We combined a visit to Kobe and Himeji because they are so close to each other (only 25 minutes on the high speed train), and both cities are small in relation to other Japanese cities so you only really need 1 day in each.
Things To Do (Kobe):
Nunobiki Falls absolutely took my breath away, it’s a short 10 minute walk behind Shin-Osaka station (come out of the station then double back on yourself through a tunnel that will lead you to the start of the trail). The falls are spread over a few different levels, make sure you go all the way to the top so that you don’t miss anything.
Meriken Park is the central attraction for visitors to Kobe, it’s home to the Kobe Port Tower (entrance ¥600) as well as a whole host of sculptures and monuments, the most interesting being the 1995 earthquake memorial, a small strip of the old pier as it stood after the devastating 1995 earthquake, cordoned off and preserved as a reminder of what happened that dreadful day.
Head to Pier No.1 for a fantastic view of the parks skyline.
Things To Do (Himeji):
Himeji is famous in Japan for its magnificent White Castle, the beautiful structure sits on top of a small hill and can be seen from almost anywhere in Himeji, it was built in the 17th century and was the first UNESCO site in Japan. The gardens surrounding the castle are free to enter. We didn’t go inside the castle itself because there are so many in Japan that you do start to lose your enthusiasm for them. If it had been the first castle we saw then I may have been more inclined to pay the ¥1,000+ entrance fee.
Close to the castle is the museum of art, it’s a small little gallery made up of donated pieces from the wealthy residents in the area, particularly 1 doctor who donated almost everything. Entrance is ¥200 and you only need about 30 minutes there.
We loved the Tegarayam Botanical Gardens, the majority of the gardens are inside 2 massive greenhouses with a few things outdoors too. The cactus section was my favourite. Entrance costs ¥200.
Both cities are on the high speed rail line, Shin-Kobe and Himeji St, though not every train stops at Himeji.
Kobe is only 30 minutes from Kyoto or 15 minuets from Shin-Osaka, making it a perfect day trip. Add on an extra 25 minuets for Himeji.
Where To Stay:
Both Kobe and Himeji have plenty of budget options, though we chose to stay in Kobe because it was slightly bigger out of the two.
We stayed at the Minato Hutte guesthouse which was a 15 minute walk from Shin-Kobe station, the dorms were clean and the beds were more like little rooms. We were lucky that it was almost empty during our stay. We booked through booking.com for ¥2,000 per bunk per night.