As the Japanese saying goes, “If you can’t go to Paris, go to Kobe.” This southern coastal city is Japan’s fashion mecca and one of its more cosmopolitan cities. Tucked into Osaka Bay against the stunning backdrop of the Rokkō ranges, Kobe is also famed for its Kobe beef and its therapeutic Arima Onsen (hot springs), a magnet for many Japanese seeking tranquil refuge from the relentless pace of Japan’s corporate world.
Until its devastation by the Great Han shin Earthquake in 1995, Kobe, like Nagasaki and Yokohama, was one of Japan’s busiest ports. These days, the city’s port is still the fourth busiest in Japan, prompting more than 100 multinational corporations to house their East Asia or Japan headquarters there.
The foreign influence that trade brings is evident in the city’s European-influenced areas, such as the winding streets and cafes of the Kitano District, and Kobe’s China Town, the second-largest in Japan. The city still boasts a thriving expat community today. Overall, the region is very affluent; residents’ incomes in neighboring Ashiya are the highest per capita, earning the municipality the moniker "Beverly Hills of Japan."
You will find a thriving business culture within a relatively balanced built environment. The city’s breathtaking views have prompted many to draw comparisons with San Francisco. You will also find some of the best drinking water in Japan. One of the more unexpected sights you may see in Kobe is herds of wild boars roaming the streets, mindless of cars and pedestrians. Milder winters resulting from global warming have lengthened the mating season for boars and deer, whose numbers are beginning to spiral upward.
In one of the most densely populated regions of the world, Kobe's easy access to nature lends it an uncluttered air, while its entrenched international community lends a comforting familiarity to this city's ancient, esoteric culture.
What is special or unique about your city?
Residents in Kobe are very friendly to foreigners and love to speak with them. Kobe is in an area called Kansai, which includes Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, etc., where many historical places have beautiful natural scenery. Compared to Tokyo, Kansai is more friendly and relaxed.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
Each city in Kansai is small enough to enjoy walking around. Transportation between cities is much easier than Tokyo.
Are these impressions likely to change?
You will not be disappointed with the life in Kobe and the longer you live here, the more comfortable you will get.
What is the local language?
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
There is little challenge for foreigners. People in Kobe are used to speaking with foreigners. Cities are filled with English directions, so after a couple of weeks you will be ready to enjoy the language challenge.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
Learn Japanese politeness.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
You can experience all seasons, from winter snow to summer surfing. In terms of climate conditions, Japan is very unique and enjoys the best of all seasons.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
Kobe/Osaka is less populated than Tokyo, so people can easily relax and get comfortable with the area.