15 Best Things to Do in Hyogo

From Himeji Castle to Kobe Beef, Best Things to Do in Hyogo

Hyogo is a prefecture located in Kansai region, stretching from the Seto Inland Sea to the Sea of Japan. The prefectural capital, Kobe is one of the largest cosmopolitan cities in Japan, known for its signature marbled beef called Kobe Beef and scenic setting of mountains with the harbor. The vibrant port cities is a center of economic, transportation and tourism in the region.

Hyogo is situated next to Kyoto and Osaka, two of the most popular cities among tourists in Japan, and  the prefecture itself is a great travel destination as there are numbers of tourist attractions such as historic sites, nature spots, hot spring resorts and delicious local specialties.

In this article, I would like introduce the best things to do in Hyogo Prefecture, from the UNESCO World Heritage Site: Himeji Castle to delicious Kobe Wagyu Beef!

With this Kansai Region Bucket List, let’s also check out the surrounding tourist attractions: Best Things to Do in Kansai

1. Kobe

The capital city of Hyogo Prefecture, Kobe (神戸) is one of the most attractive cities and the most popular tourist destinations in Japan. The city is country’s one of the most important port cities with the Port of Kobe which opened for foreign trade in 19th century.

Kobe offers a great number of tourist attractions including the city’s landmark Kobe Tower, the waterfront park Meriken Park, museums, shopping spots and a plenty of restaurants to taste mouthwatering Kobe Beef. The city is also known for its beautiful night view which is considered as one of three most spectacular night views along with Hakodate and Nagasaki.

One of the best places to enjoy the scenic city view of Kobe is Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens, a botanical garden situated on the slope of Mt Rokko. It’s the largest herb garden in Japan with around 75,000 herbs and flowers of about 200 kinds blooming throughout the year. The garden can be access only by the ropeway which offers astonishing views of Kobe City.

Since being one of the oldest port cities in Japan, Kobe has a lot of influence from other countries and offers a unique mixed cultures of Western and Oriental. The Kitano area, the Western influenced district which used to be a residence area of foreign merchants and there are some former houses and buildings no open to public as tourist sites. The city also has the largest China Town.

More info: Kobe: Best Things to Do

2. Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle (姫路城) is a Japanese feudal castle located in Himeji City. The castle is often called the White Heron Castle (Shirasagi-jo in Japanese) because of the beautiful appearance with the white exterior of the building. It’s counted as one of three greatest castles in Japan along with Matsumoto Castle in Nagano and Kumamoto Castle in Kumamoto.

The castle renowned for the finest surviving example of prototypical Japanese castle architecture with advanced defensive systems from the feudal period in the 17th century. It’s the only Japanese castle that is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s also designated to National Treasure. The best time to visit the castle is cherry blossom season as 0ver 1,000 cherry trees are planted in the grounds of the castle.

3. Kokoen Garden

Kokoen Garden (好古園) is a traditional Japanese garden located next to Himeji Castle and it’s a top tourist site in Himeji City. The garden is relatively new as it was built in 1992 at the former site of the feudal lord’s west residence to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Himeji municipality’s establishment.

The Japanese style stroll garden is 3.5 ha and consists of nine different gardens which are separated from each other by walls. It has a large pond in center with 250 carps. The garden features the style of architecture from Edo period, making it a popular setting for filming Jidaigeki (Japanese historical dramas and movies)

4. Shosazan Engyoji Temple

Shoshazan Engyoji Temple (書写山圓教寺) is a temple of the Tendai sect located in Himeji City. The temple was founded in 966 by Shoku Shonin and has over 1000 years history. Engyoji is the 27th temple of the 33 Kansai Kannnon Pilgrimage temples. The temple complex consists of multiple buildings including the main hall of the temple Mani-den and some of them are designated to Important Cultural Property of Japan. The temple is located at the summit of Mt Shosha (Shoshazan) and can be reached via a hiking trail or a ropeway.

Engyoji Temple has been featured on numbers of movies and dramas in past mostly with domestic productions, but it became famous worldwide when it was set on the filming location of the Hollywood blockbuster movie “The Last Samurai” as multiple scenes were shot around three halls (Daiko-do, Jiki-do and Jogyo-do).

Map: https://maps.app.goo.gl/EZ3koZdHtrEzZgkp8

5. Kinosaki Onsen

Kinosaki Onsen (城崎温泉) is one of the most popular Onsen resorts in Japan, located in Toyooka City in northern Hyogo along the coastline of the Sea of Japan. Kinosaki Onsen, once featured on Lonely Planet as the Best Onsen Town in Japan, attracts visitors by its traditional and charming townscape with historic buildings and willow trees lined along the canal.

