Guide to take trains in Kobe. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Nara
Port Tower is the icon of Kobe.
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Night view of Kobe Harborland and Meriken Park
Night view of Kobe Harborland and Meriken Park

You may be overwhelmed by train services in Kobe. Actually it is much easier to handle than Osaka and Kyoto. Most of places to see are located in downtown Kobe. Many of them can be accessed on foot from major stations directly. However understanding train system is a key to save your time. Kobe can be combined with Himeji easily. You may spend half day in Kobe and enjoy in Osaka rest of the day.

For travelling in Kansai area, there are many types of deals, such as ICOCA, Kansai Thru Pass, JR Pass, Kansai Area Pass and many more. Each pass has different conditions. You have to understand which train system is covered by your pass. And also Kobe is very closed to Osaka. You may not have many chances to take a train and that means single fare may be the best option for you.

In this post, I will show you the route map and explain all train systems in Kobe.

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How to access to Kobe

Access map of the trip to Kobe and Himeji (Click to view large)

Kobe is located between Osaka and Himeji. So you can combine Kobe with Himeji easily.

You can access to Kobe by JR line, Hanshin Railway and Hankyu Railway from Umeda (JR Osaka station) or Namba. The travel time is about 20 to 40 minutes. It is varied by the type of the train and the line. JR Special Rapid is the fastest way to get Kobe. It take 20 minutes. You can get Kobe from Kyoto in 50 minutes by Special Rapid too.

If you use JR Pass, Kansai Area Pass, Kansai Wide Area Pass or other JR deals, Special Rapid is most convenient way to get Kobe.

If you use Kansai Thru Pass, you may take Hanshin Railway or Hankyu Railway. You can get either one if you leave from Umeda. Only Hanshin Railway takes you Kobe from Namba.

If you get Kobe from other cities, such as Tokyo, Nagoya, Hiroshima, Hakata, the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen takes you to Kobe. But the station in Kobe is Shin-Kobe. It is one station away from Kobe-Sannomiya which is the downtown core of Kobe by subway. Please see the post below to find more information about Shin-Kobe station:

I will also explain about Kobe city subway later in this post.

Train and subway lines in downtown Kobe

There are many trains running in downtown Kobe. And also many deals are available in Kansai area. But the coverage is varied by the pass which you use. I will tell you about the train network in Kobe and the coverage of the major passes and the deals.

For the travellers who use ICOCA, Kansai One Pass, Suica, Pasmo or other IC cards

Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail

You can take all trains on the map above except Mount Rokko transportation, such as Rokko Cable, Rokko Sanjo bus and Rokko Arima Ropeway. Major IC card (ICOCA, Kansai One Pass, Suica, Pasmo and other major one) cover Kobe city bus service too. You can access to Rokko Cable Shita station from Hankyu Rokko, JR Rokkomichi and Hanshin Mikage stations by Kobe city bus.

For the travellers who use Kansai Thru Pass

Please see the map below:

Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail

This pass does not cover any JR lines but it covers most places in Kobe. Only Mt Rokko cannot be accessed by this pass. It is no problem to visit other spots in Kobe. Actually manu places in Kobe are located within walking distance from the stations. If you use the pass for the round trip between Osaka and Kobe only, the round trip fare is around 1,000 yen. You cannot get the worth of Kansai Thru Pass. I will tell you about Hanshin Tourist Pass and Hankyu Tourist Pass below. These deals are much better choice for visiting downtown area and harbor area in Kobe.

Kansai Area Pass and Hokuriku Arch Pass

Please see the following map:

Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail

These passes cover only JR conventional line’s train, such as Special Rapid, Rapid and Local. You cannot take Shinkansen and other express trains. But if you intend to visit downtown Kobe and harbor area from Osaka, single ticket is cheaper than Kansai area pass. Especially this pass does not cover any subway and bus in Kobe. It is very limited to use this pass in Kobe. If you visit Kobe from Kyoto, round trip fare is almost equal to the value of the pass. But Hankyu Tourist Pass is much cheaper than Kansai Area Pass.

If you use Hokuriku Arch Pass, just take JR conventional line’s to Kobe and add other local deal or ticket as you need.

Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass), Kansai WIDE Area Pass, Kansai Hiroshima Area pass, Sanyo Sanin Area Pass

Please see the map below:

Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail

You can get either the Shinkansen or the conventional line trains. But the Shinkansen station, Shin-Kobe is not located in downtown core of Kobe. It is one station away from Sannomiya by subway. Subway is not covered by these JR deals. The Shinkansen is not very convenient way to visit Kobe if you access from Osaka.

