Hi, my name is Shania and I am an LLB Global Law student from Queen Mary University of London, currently studying my final undergraduate year in Kobe University in Japan, and here to tell you everything you may need to know about living in a reality completely different from the one back in London.
Kobe is the capital city of the Hyogo prefecture, and home to many views such as the mountains you will be climbing to university everyday as well as famous Japanese delicacies such as Kobe beef. The university has dormitories spread across Kobe, with some positioned a short hike away from the campus, and another, most specifically the building I have the pleasure of staying in, positioned on a completely different island.
Port Island, is a man-made island home to the Kobe International Residence and it is a peaceful place, with small parks and outdoor areas, as well as many amenities close by, with supermarkets such as Toho and Gourmet City as well as many convenience stores (konbini) stationed nearby. It is a beautiful place to live in, and a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of London life, with everything you may need being a short and pleasant walk away. The convenience of konbinis has been a surprising but also extremely helpful difference from the reality I face back in London.
London may have its handy corner shops, but konbini here enable you to do anything you may need. In need of a quick meal? The konbini offers cold food such as onigiri, salads and sandwiches, to even hot food that you can heat up in the store itself! In a rush but you need to print out some documents? All konbinis have printers from which you can easily print files straight from your phone through the use of a QR code! On a night out, in need to get home but have no battery left? You can rent out a power bank from a konbini and return to any other branch for a cheap price! Life in Japan means you will be using the konbinis for everything, even to pay your bills.
Moving on, Kobe is full of sights and places to explore. Sannomiya, the city centre, is the optimal place to go for a meal or for a night out in bars, izakayas or for karaoke. The central plaza also has plenty of shops, from familiar shops we know of such as Zara and Uniqlo (which by the way, is much cheaper in Japan) to shops such as WE-GO, which I definitely recommend for street wear. A few stops away from Sannomiya you can also head to Suma beach to relax and go for a swim in the warmer months. Meriken Park, and Harbourland can also be found just a 12 minute walk from Sannomiya. There you can find the famous ‘BE KOBE” sign, as well as the Ferris wheel, which is another optimal place to relax by the harbour. Moreover, if you enjoy skating, there is also a skatepark right by Meriken Park.
The sights and views Kobe has to offer do not stop there; you also get exposed to a lot whilst going up towards the university campus which is located up Rokko Mt. There are many viewpoints within the campus as well as on your walk down from campus towards the station, which are beautiful during the day and during the evening.
Kobe is also conveniently placed where you can easily access other cities that are a must-visit for Japan, with direct train links to places such as Kyoto, Nara and Osaka. You can go visit the temples in Kyoto, feed the deer in Nara and go shopping and enjoy the entertainment areas in Osaka with just an ICOCA card. An ICOCA card is the equivalent of an Oyster card here, with the exception that you can easily purchase one at any ticket machine in any big station, and you can use it to travel in all the big cities in Japan by simply topping it up at any ticket station. The Turing Scheme has been especially helpful in this case as public transport is used by most of the public here and in the Hyogo prefecture it can also get quite expensive. The Turing funding I received has aided me in making my train travelling less costly so that I can easily visit these renowned places in Japan that are a train ride away from Kobe, as well as getting to university.
In terms of public transport, it is very different to the public transport I am used to back in London. The trains and subways are clean and signal is reachable even in the underground stations. The trains are also quiet for the most part, as it is an unspoken rule that passengers in the trains should refrain from making too much noise that would disturb other passengers. It is a welcome change, although one thing I do miss about transport back in London would probably be the night tube and buses. Here, if you decide to have a night out in Osaka, you must commit to partying all night or booking a place in the area in advance as here the last train is usually around 12:30 am. Therefore, you would often have to wait until 5:00 am to take the train back home. This is the lifestyle a lot of young people in Japan live when they do go out, therefore the streets of Shinsaibashi and Namba are often bustling until morning.
As you can tell, I have fallen in love with Japan and with Kobe. It is definitely a welcome change from the London lifestyle, and if there is anything that you can take away from my short love letter to Kobe and the Hyogo prefecture is that Japan has a lot to offer outside of Tokyo and that you can easily find beauty in the country and its culture by just living your daily life and appreciating the little things (such as the hike up to campus, or the convenience stores).