Kyoto: Side Trips

Kobe

Kobe Sankei / Getty Images
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In the early hours of January 17th, 1995, Japan's sixth-largest city was devastated by an earthquake that claimed almost 6,500 lives and caused damage in excess of $100 billion. Though Kobe, 70 kilometers west of Kyoto, hasn't managed to regain its pre-quake status as Japan's premier shipping port, it has come back to life.

The highlights of the reemerging city include a lively if somewhat touristy Chinatown, a stunning fashion museum that houses historical and couture fashions in a building that looks like it has landed from Mars, and Harbor Land, a seafront redevelopment that merges the area's old brick warehouses with restaurants, shopping malls, cinemas and hotels.

But it's the poignant Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution which really stands out. It uses a variety of high-tech exhibits to document the brute force and devastation of the city's earthquake.

From Kyoto, the JR Tokaido Sanyo Line's special rapid service gets you to Kobe in 55 minutes at a cost of ¥1050. Several trains depart every hour.

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