Region
Kansai
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Kobe
Population
5,550,742

Kitano Ijinkan

What was it like to be a foreigner in old-world Japan? Check out Japan's most well preserved 'foreign settlement quarter,' in Kobe.

Discover the picturesque cobbled streets of a quaint 19th-century neighborhood tucked away in Hyogo Prefecture.

Situated on the foothills of Kobe’s Rokko Mountains, Kitano Ijinkan (or foreign settlement quarter) provides a glimpse into a fascinating period of Japan’s history. It was here that foreign traders, diplomats and businessmen first set up home when overseas trade relations were restored in the Meiji Era. Kitano Ijinkan encapsulates the multicultural and elegant spirit of Kobe, a city with a diverse flare and lots to do for travelers.

Photo by: Imissdaisydog Step into the diverse old-world life foreign residents of Kobe.

Spend an afternoon strolling through courtyards and narrowly paved lanes lined with residences and consulates, built and fondly decorated with artifacts shipped in from home countries, as far away as France and China. These ‘Ijinkan,’ literally translated as “Western style residences built during the Shogun and Meiji Era,” numbered over 300 at one point in time. Today, about 20 of these well-maintained buildings are open to the public as museums.

Photo by: Wei-Te Wong A statue along Kitano Ijinkan Street.

Old-world charm

Ornately carved bars, kitchen trolley butlers with pulleys – the architecture and features of these vintage homes speak of a lavish lifestyle. Tickets for these museum houses can be purchased individually or in a package. There’s the iconic Weathercock House, built by a German tradesman, where you could imagine his family standing on the wooden veranda overlooking the Kobe port, waiting for the hoot of merchant ships coming in to dock.

There are many houses to choose from:

Moegi House, the residence of the former U.S. Counsel Hunter Sharp, the Uroko House with a unique fish scale facade and former Dutch, American and Panama Consulates, to name a few. Select a handful and make a leisurely day trip of it, or make it a selective afternoon sojourn; either way, Kitano Ijinkan should definitely be a stop on your Kobe itinerary.

Photo by: Wei-Te Wong A modern-day addition: Starbucks.

After you’ve had your fill of period architecture and antiquities, rest and recuperate at one of the many cafes in the area. In keeping with the European vibe of the neighborhood, the place is dotted with bakeries and patisseries. Kobe is believed to be the first place in Japan where bread was baked, so when you bite into that castella, cheesecake or shortcake, you will definitely understand that you’re eating a piece of history.

Dig Japanese history? Read more on where to find historic gems in Japan.

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Things To Know

Tickets

Available either individually or in combination (for entry to 2-8 houses) and range in cost from ¥600 to ¥3,000. Combination tickets are available at participating houses and ticket desks are found around the district.

Recommended spots

WeatherCock House, Uroko-no-ie, Kitano Gaikokujin Club and Sakanoue-no-Ijinkan. Also, look out for Kitano’s unique Starbucks Concept Store, housed in a restored 1907 Ijinkan.

Hours

Most Ijinkan buildings are open from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., in the summer, and from 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. in the winter.

How To Get There

Address

3 Chome-10-20 Kitanochō, Chūō-ku, Kōbe-shi, Hyōgo-ken 650-0002, Japan

By train

Kitano Ijinkan is a 10 to 15 minute walk from Shin-Kobe station, or Kobe’s downtown Sannomiya station. Kobe’s three main train lines, JR, Hanshin and Hankyu, all have stations at Sannomiya.

By bus

Kitano Ijinkan is a convenient stop on the Kobe City Loop Line. Head towards Kitanozaka and get off at the Ijinkan. (There are some facilities that offer discount services on a City Loop One-Day-Ticket.)

By car

Take the Hanshin Express Kobe Highway, head North from the Ikutagawa interchange, past Sannomiya, towards Kitanozaka. (Please note that parking is limited and the area has many narrow, steep one-way roads.)

Where To Stay

Hotel Kitano Plaza Rokkoso
  • Chuo-ku Kitano-cho 1-1-14 Kobe-Shi, Hyogo 650-0002
  • 8.2/10
  • 0.3 km
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Liberal (Adult Only)
  • Chuo-ku Yamamotodoori 2-2-8 Kobe-Shi, Hyogo 650-0003
  • 6.4/10
  • 0.4 km
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Green Hill Hotel Urban
  • Chuo-ku Kano-cho 2-5-16 Kobe-Shi, Hyogo 650-0001
  • 6.5/10
  • 0.4 km
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Green Hill Hotel Kobe
  • Chuo-ku Kanocho 2-8-3 Kobe-Shi, Hyogo 650-0001
  • 6.8/10
  • 0.4 km
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