JSPS Quarterly
No.33 2010 Autumn Topics


Introducing Japan: Kobe

By Dr. Mohammad Moniruzzaman

Kobe

During my stay in Japan over a period of about seven years, I have felt that Kobe is one of the world’s most beautiful and convenient cities. I love Kobe for its great combination of natural and urban or architectural beauties. Kobe is situated at the foot of Mt. Rokko (931 meters). On one side (north) of Kobe are mountains and on the other (south) the sea, making the city a haven of nature. A lot of beautiful high-rise buildings with modern architectural design make Kobe a modern city with international allure. In 2008, Kobe was selected as a UNESCO City of Design. The night view of the city from atop the Kobe’s adjacent mountains is ranked one of three most spectacular in Japan. A cable-car tram just a short bus ride from Sannomiya, Kobe’s gateway train station, makes a steep, sight-filled ascent to the mountaintops.

Kobe is well known for having one of Japan’s busiest harbors. The bay area features Harborland and Meriken Park with its Kobe Port Tower. It is a place where city dwellers are fond of walking about and enjoying the beauty of the urban seascape, especially in a summer breeze. Throngs of people gather to celebrate the minato matsuri (harbor festival) and to enjoy the hanabi (fireworks) display every year in this place. Another festive event is the Kobe Matsuri which attracts lively participation by the people in parades with floats, music and dancing.

Kobe has pretty much recovered from the devastating 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, in which more than 6,000 people perished. To commemorate the quake, the city puts on a fabulous light festival every December. Called the Kobe Luminarie, an installation of archways illuminated with arrays of lights is erected.

As one of the first ports in Japan to open to foreign trade in the 19th century, Kobe has a long history as a cosmopolitan center. Even today, about 50 thousand of its 1.5 million residents are foreigners from both Europe and Asia. Most of the Kobe’s Western architecture, including houses, shops and churches, are found in a district named Kitano, overlooking the city from a hill near Sannomiya Station. Of course, Kobe also boasts one of Japan’s most colorful and vibrant Chinatowns, called Nankin-machi.

Besides a huge assortment of Chinese and Western cuisine, Kobe is also famous for its own tender, well-marbled Kobe beef from wagyu cattle raised according to a highly refined local tradition.

When I go back to my country, I shall miss this wonderful city—the beautiful views from Mt. Rokko, the picturesque scenes of Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, the hot springs at Arima, the city’s festivals and fireworks, and the boat cruise around the bay area, along with so many other enjoyable things.

Kobe Port Tower
Kobe Port Tower
Dr. Moniruzzaman and family in Chinatown
Dr. Moniruzzaman and family
in Chinatown
Fireworks festival
Fireworks festival


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JSPS Quarterly No.33 2010