Discover museums, cafés and shops in this pleasant hilltop neighborhood, featuring mansions from the early 1900s displaying distinctive Western-style architecture.
Walk around the hilltop district of Kitano and discover a different side of Kobe. Instead of Japanese architecture, this neighborhood holds abundant Western-style residences, former homes of early 20th-century foreign diplomats and traders. Many have been preserved as museums. Between the grand residences, find trendy cafés, restaurants and small shops.
When Kobe port opened itself to the outside world, American and European traders flocked to the city. At the top of Yamate Hill, they built luxury homes in the unique architectural styles of their homelands, creating this truly international neighborhood. Known in Japan as ijinkan, the houses all exude their own characters. See some of the dozen remaining homes open to the public, now preserved by the local government.
Visit Kazamidori-no-yakata, or the Weathercock House, with a rooftop weathervane that has become a symbol of Kitano. The imposing red-brick building, one of the most elaborate ijinkan, was built by a German trader in the early 1900s. Inside, discover mixed German architectural styles, some of which resemble a medieval castle.
Tour through Europe as you visit the English House, which is a museum during the day and a pub at night. The French House features ornate antiques including stained-glass Tiffany lamps. Create your own perfume inside the workshop at the Dutch House, which is filled with curious Dutch antiques. Enter the taxidermy world of Ben’s House, where stuffed animals include a tiger, a moose and a polar bear.
Relax inside chic cafés and restaurants tucked inside or between the houses and soak up the nostalgic atmosphere of bygone days. Peruse the area’s antique shops, high-end souvenir shops and stylish boutiques.
Kitano is a short uphill walk from San-no-miya and Shin-Kobe stations. The district is small and easily navigable on foot. Pay the fees to enter the houses and save money by opting for combined or passport tickets, granting entry into multiple houses. Come to Kitano to see what daily life was like for the wealthy families who moved across the world to Kobe.