Other conditions are same as Kansai Area Pass.

Other regional deals, such as city pass, Osaka-Kobe round trip deal

If you think about purchasing single ticket, the following deals may be better than single fare.

Hanshin Tourist Pass

This deal covers only Hanshin Railway. But you can make a trip from either Umeda or Namba to Kobe. The price is only 500 yen and it is way cheaper than round trip single fare. If you want to visit only downtown and harbor area, such as, Kitano, Kobe Harborland, Meriken Park from Osaka, this is the best choice for you. Please see the link below to get the details about Hanshin Tourist Pass.

Hanshin Tourist Pass

Hankyu Tourist Pass

This is same type as Hanshin Tourist Pass. But Hankyu Railway connects Osaka and Kyoto too. If you access from Kyoto to Kobe, this is most affordable choice. The price is only 700 yen and of course, it is way cheaper than round trip single fare. Please see the link below to get the details about Hankyu Tourist Pass.

Hankyu Tourist Pass

However Hankyu Railway does not have any direct train service from Kyoto to Kobe. JR has Special Rapid train and this is much faster than Hankyu Railway.

City Bus & Subway 1-day Pass

Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail

If you stay in Kobe and looking for the deal, this deal may be your choice. However, as I mentioned several times in this post, many places in Kobe can be accessed on foot from major stations. Single fare may be cheaper than this pass at 1030 yen. Please make a detail itinerary and compare the fare and the deals. Bus fare is 210 yen for one ride and subway fare is 210 to 270 yen in downtown and harbor area. You have to ride more than 4-5 times a day.

Unfortunately Kobe Municipality Transportation does not provide English site. Please find the details at the link below.

Official Kobe Tourism Site, Free Kobe

City loop one day pass

Kobe City Loop bus has completely different exterior from regular city bus. You can find it very easily.

This bus service connects major tourist spots. This bus is most convenient way to visit the spots in downtown area. One day pass is 660 yen and one ride is 260 yen. If you visit more than two places, it is paid off. You can find the info in ENGLISH/한국어/簡体字/繁体字 at the link below:

Kobe City Transportation

1 day pass can be purchased in the bus.

Arima Onsen and Mount Rokko deals

Rokko Cablecar (C) JNTO

Arima Onsen can be accessed by Hokushin Kyuko and Kobe Railway. These trains are covered by Kansai Thru Pass. However transportation to Mount Rokko, such as Cablecar, Ropeway, are not covered by any regional deals. There are some deals to cover this mountain side of Kobe.

If you want to have one way trip from Arima to Kobe via Mount Rokko, Rokko Arima one way ticket is available at 1,750 yen (child 880 yen). This deal includes one way ride for both Rokko Arima Ropeway and Rokko Cablecar, and unlimited ride of bus on Rokko Mountain Top Bus.

Arima Rokko one day pass is different option. This deals gives you unlimited ride for the following segments:
Kobe subway, Sannomiya – Shin-Kobe
Hokushin Kyuko, Shin-Kobe – Tanbigami
Kobe Railway, Tanigami – Arima Onsen
Arima Rokko Ropeway
Rokko Sanjo Bus (Rokko Mountain Top Bus)
Rokko Cablecar
Kobe City Bus (Rokko Cableshite – Hankyu Rokko station – Hanshin Mikage station)
Hankyu Railway (Hankyu Rokko – Kobe Sannomiya)

And also this deal includes the entry ticket for Kin-no-yu or Gin-no-yu hot springs. The basic price is 2,360 yen. And combination pass for this unlimited pass and return fare from Osaka or Kyoto.

Types of passPrice
Basic2,360 yen
Hanshin Railway (Umeda or Namba or all stations on Hanshin railway – Sannomiya or Mikage)2,460 yen
Hankyu Railway (Umeda or Kyoto or all stations on Hankyu railway – Sannomiya or Mikage)2,560 yen

How to access to major spots in Kobe

I would like to show you the access to major spots in Kobe.

Sannomiya

South side of JR Sannomiya station

Sannomiya is the biggest downtown core in Kobe. You can get there by JR, Hankyu and Hanshin from Osaka. Shinkansen’s Shin-Kobe station is one station away by subway. Both Hanshin and Hankyu Railway’s stations are Kobe-Sannomiya. Station name is a bit different but it is same location. Port Liner depart from Sannomiya and connect to Port Island and Kobe Airport.

