Kobe is world-famous as a port town, so seeing the cityscape from the water is not to be missed on a Kobe visit.
Recently, I had the chance to take the Concerto cruise, which pairs a beautiful view of the city with multi-course meals and live musical entertainment.
I took the lunch cruise, which came with a seven-course meal cooked by a top-class Chinese chef. (There are also an afternoon tea cruise and a dinner cruise.)
Well, I was expecting to enjoy the view, but I wasn’t expecting to be wowed by the food, music, and service as well!
The Concerto cruise departs from Harborland in Kobe, so you get the best possible views of Port Tower, the Oriental Hotel, and other famous Kobe sights.
Lunch was served in a lovely ballroom.
First came a somewhat exotic selection of appetizers.
Then there was a wonderfully rich mushroom soup.
Next came stir-fried shrimp and vegetables.
Then, the fish! This was the highlight of the meal for me. This white fish was ever-so-gently cooked in a ginger sauce.
Next, the main course: an awesome lemon chicken.
Fried rice finished off the meal.
Finally, for dessert, we enjoyed annin-dofu, a delicious almond tofu served with fruit.
The lunch cruise travels west from the Kobe harbor and reaches one of Kobe’s most famous sights, the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge. The Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge connects the mainland with Awaji Island and is the longest suspension bridge in the entire world.
We also enjoyed views of the tranquil ocean and the Kobe coastline framed by the Rokko mountain range. This shot is not so far from where I live in Kobe:
I also greatly enjoyed the music. Our pianist played a few classical selections, followed by jazz standards and nostalgic showtunes.
After the cruise, I had a valuable opportunity to speak with Ms. Machiko Nambu, the president of Kobe Concerto. I can’t thank Ms. Nambu enough for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions.
She told me all about the backstory of the now-iconic Concerto. This ship was used for a different cruise prior to the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake that rocked Kobe in 1995.
After the quake, the ship played an essential role ferrying survivors and rescue supplies across Osaka Bay. Later, the cruise resumed regular service, but due to the devastation in Kobe, customers were scarce, and the boat was finally scheduled to be sold to an overseas buyer.
It was at that moment that Ms. Nambu’s brother happened to take a tour of the boat and hear its story of heroism during the disaster. He decided the boat had to stay in Kobe and decided to purchase it then and there.
They created the “Concerto” concept and began service on July 18th, 1997.
Concerto celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Kobe has staged a full recovery from the quake, and the Concerto cruise has become a symbol of the city.
Ms. Nambu told me that the Concerto is a “four-layer” cruise: the views, the food, the service, and the music are each essential to the experience. Similarly, the Kobe landscape is a “four-layer” view of the sky, the mountains, the city, and the ocean. These elements all add up to an experience you can’t get anywhere else in Japan.
Lunch cruise: 12:00 – 1:45
Tea cruise: 3:00 – 4:30
Dinner cruise: 5:10 – 6:55 and 7:20 – 9:05
Address: 1-6-1 Higashi-kawasaki-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0044
Website: http://www.kobeconcerto.com/English/index.asp (English)
Lunch courses start at 4,200 yen, afternoon tea courses start at 1,200 yen, and dinner courses start at 6,200 yen. There is also a buffet option.
How To Get There
JR Kobe Station or Hanshin Kosoku-Kobe Station: Walk 10 minutes south toward Harborland. Tickets are sold in the first floor of the Mosaic building.