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Kitano, Kobe

last update: November 13, 2020
When the port of Kobe was opened for international trade in 1868 (together with Yokohama, Nagasaki and Hakodate), many foreigners began arriving in the city. Among them, Western merchants and diplomats settled in the Kitano area, on the slopes of Mount Rokko.

Things to do and things to see in Kitano

Thanks also to the Americans, who spared the area during the bombings of the Second World War, today many original Meiji or Taisho buildings survive in Kitano. These are the so-called ijinkan (異人館), a Japanese term that indicates precisely the foreign residences of the period and which survived in Kobe more than in any other Japanese city. There are a total of 16 ijinkan on Kitano hill, and all these houses have now been transformed into small museums and can be visited inside.

Kitano-cho Plaza

An amphitheater-shaped square in the heart of Kitano, where performances by street artists are often held. Here you can rest a bit by sitting on the steps, overlooking the city of Kobe in front and several historical residences behind. Scattered here and there around this square you'll find some curious bronze statues.
Furthermore, in a corner of the square there is a tourist information center, while a few meters away you will find a long staircase leading to the Kitano Tenman Shrine, a Shinto shrine from whose terraces you can enjoy a super nice view of the city of Kobe.
kitano plaza kobe Kitano-cho Plaza

Ijinkan that can be visited with a single pass

Of all the ancient residences on the Kitano hill, eight are part of an association that has created a sort of historical park, with the possibility of purchasing a pass to be able to visit them all. The pass to visit everything costs 3000¥, but there are also other less expensive types of pass (more information and prices). The various buildings can also be visited individually.

Uroko House

(admission 1050 yen, opening hours 9:30-18 apr-sep, 9:30-17 oct-mar)
The exterior of the building is covered with slate slabs that look like fish scales, in fact "uroko" in Japanese means "fish scales". Inside the house there is also a small modern art gallery. On the third floor of the house (150 meters above sea level) there is a large veranda overlooking the city and the harbor, from which the merchants watched over their arriving ships.
uroko house kitano Uroko House

Kobe TrickArt Museum

(admission 800 yen, opening hours 9:30-18 apr-sep, 9:30-17 oct-mar)
This building once housed the consulate of the small state of Panama. Today it houses a museum with various works of optical illusion.

English House

(admission 750 yen, opening hours 9:30-18 apr-sep, 9:30-17 oct-mar)
Built in 1907, the first floor has remained furnished with antique furniture and ornaments of the period. The second floor of the house is dedicated to Sherlock Holmes.

France House (Yokan Nagaya)

(admission 550 yen, opening hours 9:30-18 apr-sep, 9:30-17 oct-mar)
Also called Yokan Nagaya, it houses an art-nouveau style interior with some ancient objects made by Tiffany, Louis Vuitton, and some particular works of art such as the glass works of Emille Galle and the Daum brothers, ceramics from the French city of Limoges and the paintings of the Japanese-French painter Leonard Tsugouharu Foujita.

Ben's House

(admission 550 yen, opening hours 9:30-18 apr-sep, 9:30-17 oct-mar)
Built in 1902, it was the home of the English traveler and hunter Ben Allison, inside which various hunted and embalmed animals are exhibited, including a tiger and a polar bear.

Yamate 8-Bankan

(admission 550 yen, opening hours 9:30-18 apr-sep, 9:30-17 oct-mar)
A Tudor-style dwelling, inside there are various sculptures and other works of art by Rodin, Bourdelle and Renoir, as well as collections of Buddhist memorabilia and African tribal figures.

Kitano Foreigners Association

(admission 550 yen, opening hours 9:30-18 apr-sep, 9:30-17 oct-mar)
A reproduction of the meeting place of foreigners of the time, a sort of club where members met each other during their free time.

Hilltop House

(admission 550 yen, opening hours 9:30-18 apr-sep, 9:30-17 oct-mar)
The former Chinese consulate, this is a western-style residence from the outside, but it exhibits splendid traditional Chinese furnishings and works of art inside.
france house kitano yamate 8 bankan kitano the France House and the Yamate 8-Bankan

Other historic buildings

Kobe Kitano Museum

(admission 500 yen, opening hours 9:30-17:30)
This museum is housed in a residence built in 1898, which was used by the United States from 1946 to 1978 as their general consulate. In 1996 a museum was inaugurated, which introduces the history and culture of the Kitano district and an exhibition of French paintings.

Moegi House

(admission 350 yen, opening hours 9:30-18)
Built in 1903 as the home of the US consul.

Platon Decorative Arts Museum

(admission 700 yen, opening hours 9:30-17)
This building is nicknamed Italian house because inside there is a cafe serving Italian food and snacks. It is a former residence of a foreigner built around 1910, whose rooms are full of ornaments, furnishings and works of art.

Austrian House

(admission 500 yen, opening hours 9-18, 9-17 jan-feb)
A reproduction of the Mozart house in Salzburg. Inside there are some exhibits and a cafe.

Denmark House

(admission 500 yen, opening hours 9-18)
A mini theme park managed by the Danish embassy in Japan, which exhibits the history and culture of Denmark, with a particular exhibition on the famous children's story writer Hans Christian Andersen.

Dutch museum

(admission 700 yen, opening hours 9-18, 9-17 jan-feb)
Once the residence of the Dutch consul, this building displays Dutch furniture and antiques inside. A part of the house is dedicated to perfumes, with the possibility of "creating" one's own personalized fragrance.

Rhine House

(admission 350 yen, opening hours 9:30-18)
A two-storey wooden house, built in 1915.

Weathercock House

(admission 500 yen, opening hours 9-18)
Built in 1909 as the home of the German merchant G.Thomas, it owes its name to the weathercock on the roof.
weathercock house kitano Weathercock House
kobe from kitano view of Kobe from Kitano, on the right you can see the Weathercock House

Eat and drink in Kitano, Kobe

kitano starbucks

Starbucks Kitano Ijinkan

(opening hours 08-22)
This starbucks cafe is unique in Japan. It is located in a historic western-style building painted white and green. The interiors are also very unusual for a starbucks, and several furnishings are true antiques. Otherwise, the menu is the same as all the other starbucks. The shop sells exclusive cups and glasses.

How to get to Kitano, Kobe

The Kitano district is about 10-15 minutes walk from both Sannomiya station (northbound) and Shin-Kobe station (westbound). It is on a hill, therefore be prepared to go up steep climbs.

Map of Kitano, Kobe

Guided tours, activities and other things to do

If you are planning a trip to Japan and you want to do something more than just visiting famous places and monuments, we suggest you to use Rakuten Travel Experiences.

How to use Rakuten Travel Experiences

Rakuten Travel is a very useful website to enrich your travel experience, especially if you are going solo or it's your first time in Japan.
Because of the language barrier (and more), in Japan it is very difficult to interact with the locals and to get off the tourist track.
Thanks to Rakuten Travel you can find a lot of interesting and sometimes unique guided tours and activities all over Japan (and not only in Japan), that you would otherwise never be able to enjoy.
But there's more: on Rakuten Travel you can also buy tickets for several famous attractions, events, transportation and other useful services for tourists. Last but not least, you can reserve a table in hundreds of restaurants.

Some examples

Take a look at Rakuten Travel Experiences

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