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. I am coming at kobe airport and then using portliner to reach Sannomiya. And After that i am going for rope way. Later at Meriken Park and then Harborland. Also i have to visit a place near to Nunobiki Bus Stop. And then returning to Sannomiya. Please let me know which is the best pass i can take covering the city and transit from airport.
    Thanks.

  2. Mary says:

    We are coming to Kobe for a day trip from Osaka using the JR PAss. We plan to go to Himeji castle first, then back to Kobe to try the beef, Kitano, Harborland and Mt Rokko. Is this all covered by the JR Pass? Thank you

  3. Jas says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    Can i know whether the Arima & Rokko 1 Day Pass (Hanshin Version) covered train from Namba station to Kobe and return ticket as well? If yes, where can I purchase this pass in Osaka?

    Many Thanks
    Jas

  4. Amazing guide your knowledge is fantastic.

    That said I was wondering if you can help me with my itinerary plan.

    I will be staying in osaka and i will have a JRpass. I would like to visit Himeji castle / gardens nearby in the morning and Kobe on the way back to Osaka all in one day trip. I dont know what to do in Kobe do you have any recommendations? I should be in kobe by 12:00 or 1:00 . Anything i should target to see?

  5. Yi Hao says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    Thank you for the great guide!

    I will be travelling to Kobe from Osaka. I am planning to purchase Hanshin 1 day pass at 700 yen, which will cover my travelling fees from Osaka to Kobe. Since I want to visit Arima Onsen as well, I am planning to take the buses to Arima Onsen. Seeing that a one way trip to Arima Onsen is around 700 yen, do you think this way of travelling is viable?

    Regards,
    Yi Hao

  6. lin says:

    Hi Takeshi San,
    I stay around tennoji station . I would like to go to arima onsen , I have kansai area pass then I interest to buy Arima Rokko one day pass ( basic 2360 yen ) . So where i can buy this pass ? and this pass can use for kobe city bus from Rokko Cable Shita Station to JR Rokkomichi Station ? Thanks You very much

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

      Hi Lin san,

      You can purchase it at Kobe subway Sannomiya station Kiosk and Hankyu railway Sannokmiya station information center. You cannot purchase this at the ticket window. City bus is included.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. Hi Takeshi San,
    I’m going to Osaka end of May.
    I plan to go to Himeiji and Kobe on day 1.
    I plan to buy Kansai Thru Pass and use it on my first day.
    From Kansai Airport to Osaka town (to drop our luggage),
    then from Osaka – Namba to Himeiji and Kobe, then back to Osaka.
    May I know the day trip is it very rushing? Kansai Thru Pass is it suitable for this day trip?
    Thank you!

    Best greeting,
    Shim

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

      Hi Shim san,

      If you use Kansai thru pass for other trips, like trip to Kyoto, trip to Nara, it’s suitable. Because Kansai thru pass is available from 2 days. Himeji tourist pass is also available. This covers KIX-Namba-Kobe/Himeji trip too.
      http://www.sanyo-railway.co.jp/global/en/touristpass.html

      You will spend one hour at least to pick up baggage, clear custom and immigration.
      Then you will purchase a ticket and proceed to the station. It takes about 30 minutes.
      It takes about 50 minutes to get Namba.
      You will drop off the luggage. It takes another 30 minutes.
      It takes another 100 minutes to get Himeji.

      I think even if you arrive in Kansai airport in very early morning, you will be Himeji around noon. If it’s okay for you, you can do this trip.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  8. Jess says:

    Hi. im going to Osaka this May. I plan to visit Kobe and Kyoto.
    At Kobe, Im just going to Mt. Rokko and Arima Onsen. (full day)

    And at Kyoto, im just going to Bamboo Forest, Gion, Monkey Park and Kinkakuji Temple. (full day)

    im staying at osaka. How can i go there?

    Thank You

  9. Lynn says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    Would like to check if the 14day JR pass is most suitable for my itinerary, or I should consider a combination of passes? Will be travelling from 26 Nov to 10 Dec. My draft itinerary as follows:

    Day 1: NRT to Toyama
    Day 2: Kurobe Gorge
    Day 3: Tateyama Kurobe Alphine Route (end up at Matsumoto)
    Day 4: Explore Matsumoto
    Day 5: Matsumoto to Yudanaka (thru Nagano?)
    Day 6: Yudanaka to Osaka
    Day 7-8: Osaka
    Day 9: Hiroshima
    Day 10-14: Osaka (Plan to do day trips to Kobe, Himeiji, USJ on days7-8 or 10-14).
    Day 15: Narita (flight departing NRT late afternoon).

    Hope to hear from you. If the itinerary needs to be changed, will be glad to hear your advise too. Thank you very much.

  10. Geo Yap says:

    Hi Takeshi San,

    I’m going to Osaka next week.
    I plan to visit Himeji and Kobe.

    – Visit Himeji Castle then go to Kobe. Visit Mt Rokko and Arima Onsen then back to Kobe Town from Kobe back to Osaka.

    Can i use Kansai Thru Pass for this arrangement?

    Thank you.

    Geo

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