As someone who has lived in Osaka for 4 years now, I’ve developed a deep love and affection for this city and its people.
However, there are times when one just wants to get out of town for a few days, escape and enjoy something a little different.
For couples who are dating, a great spot for Valentine's Day is always good. It helps the two of you to relax in a new environment away from the daily stresses of work and social obligations.
For this reason, a number of my friends choose Kobe as an ideal place to get away for a weekend date.
Despite being less than 30 mins from Osaka by train, Kobe is a very different kind of city. The ambience, the aesthetics and even the culture are quite significantly removed from what one typically sees in Osaka.
So, with February being the season of Valentines, what are some of the most romantic places to take your loved one during a day out in Kobe?
Here’s my top 4:
1) Nankingmachi, Kobe’s Chinatown
Ok, so admittedly when one says Valentines Dinner one typically thinks of Italian, French or perhaps Spanish cuisine. Chinese dim sum and won tons probably aren’t the first things that come to mind. But there is something to be said for a date in Nankingmachi. These days, more and more couples are looking for something a little different in their dating routine, and Nankingmachi is certainly that.
I always remember my father telling me when I was growing up back in Glasgow, that the good sign of truly delicious, authentic Chinese restaurant food was the number of Chinese people who ate there.
If this same barometer can be applied to Nankingmachi, then, judging by the amount of Cantonese and Putonghua one can hear being spoken by both staff and patrons in the assortment of different restaurants, shops and stalls on offer then this place definitely seems to come with a high rating.
It’s not all just street food either. Some of the restaurants in and around the main square at the centre of the district offer genuinely classy fine dining, with the very best of ingredients, and the finest wines to accompany them.
Nankingmachi is a Valentines date with a difference.
2) Kitano Ward
To the rear of Sannomiya Station, heading in the direction of Mount Rokko, you will find Kobe’s Kitano Ward. As soon as you enter this district, you can immediately see how different everything is. The entire area has a very European and classical feel to it, with a number of the custom built houses in the area showing clear German, French and Portuguese influences.
Indeed, throughout the period of the Tokugawa Shogunate’s reign, Kobe was one of only a tiny number of places that still welcomed foreign trade. Indeed commonly used Japanese words such as “Arigatou” were actually appropriated from Portuguese around this time.
In an era of open borders and increasing globalization, Kitano ward serves as a gentle reminder of a time in Japan when western cultural influence was still very much an exotic rarity.
In Kitano you will find numerous cafes, bars and European restaurants, which make ideal dating spots. Despite being a bit on the hilly side, it’s also a nice place to walk around in, as you take in the atmosphere and browse the variety of curiosity shops on offer. If your partner is one of those people with a thirst for all things elegant and European, then Kitano Ward is the place to go!
3) Mosaic Shopping Mall
Sitting adjacent to Kobe’s Harbourland area, Mosaic is one of Kobe’s most popular hangouts for young people and families, and it’s a pretty strong draw for couples too.
Alongside the clothes shops, jewelry and hand-made goods, you will also find some great cafes and restaurants too.
For something truly unique in Kobe, it’s also worth checking out the Native American Café Sunnybless. Brazilianos Brazillian Barbecue Restaurant is a great place for couples with an enormous appetite. Their ¥4,500 all you can eat and drink for 2 hours menu has been a big hit with both locals and visitors alike for many years now. It’s also a great place to try some less conventional meats too. In addition to the popular favourites of steak, sausages and chicken wings, you’ll also find more obscure cuts like heart, liver and gizzard. Not perhaps the most appealing-sounding to be sure, but delicious nonetheless if you are willing to give them a try.
This wonderful little restaurant café pretty much encapsulates everything that is good about Kobe’s internationalist outlook. Using authentic recipes and ingredients sourced from the Southwestern United States, Sunnybless offers a range of tacos, rice dishes and other Native American fare that your date is sure to love.
Oh, and with their most expensive lunch only costing around ¥1500, it’s highly cost effective too. And if you fancy something a bit simpler and down to Earth, there’s a Lotteria Burger bar upstairs!
4) Kobe Port Tower
Just a 5 minute walk across the seafront from Mosaic you will find Kobe Port Tower.
Like Tokyo Tower in Tokyo, and the Sky Building in Umeda, the Kobe Port Tower can, at first glance anyway, seem like just another formulaic high-rise building with a panoramic view that is interesting for about 10 minutes before becoming boring.
However, Kobe Port Tower has a unique feature that makes it especially appealing to couples. In the same style as the famous CN Tower in Canada, the Kobe Port Tower has a rotating restaurant.
The entire restaurant floor rotates through 360 degrees over the course of about 20 minutes, giving patrons a full view of the city of Kobe and its outlying islands, yet it progresses slowly enough not to induce any dizziness or nausea. Having a coffee at the restaurant after a busy day shopping around the harbor area is a great way to round off a day out in Kobe.
Kobe, with its unique blend of Japanese and foreign cultures is a great place to take your date. Whether its Valentine’s Day or just a change of scenery you are looking for, Kobe is hard to beat.