For generations of Japanese tourists, this pleasant, hilly neighbourhood is Kōbe, thanks to the dozen or so well-preserved homes of (mostly) Western trading families and diplomats who settled here during the Meiji period. These ijinkan (literally 'foreigners' houses') – strangely, though naturally, incongruent, as each is built in the architectural style of the owner's home country – are now mostly cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops.

Two of the best-preserved homes, the red-brick Weathercock House, built in 1909 for a German trader, and the wooden, jade-green Moegi House, built in 1903 for the former US consul, are open as museums (9am to 6pm; combined ticket ¥650). Much of the original furnishings are intact – you'll see the lengths that expats a century ago went to in order to maintain their native lifestyles.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Kōbe attractions

1. Kitano Tenman-jinja

0.07 MILES

Up a steep hill past the homes of Kitano-chō, this shrine has good views over the city.

2. Ikuta-jinja

0.44 MILES

Kōbe's signature shrine is said to date from 201, though it's been rebuilt many a time – a symbol of resilience for the city. It's right in the middle of…

3. Nunobiki Falls

0.59 MILES

You'd never guess that such a beautiful natural sanctuary could sit so close to the city. This revered waterfall in four sections (the longest is 43m tall…

4. City Hall Observation Lobby

0.84 MILES

The 24th-floor observatory atop Kōbe's City Hall stays open generously late so you can get a night view of the city, towards the mountains or the bay …

5. Nankin-machi

0.87 MILES

Kōbe's Chinatown – Nankin comes from Nanjing; machi just means town – dates to the early days of the city opening its port to foreign traders. It was…

6. Nunobiki Herb Gardens & Ropeway


Escape the city on a 400m-high mountain ridge, offering sweeping views across town to the bay. During the day (to 5pm) you can descend on foot through the…

7. Kōbe City Museum

0.95 MILES

Kōbe's local-history museum, in a Greek-revival-style building dating from 1935, is undergoing major renovations and scheduled to reopen in November 2019.