Kobe consists of 9 wards, or “ku,” which are as varied as the people who live in them. Some are particularly popular with expats due to their available services and conveniences, such as easy access to international schools or common expat companies. These wards include: (Stars indicate a more information on these areas can be found below)
Having trouble working out which area is best suited to the type of lifestyle you would like to lead in Japan? See our comprehensive guide for information on the popular expat areas to live in Kobe City. Kobe lies in Hyogo Prefecture which is part of The Kansai region of Japan.
The majority of people living in city areas in Japan use the name of the closest station to refer to their neighborhood. For example, those with an address in Chuo-ku in Kobe would say that they lived in Sannomiya, or Shinkobe, whichever is the closest station to their home.
Sannomiya is a bustling town center and is a great place to live if you want nightlife and an abundance of shopping and dining options. You can find department stores, theaters, bars, many fine restaurants and supermarkets.
Around the station are numerous shopping arcades such as the Sannomiya Center Gai shopping street, which runs from Sannomiya to Motomachi and Santica, a large underground shopping arcade. The area is also home to the 2km long Kokashita shopping arcade under the JR railway tracks.
The Motomachi and Tor Road areas are especially popular as is the nearby Nankinmachi China town (the only one in western Japan) which is home to a number of authentic Chinese restaurants and Chinese grocery stores. If you are active in sports check out the The Kobe Regatta and Athletic Club which is popular with foreign residents.
Full of winding alleyways, old clapboard mansions preserved from the first foreign settlement, trendy boutiques, cafes and fine restaurants, Kitano is one of the most charming places to live in Kobe. Located about a 10 to 15 minute walk above Sannomiya and at the foot of the Nunobiki mountain. Kitano is favored by expatriates largely because of its unique foreign-friendly atmosphere.
Nearby, The Kobe Grocers purveys a wide range of imported food. St Michael’s International School and the Kobe Club are located here as well. The neighborhood is also well known for being the home to some of Kobe’s most significant houses of worship – including the Kobe Mosque.
Mikage and Sumiyoshi
Both Sumiyoshi and nearby Mikage have excellent transportation links making them convenient places to live. You can easily commute to Osaka – only eighteen minutes away, Sannomiya – eight minutes away, or even Rokko Island – which is only seven minutes away.
Hankyu Mikage Station is closest to the popular expat neighborhoods Acorn Hills and Scarab Heights and the JR Sumiyoshi Station is conveniently located close to the ward office and main post office and houses a Coop supermarket, a department store full of boutiques, and Uniqlo for one stop shopping. Hanshin Mikage Station boasts the Classe shopping mall right in front of the station.
Like other parts of Kobe you will find a wealth of dining and shopping options. Those seeking a bit of local culture should check out the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum located inside a former brewery. Other breweries worth a visit are Kikumasamune and Fukujun which are famous for using Rokko water. There are also several well regarded hospitals and clinics including the Konan Hospital in the area.
Okamoto is home to several universities and has the distinct feel of a college town. Around the station are several supermarkets, an abundance of bakeries, restaurants and boutiques. South of JR Settsu Motoyama Station, you can find the Coop Living center, Sunshine Wharf and Sports Depot.
Rokko Island is a man-made island and home to a large community of foreigners. The relatively small land area manages to conveys a compact yet open, safe and quiet atmosphere. It is connected to the mainland by the Rokko Liner from JR Sumiyoshi station and has two large hotels, shops, a sprinkling of ethnic restaurants, sporting facilities and playgrounds.
The Foreign Buyers Club (FBC) offers a wide range of western food and sundries and is conveniently located, and just downstairs is the popular Kobe Grocers. The Community Housing and Information Center (CHIC) is an invaluable source of all kinds of information for living and working in Kobe.
Rokko Island is favored by North Americans and Europeans due to the proximity of the Canadian Academy, and the Deutsche Schule Kobe / European School. It is also popular with families who have small children as there are several daycare options such as Building Blocks at the Canadian Academy, Deutsche Schule / European School, Peter Pan and The Entente International Pre-school.
The Rokko area is popular as it is convenient to the city center but far enough away to be residential. You can find everything from houses to luxury apartments and the area is also served by the foreigner-friendly Kaisei Hospital and other English-speaking clinics. The Kobe Union Church and the Mormon church are both nearby. There are two international preschools in the area as well as the Oji Zoo and the Oji Sports Center and Park at Oji Koen.
The Shioya area in Western Kobe is popular with many ex-pats working in Akashi. Shioya Tochi boasts large western-style homes in a verdant community as well as the James Yama country club which has a long and distinguished history in the Kobe area.
Shioya Kids Bright International Preschool is within walking distance of Shioya, and school buses go to Marist Brothers International School in Suma and the Canadian Academy on Rokko Island. Five minutes away by car is a large shopping complex, with a superstore, restaurants, a DIY store, an electrical store and much more. In addition, there is a general hospital and nearby clinics where English is spoken.
Nearby Kobe is Ashiya, an exclusive area is popularly known as the “Beverly Hills” of Japan because many famous people have homes here. It is also one of the most expensive places to live in Kobe and has a wide range of upmarket restaurants and shops to prove it. International supermarkets include Ikari, Peacock, and a small Daimaru department store located in front of JR Ashiya Station.
Childcare options include the Ashiya International School, Poppins Babysitting Service and Kinder Kids. The surrounding areas of Shukugawa, Nishinomiya and Kurakuen are less expensive and are also popular with foreign residents.
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