One of my favourite trips in Japan so far has been a trip to Hyogo and the cities within the prefecture. Hyogo, for many, is well known for the city of Kobe (which is thus famous for beef and for the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake), and the neighbouring Osaka prefecture.
Kobe itself is a beautiful city. The Harbour (Harbourland, Mosaic, Kobe Port) area is easy to drive around and there is plenty of parking on offer. In addition, driving through the centre of Kobe couldn’t be easier. The roads are designed in a typical American standard (blocks) and thus are well organised and less busy. The most famous part of Kobe city is probably Sannomiya, this area is generally where you’ll find most restaurants, bars and general entertainment.
On my trip to Kobe, I decided to venture from around the Kobe-shi area and head to the famous Himeji Castle, before heading back along the coast to view the world’s longest suspension bridge, Akashi Kaikyo.
The first option you can take is the Sanyo Expressway. This road is generally quiet, expensive and there is little to see in the way of scenery. That will set you back more than 2,500 yen but is a sure fire way to avoid the traffic.
Once you arrive in Himeji, the most famous sight, of course, is the castle. This is Japan’s biggest and most famous castle and was actually closed for renovation at the time of writing. Still, it was stunning and worth the visit.
From there, it was decided to visit the stunning suspension bridge, the Akashi Kaikyo. This connects Hyogo with Awajishima island, which in turn connects to Shikoku prefecture. As you’ll see from the pictures, this bridge absolutely blows the San Francisco Golden Gate bridge out of the water, it is that stunning. The journey along the coastline back to Kobe (and through the suspension bridge area), takes you through countryside areas and there is again not much in the way of scenery, but it is worth it once you get to the bridge. From the bridge, a swift 20-30 minute journey should put you back in Kobe.
All in all, if you have time to visit Hyogo, I would indeed recommend Himeji. I would also recommend finding time to visit another prefecture to make the most of your trip.