Visitors can enjoy strolling down the street with a nostalgic atmosphere, wearing Yukata (cotton kimono) and Geta (wooden sandals). On the streets of Kinosaki, you can hear the clatter of Geta sandals as passengers pass by, which adds a unique quality and characteristic to this Onsen town.

Kinosaki Onsen is home to approx 80 Onsen ryokans and 7 public bathhouses called Sotoyu, and the popular activity in Kinosaki is Sotoyu Meguri, touring all the public bathhouses, which allows you to have various Onsen experience.

6. Kobe Beef

Wagyu (premium Japanese beef) is one of the most popular Japanese food among tourists. In fact, there are over 300 wagyu brands throughout the country, and one of the most famous and renowned wagyu beef brands is Kobe Beef (神戸牛), which is from Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture. Kobe Beef is valued for its taste, tenderness and well-marbled texture with the delicate fat that melts in your mouth delightfully.

In Kobe City, there are numbers of restaurants and steakhouses that offer delicious and mouthwatering Kobe Beef dishes. You can enjoy Kobe Beef in various ways of cooking such as Teppanyaki, Shabu-Shabu and Sukiyaki. Check the link below to find the best Kobe Beef restaurants in Kobe City!

More info: Best Kobe Beef Restaurants in Kobe

7. Arima Onsen

Along with the Kinosaki Onsen mentioned above, Arima Onsen (有馬温泉) is also one of the top hot spring resorts in Western Japan. Arima Onsen is a popular getaway from the city as it’s located within Kobe City, just behind Mt Rokko. While being situated in the modern city, it attracts visitors with its tranquility and surroundings of the beautiful nature tucked away from the hustle and bustle from the city.

Arima Onsen is considered as one of the best three hot springs in Japan. There are two types of spring waters: Kinsen that has brownish colour and contains iron and salt, and Ginsen that has no colour and contains radium and carbonate.

Arima Onsen is one of the oldest hot springs in Japan from 8th century and also known as a favourite Onsen of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, one of the most famous Japanese samurai and warlord from the 16th century, whose statue can be found in the town.

More info: 10 Best Things to Do in Arima Onsen

8. Takeda Castle Ruins

Takeda Castle Ruins (竹田城跡) are ruins of a mountaintop castle located on Asago City in northern Hyogo Prefecture. The Takeda Castle was built originally in 1441 during the Muromachi period by Otagaki Mitsukage, a retainer of Yamana Sozen, and destroyed in 1600 during the battle of Sekigahara with the foundations and stone walls remained relatively undamaged.

The castle ruins are today a popular tourist site and often called “the Castle in the Sky” as it looks like floating on a sea of clouds. It’s often compared to Machu Picchu, an Incan citadel in Peru. The castle can be visited through the year, however, if you wish to capture the view of the cloud-floating castle, there are more chances for the foggy haze to appear in early morning in autumn (which is about once every three days).

9. Rokkosan

Rokkosan or Mt Rokko (六甲山) is a range of mountains in southeastern Hyogo Prefecture, which spans approx 56km from western Kobe to Takarazuka with the highest point of 931 m. Mt Rokko is a symbol of Kobe City and a popular destination for sightseeing and hiking from the city. The panoramic view of Hanshin area including Kobe City, Osaka Bay and Osaka can be seen from the mountain, and the view is also spectacular after the sunset.

Various attractions are available on Mt Rokko including a botanical garden, museum, park, shops, restaurants, observatories. There are also seasonal events such as autumn leaves viewing and winter illuminations. The mountain can be accessed by a cable car from Kobe City and ropeway from Arima Onsen.

10. Hanshin Koshien Stadium

Hanshin Koshien Stadium (阪神甲子園球場) is a baseball stadium located in Nishinomiya City. The stadium opened in summer in 1924 and has a capacity of 55,000. It’s a home field of Hanshin Tigers, a Japanese professional baseball team that has a huge fanbase in Western Japan. The stadium also hosts national high school baseball tournaments called Koshien, which the stadium was originally built for and given its name. While the tournaments are held, Hanshin Tigers uses Kyocere Dome Osaka as their second home field.

During the season of professional baseball league or high school tournaments, it’s recommended to visit Hanshin Koshien Stadium and watch the baseball game with local fans with an energetic and enthusiastic atmosphere, especially if you are a baseball fan!