Kitano

Uroko no Ie is one of reserved western style residents in Kitano. (C) JNTO

Kitano is location between Sannomiya and Shin-Kobe. You can walk from these stations. Otherwise you can take City Loop Bus.

Meriken Park

Port Tower is the icon of Kobe.

Subway’s Minato-Motomachi station is the nearest station. But you can walk from Motomachi station.

Harborland

Kobe umie Mosaic is shopping complex in waterfront area.

JR Kobe station and subway’s Harborland stations are same location. Hanshin and Hankyu Railways Kousoku-Kobe station is almost same station. This is connected by underground path to JR Kobe station. You can get there easily from these stations.

Nankinmachi (Chinatown)

Gate of Nankinmachi

Nankinmachi is located at north side of Meriken Park. You can walk from Motomochi or Minato-Motomachi station.

Kobe Airport

Aerial shot of Kobe airport (C) Kobe Convention & Visitors Association/ (C) JNTO

Port Liner connects to the airport from Sannomiya station.

Arima Onsen

Arima Onsen Yumotozaka path (C) 663highland (663highland) [GFDL CC-BY-SA-3.0or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

If you use Kansai Thru Pass, best way is subway, Hokushin Kyuko and Kobe railway. You may get this hot springs town by Mount Rokko transportation, such as cablecar and gondola.

Mount Rokko

Night view from the top of Mt. Rokko is one of the best in Japan.

Hankyu Rokko station, JR Rokkomichi station and Hanshin Mikage station are the gateway to Mount Rokko. You may also get there from Arima Onsen. You can make a circle route to combine with Arima Onsen.

I hope this post helps you understand the train system in Kobe.

Comments

  1. nimi says:

    we are on cruise ship in KObe around 21st Sept 2016 for over night

    We want to go to Kyoto for day
    Please can you suggest how to get tickets for bullet train and time

    Are there guides available at the Kyoto station in English to take us around

    thanks

  2. Jay says:

    Sir,

    I am coming from Osaka to visit only Mt Rokko and Arima Onsen in Kobe, maybe also see the Luminaire. I would much appreciate your advice on what train to take from Osaka Uehonmachi area.

  3. rennylesa – Intim + Cermat that's what my POD analysis said about me. Love Jesus very much, and so proud to be God Children. Sometimes can be so fragile, but still have the will to fight and move on my life. That is why, this blog entitle 'The Journey'. It will reflect what kind of situations, obstacles that I've been facing through, and I how I survived when Jesus is in me and with me no matter what the condition.
    Renny Lesa says:

    Hi Takeshi san,

    My husband and I are going to osaka next week ont the 7th of June until 13th of June. We are planning to visit kyoto, nara and kobe. If we just use JP Pass is it enough to cover all these 3 places?

    Looking forward for your reply.

    Thank you.

    Renny
    Malaysia

  4. Raahil says:

    Hi, Takeshi-san

    I did my research a couple months ago for my trip, and settled on the Kansai-Hiroshima pass for the first 5 days of my trip and the Haruka ICOCA pass for the last 7 days (Kobe x1 day to Kyoto x3 days to Osaka x2.5days). Now I see there is a Kansai One Pass. Do you have any opinions on it versus the ICOCA pass?

    Thank you,
    R

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      Takeshi / JPRail.com says:

      Hi Raahil san,

      Kasnai One Pass is basically same as ICOCA. But you can get discount at many attractions. So you may use Haruka discount ticket and purchase Kansai One Pass.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Jane says:

    I intend to visit Kobe mid Jun. Plan to go Himeji after arrived Kansai airport in the morning. Then 2nd day visit Rokko san and stay at Arima Onsen area , 3rd day Kyoyo.
    Question, (1) what pass should I buy? (2) after Visit Himeji, should I go back and stay at Kobe city?

  6. Joe says:

    Hello,

    I see alot of articles about getting around Japan on train. What about getting around once I get off the train? Are their signs for major attractions? How am I supposed to know where to go??

    Thank you.

  7. asha says:

    hi.. i am planning to go kobe and himeji (just to visit himeji castle and go)

    my questions:

    1. is it advisable if i 1st visit kobe (kobe port tower/meriken park/herbs garden/kobe mosque) and then rush to himeji castle? or vice versa . i am staying in osaka. FYI the day before i plan to visit kyoto 1 full day tour.

    2. which pass is worth buying ?

