Splendid night views, prime Kobe beef, 'manly' sake await rugby fans

Sandwiched between mountains to the north and the Inland Sea to the south, Kobe is best known for its night views, its beef and its "manly" sake.

In the evening, the water reflects the red-colored Kobe Port Tower and the Kobe Maritime Museum with its distinctive white arch-shaped roof — two landmarks located in the Meriken Park in the southern waterfront area of the city, which has a population of over 1.5 million.

"Our recommended spot to view them is the Harborland, a shopping district in the western vicinity of the park beyond the inlet," says Kanako Sugimoto, a Kobe Tourism Bureau official. "It would be even better if you can see them when the cruise ship Kobe Concerto is in the harbor."

After working up an appetite seeing the sites, the visitor can easily find something to delight the palate.

Kobe beef is said to be one of the highest-grade brands of wagyu, or Japanese-produced beef. Known for its strict quality control, it is only produced from pedigree Tajima cattle born and shipped in the prefecture of Hyogo to which Kobe belongs. It is noted for its rich flavor with very fine marbled fat.

"Speaking of Kobe beef, the sirloin is a must-try," says Hideaki Ito, head chef of restaurant Shin in central Kobe, whose sirloin beef dishes start at around 5,000 yen ($45).

Hyogo is also the country's largest sake-producing prefecture, with Kobe at the core. Liquor store Nada no Sakagura-Dori, located in the city's center, sells various kinds of sake made by 20 breweries in eastern Kobe and its neighboring city of Nishinomiya.

"They use hard water to make sake, and their products, often called 'masculine sake,' are characterized by a robust flavor," says saleswoman Tomoko Oe. "You won't be able to choose from such a wide range of sakes anywhere else."

Kobe is also close to a spa town. Famed as one of the oldest hot-spring areas in Japan with about 1,400 years of history, the Arima hot spring resort in the mountains is accessible in some 30 minutes from central Kobe by cable car.

When it comes to recent history, next to the Meriken Park is the Port of Kobe Earthquake Memorial Park, commemorating the massive earthquake that hit Kobe and surrounding areas in 1995, killing over 6,400 people.

At the site, damaged harbor facilities remain as they were at that time, bearing testament to the violence of the quake.


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