11. Kobe Luminarie

Watching winter illuminations is one of the most popular seasonal activities in Japan nowadays, and gorgeous light-ups are displayed in many cities across Japan during winter. Kobe Luminarie (神戸ルミナリエ) is one of the most spectacular illumination events in Japan, which is held annually in Kobe City in winter.

The event originally started in 1995 to commemorate the Great Hanshin Earthquake and has been running over 20 years until today. The event features colourful and gorgeous light installations which are designed by Japanese and Italian artists and displayed at multiple locations in Kobe City. The event invites a few million visitors every year.

12. Autumn Leaves at Ankokuji Temple

Ankokuji Temple (安国寺) is a Zen Buddhist temple located in Toyooka City, Hyogo Prefecture. The temple was founded in 1345, and is one of 68 Ankokuji Temples located across the country. The temple is part of Daitokuji branch of the Rinzai, one of the three main sects of Japanese Zen.

Ankokuji Temple is today famous for the Dodan Tsutsuji (Enkianthus perulatus) which turns into red colour during autumn and displays spectacular scenery. The view of the burning red trees can be enjoyed from the main hall of the temple and it looks just like a painting. During the season, the temple attracts thousands of visitors willing to capture a glimpse of the breathtaking scenery.

More info: Ankokuji Temple: the Best Hidden Autumn Leaves Spot in Hyogo

13. Awaji Island

Awaji Island or Awajishima (淡路島) is an island in Hyogo Prefecture, located in the eastern part of the Seto Inland Sea. It’s the largest island in the Seto Inland Sea with the area of 592.17 km2. The island is connected to Kobe City with the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and to Naruto City, Tokushima Prefecture with the Onaruto Bridge. Both bridges are part of he Kobe-Awaji-Naruto Expressway. The island can be also accessed by ferry linking to Akashi City.

Awaji Island is a popular tourist destination in Western Japan as the island offers an abundance of unique attractions including historic sites, museums, amusement parks, seasonal flowers, nature spots and delicious local cuisine. The island is also famous for the traditional performing art of puppet theater with a history of 500 years and it’s performed the Awaji Puppet Theater until today.

More info ▶ Best Things to Do in Awaji Island

14. Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge (明石海峡大橋) is a suspension bridge that connects Kobe City and Awaji Island, and spans over the Akashi Strait. The bridge opened in 1998 as the longest suspension bridge in the world (3,911 m) at that time. It’s currently the second longest after the 1915 Çanakkale Bridge in Turkey opened in March 2022. The bridge is part of the Kobe-Awaji-Naruto Expressway, the tolled express way connecting Hyogo and Tokushima prefectures.

The science museum, Akashi Kaikyo Bridge Exhibition Center is located next to the bridge (on the Kobe City side) where guests can learn the history and technologies about the bridge and its construction. The bridge is usually open only for vehicles, but there is also a 317m long promenade as a tourist attraction. There is also a group tour held occasionally, which allows visitors to walk on a special path and access the top of the bridge

and observation space if you join a group tour. (link: https://www.jb-honshi.co.jp/english/bridgeworld/index.html)

15. Naruto Whirlpools

The Naruto Whirlpools (鳴門の渦潮) are the natural phenomena formed by tidal currents of the Naruto Strait between Naruto City, Tokushima Prefecture and Awaji Island, Hyogo Prefecture. The strait has a width of about 1.3km and connects the Pacific Ocean and the Seto Inland Sea with the tide moving a large amount of water.

The current in the strait is the fastest in Japan with the speed reaching up to 20km/h. The dimension of the whirlpool can be as big as 20m. The whirlpools can be observed from from the shore of Awaji Island,  sightseeing boats or through the glass window on the hallway of the Onaruto Bridge from 45m above the sea. The dramatic movements of the tide can be seen about every 6 hours at high and low tide.

▽Check out the attractions you should experience across Japan with this Japan Bucket List!▽

If you are wondering what to do in Western Japan, check this article below!
▶︎Top Things to Do in Western Japan

▽Check more things to do in Kansai Region!▽

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▶︎10 Best Things to Do in Nara
▶︎10 Best Things to Do in Wakayama

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Written by

"The world is my oyster" A globetrotter 🌎 and hammock lover 🌞 who loves taking adventures to fuel wanderlust. Born and raised in Japan, I have lived and explored countries around the world. As a resident of Japan and based on my travel experience, I'd love to share my knowledge and tips for travelling Japan with my readers. I hope my story will help you plan your trip and have a great time in Japan 🌈