  8. Elena says:

    Dear Takeshi,

    I will spend the whole April 2016 in Kobe and plan to purchase the JR Pass, but have some doubts on the longevity.
    My main reason to use JR Pass is the round trip from Kobe to Hachinohe on 22-24 April, which alone makes the purchase reasonable. However, would a 7-day pass suffice or 21-day would be better?
    While in Kobe, I will be travelling between Rokkomichi and Motomachi stations each business day which both seem to be JR line stations covered by the pass. On weekends of 09-10 and 16-17 April I will be seeing Kansai area (Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Nishinomiya, etc) and so will at least take the JR lines from Kobe to these locations.
    Under these circumstances, would you think it is reasonable to have 21-day JR pass? Or I should have 7-day one and spend the remaining 30k Yen on single tickets or ICOCA?

    Thanks so much for advice!

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      Takeshi / JPRail.com says:

      Hi Elena,

      I recommend you to use commute pass for daily use for Rokkomichi to/from Motomachi. It’s called “Teikiken” (定期券). You can purchase monthly “Teikiken” around 5000 yen. Local commuter use this kind of pass. But this can be used for only between Rokkomichi and Motomachi”. You cannot use this for other area, such as Kyoto, Osaka. However you can drop by any stations between Rokkomichi and Motomachi. For example, you can stopover at Sannomiya. You can purchase it at JR Rokkomichi station. Ask the station staff to purchase this deal.

      For trip to Hachinohe, you can use JR pass 7 days.

      For trip to Kyoto, Nara and Osaka, Kansai thru pass is recommended.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      You can use it in unconsecutive days, If you purchase 3 days pass, you can use use 2 days in the first weekend and another one day in next weekend.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  9. sharon says:

    Hi Takeshi San,
    Is Kobe city loop bus included in any JR pass?
    Thank you very much.

  10. Peter says:

    Takeshi san,

    I will be going to Tokyo from 24 March till 3 April and I intend to go to Kobe on 28 March, stay 2 nights and then go to Arima Onsen on 30 March and then back to Tokyo to 1 April.

    I would like to know if the JR Pass will be suitable for this? I know that I can take the Hikari Shinkansen to Sannomiya JR station.

    But how do I get from Kobe to Arima Onsen and then from Arima Onsen back to Ueno Station where I will be staying for the last 2 nights.

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      Takeshi / JPRail.com says:

      Hi Peter san,

      You can use JR Pass. Shinkansen does not go to Sannomiya but Shin-Kobe.
      Direct bus service is available to Arima from Sannomiya. Please see the link below:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/station-information/kobe-sannomiya-stations-guide-check-the-location-and-connections-between-many-sannomiya-stations.html

      You can catch Shinkansen from Shin-Kobe after Arima. Bus stops at Shin-Kobe before reaching Sannomiya.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      • Peter says:

        Takeshi san,

        Thanks for you reply. In this case should I just take the shinkensen from Tokyo to Shin-Kobe and then the subway from Shin Kobe to Sannomiya Station? From Hyperdia, I can see that I can take Shinkansen & JR trains to Sannomiya JR Station but this involves a few transfers.

        Also on the 29 March, I might want to go to Osaka to visit the Osaka Castle. Do you think it is a good idea to take the shinkansen there in order to maximize my JR pass?

        • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
          Takeshi / JPRail.com says:

          Hi Peter san,

          Please see the link below. You will find the map that shows you all train lines in Kansai area.
          https://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-transfer-among-kyoto-osaka-and-kobe-compare-japan-railway-and-private-lines.html

          You can take two ways, Shin-kobe to Sannomiya or Shin-Osaka to Sannomiya. If you can catch the direct Shinkansen to Shin-Kobe, Shin-Kobe to Sannomiya route is easier. Subway is not covered by JR pass, but it’s only 5 minutes, one station away from Sannomiya.

          If you change the train at Shin-Osaka, you need to take rapid or local train for 25 minutes to get Sannomiya. But these trains are JR and those are covered by JR pass fully.

          From Sannomiya to Osaka castle, Shinkansen is not a good idea. Special rapid connects Sannomiya and Osaka directly. And you can transfer to Osaka Kanjo line (loop line) to get Osaka castle.

          If you take Shinkansen, you have to take subway to get Shin-Kobe. Shinkansen does not go to Osaka but Shin-Osaka. Shin-Osaka is one station away from Osaka. So you have to change the trains many times and actually it’s much slower than trip by Special rapid. These info are written in the link above too.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

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