Kobe (西宮 Nishinomiya?) is a city of almost 500,000 people in the Hanshin Area of Hyogo Prefecture located between the cities of Kobe and Osaka. It is home to the Hanshin Tigers baseball team at Koshien Stadium and also much of the setting for the Studio Ghibli film Grave of Fireflies. The city's name comes from Hirota Shrine, which was once called Nishi no Miya (Shrine of the West).
There are about 10 Hyogo BoE placements in the city. 1 JET is farther north in the city while the rest live in (or near) an area called Rainbow Town in the southern part of the city. You will know this area instantly the moment you approach because there will be towering rainbow buildings ahead of you.
Some of the ALTs have base schools in the city while others teach in either Ashiya or Amagasaki.
Nishinomiya is served by the Hankyu, Hanshin, and JR train lines. The trains are mostly convenient and can take you anywhere from East to West, aka the directions of Kobe and Osaka. If you want to go from north to south, good luck! You'll probably be better off biking.
Hanshin and Hankyu buses are also available at 210 yen/ride. There are many buses that stop right out of Rainbow Town and will take you to either Koshien or JR Koshien-Guchi. You can get buses to some other train stations, but it might take a bit of fiddling with your chosen route.
Congratuations, shop-a-holics! Nishinomiya is a shoppers paradise. With two malls, Kobe, and Osaka nearby, how can you go wrong?
- LaLaport Koshien: This is our closest mall. You can get there by either taking a quick bus from Rainbow Town, a few minute bike ride, or walk. Some JETs are lucky (or unlucky?) enough to pass the mall on their commute to/from school. This is the more family-friendly mall with the KidZania attached. Some of the stores here include the ItoYokado (grocery store) with discount days on the 8s and egg sales, HMV (music/video store), H&M, Zara, Uniqlo, LUSH, Kaldi (foreign foods shop), Krispy Kreme (yeah we got one of those!), the Gap, MUJI, and various other clothing/trinket/housewares goods stores. There is also a food court and various restaurants. A couple of them are quite good! Be sure to get the LaLaport points card. It's free to sign up. After 500 points, you'll get a 500 yen discount coupon. The coupon and card are good anywhere in the mall (except H&M and ItoYokado). Double points days every Wednesday!
- Nishinomiya Gardens: You can either ride your bike to this mall, take a couple buses, or take the train to Hankyu Nishinomiya Kitaguchi St. (takes about 30 mins, depending on departing station). This mall is more fancy and expensive. It has an Izumiya (grocery store), HMV, Toho Cinemas, foreign foods store, Lupicia (tea), Body Shop, LUSH, LOFT, mini Plaza, Hawaiian goods store, and much much MUCH more. Toho Cinemas is a great place for movies. 1000 yen movie days are on the 1st and 15th of every month and also every Wednesday (Ladies Day). Often when other theaters are only playing the Japanese version of a foreign film, this cinema will have it showing in English. Nishinomiya Gardens also has a points card.
- Junkudo: There is a small Junkudo attached to Nishinomiya Kitaguchi St. near the mall. This is a bookstore with a small selection of English books. It's a good place to check if you want something, but the Junkudo in Kobe or Kinokuniya in Osaka have much larger selections.
- Daiei Koshien: Shopping center next to the train station. There's a grocery store and restaurants on the bottom floor, clothing shops in the middle, and some fast food (including KFC and Mister Donut) on the top floor.