiya JR station, near Chinatown, Suggested by many as an excellent place to buy gifts (or omiyage), it's selection is enormous, although prices tend to run on the expensive side.
Home & Garden storesEdit
- Konan (Tanigami) (コーナン), (From Tanigami Station, head west (away from Hanayama) along the main road for about 5 minutes. Konan is the large two-storey building on the right.), Sells a range of home supplies at discount prices - cleaning supplies and home maintenance-type items are best purchased from here. They also sell inexpensive furniture, housewares, small appliances, and bicycles.
- Konan (Gakuentoshi) (コーナン), (Walking from Amity/Scholars House apartments, head out of any of the back exits away from the station. Cross the street keep walking past Kobe University of Design, until you reach a T-junction. Take the small path through the bit of nature into the strange suburban area. Beyond the houses, you will find Konan, Nitori (furniture), and Sports Depot.), Daily (time?). Sells a range of home supplies at discount prices - cleaning supplies and home maintenance-type items are best purchased from here. Incidentally, they also happen to sell discount furniture and bicycles.
- Junkudo, Sentagai, (Follow Flower Road south from Sannomiya JR station, cross first traffic light intersection, Sentagai is the large tunnel on the right (labeled appropriately). Junkudo is near the end of the tunnel on the left.), A large Japanese book store, with a small section of English titles. Incidentally, also one of the best bookstores for Japanese study materials.
Kobe offers a plethora of choices for eating out. In addition to the usual Japanese options, there are Okinawan, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Persian, and Thai restaurants within walking distance of the JR Sannomiya train station.
Vegetarian JETs are easily catered for at the Indian and Thai restaurants, and there are also a few vegetarian restaurants to choose from. Modernark Pharm Cafe has been a long-standing favourite. And the recently-established PINK WEED Cafe is a 100% vegan restaurant.
Gluten-sensitive JETs will find a few restaurants that cater for them (the Indian and Thai restaurants are particularly good for this), but for specific help, try the Gluten-Free JET group on facebook.
Kobe beef (神戸ビーフ) is available in some resturants, but be prepared to pay handsomely for the actual beef.
- IZNT, Ikuta Road, (it will come up in google)
A pretty happening place on Friday and Saturday Nights, almost a nightclub atmosphere, but not quite. Probably the place Kobe JETs go to most often. Weekdays offer a much more toned down experience, and the happy hour until 8 offers food and a beer for 1000 yen. Also, there is always an open mic night on Tuesdays, which Kobe JETs occasionally agree to attend en masse and preform at.
- Mickey's Club, Near Ikuta Shrine (it will come up in google)
Unlike the name would suggest, this place is not a club. Rather, it's a small little bar with great atmosphere and staff. The bar master and owner is a Canadian guy from Ladner BC. They also serve really good food and delicious cocktails. The only drawback to this place is that it's a little more expensive than your standard fare, and it can get filled up quickly on Fridays and Saturdays. Other than that, it's a diamond of a place.
- The Hub, Ikuta Road, (On exiting the Seishin Yamate Subway west exit in Sannomiya, turn left, and immediately left again, and take the elevator down to Basement 1.), Friday nights are all that really matter. The general JET favourite meeting place. Staff are friendly and understand at least enough English to know what you need to drink. Most JETs will meet here on a Friday evening to plan the night's activities.
All Kobe JETs are required to have Sumitomo Mitsui (SMBC) bank accounts for salary deposits and monthly deductions of utilities. Branches are located throughout the city near every major station, with the headquarters and foreign exchange branch located near Daimaru toward Motomachi. Most functions on ATMs are accessible until late evening, after which convenience store ATMs can also be used. SMBC ATMs also have English available, although transaction types are limited (for example, bank transfers can only be done in Japanese).
Update: From April 2015, Kobe JETs are registered with JP Yucho Ginko, the bank affiliated with Japan Post. Branches are located throughout the city, generally attached to the regular post offices, and one of the main branches is located in Harborland about a block from Kobe Station. ATMs can be found there as well. JP Yucho ATMs also have English available, but transaction types are limited.
- Billy's (Billy's), (In Motomachi across from Mother Moon cafe and directly across the street from the large Minato Bank building.), Run by a gentleman who has experience cutting foreign hair (lived in London and studied at Vidal Sassoon, etc.) and speaks excellent English. Wicked environment with American Wild West decor.