A Bit of Europe in Kobe – Kitano Ijinkan Foreign Residences (Part 2)

This article is a continuation of our first article on the Kitano Ijinkan here.

So, you’re done having your amazing cheese fondue at the Swiss Chalet and want to do more exploring?

In this article we’ll take a look at two of the biggest and grandest foreign residences, visit a hilltop Shinto shrine, and eat some ice cream, too.

To start off, how about visiting the most famous of the residences, the Weathercock House? This house was constructed as the house of a German trader in the early 1900s, and its distinctive weather-vane has been a symbol of the entire area since.

Here’s the famous jazz statue in the town square with the residence in the background.

The interior and furnishings of the house have been preserved as-is, and you can compare them with photographs of the house and family as they were in the early twentieth century.

Here’s a view of the residence from further uphill.

The other famous foreign residence is the Uroko House. This imposing mansion was originally created as a luxury rental property for foreigners, and was the first foreign residence to be opened to the public.

The distinctive tiling on the house gives it its name – “Uroko” means “scales” in Japanese.

I would love to live in such lavish surroundings…

This sleigh was apparently used by European royalty back in the day!

When you’re done touring the foreign residences, here’s a truly Japanese spot you can visit for a little tranquility. The Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is one of Kobe’s major Shinto shrines, and it’s located just up the hill.

You’re going to have to conquer this intimidating set of stairs before you earn your tranquility. Sorry.

Here’s the main shrine building, in all its majesty.

A smaller shrine is located behind a bright-red torii gate sheltered by trees.

One unique element at Kitano Tenmangu is this fountain with a statue of a koi fish. “Koi” means “romance” in Japanese, so hopefuls visit this shrine for a bit of a blessing. You can also purchase a paper fortune written in invisible ink that only shows up when you put the fortune in the water.

Next to the fountain couples write their names and a message on a heart-shaped “ema”, or prayer board. Awww.

To top off your day, I recommend having a soft ice cream at Kobe Rokko Farm ice cream shop. Their soft ice cream is made with milk from the Rokko mountain range located directly behind the city of Kobe and the foreign residences.

I chose two flavors – matcha and chocolate. Just kidding, I’m not that far gone. One of these was for my traveling companion.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this mini-tour as much as I did! There are countless more foreign residences – too many for us to cover in one blog article – but if you’re a history buff or (like me) love imagining what life was like in the past, you could easily spend the entire day wandering these old mansions.

To get started exploring, head to the Kitano Tourist Information Center, which has plentiful English brochures and maps.

Kitano Tourist Information Center
Hours: 9 AM – 6 PM (5 PM November-February).
Address: 3-10-20 Kitanocho, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0002
Telephone: 078-251-8360
Website: http://feel-kobe.jp/_en/ (English)

How To Get There

Kitano Ijinkan
From Sannomiya Station: Walk north on Kitanozaka Street for approximately 15 minutes.

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