Kobe Beginnings

Many unexpected things can trace their beginnings in Japan back to Kobe.

In this series, Kobe PR Specialist Louise Dendy introduces products and things that spread throughout Japan through Kobe Port, which is celebrating its 150th Anniversary in 2017.


Kobe sweetsAsk Japanese people what Kobe is famous for, and you are certain to hear “sweets” on the list. They don’t mean just candy, but confectionery in general, in particular cakes and baked treats. Kobe has links with sweets from long ago- read on to find out more.


In 1870, the Western-style Oriental Hotel was built by a French person in the Foreign Settlement, and it was there that confectionery for foreigners was served. Kobe's first cake shop "Ninomiya Seishindo" later opened in Motomachi, however Western confectionery was a luxury for foreigners in the settlement, and was not readily available to ordinary Japanese people.
"Kobe Fugetsudo" changed this when it opened in 1897, selling foods which you could not previously find in Japan such as Castella, waffles, cream puffs and more. This became the catalyst for the further spreading of western sweets in Japan.

Famous confectioners

Craftsmen who were exiled to Japan during the Taisho Period (1912-1926) because of the Russian Revolution set up confectioners here, arguably the most famous of these being Goncharoff and Morozoff. Goncharoff’s confectionery made of chocolate, nuts and cream was a commercial success. Famously, Kobe Morozoff Confection (now Morozoff) introduced the idea of giving chocolates on Valentine’s Day to Japan, as they were the first to take out a newspaper advertisement promoting it.
Carl Juchheim was a German prisoner of war in Japan in the First World War (1914-1918), but he stayed in Japan and opened the confectionery store "Juchheim" in Yokohama. The store was destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, but he moved the store to Kobe’s Sannomiya area, where he made Baumkuchen, now a Kobe delicacy.
Heinrich Freundlieb was also a German prisoner of war who stayed in Japan, but unlike Juchheim he opened a bakery selling German-style bread in Nakayamate.

Try sweets in Kobe

Many tourists come to Kobe just to try the delicious sweets, and Western confectionery is big business in Kobe, celebrated through events such as the Higashinada Sweets Meguri. With so many bakeries and confectioners in the city, you have no excuse not to try this delicious Kobe speciality!


History of Golf

There are several theories surrounding the origins of the sport of golf itself, but it is generally accepted that the game in its current form originated in Scotland, where the first time the word “golf” could be found in print was in the year 1457, in an Act of the Scottish Parliament. The Act banned the sport as it was said to distract men from their military archery practice, but the ban was lifted in 1502 when the King took up the sport himself.

First golf course in Japan

Statue of Arthur Hesketh GroomThe first time the sport was played in Japan traces back to Kobe at the dawn of the 20th century. It is said that British tradesman based in Kobe Arthur Hesketh Groom spoke nostalgically with friends about the sport, and made the bold decision to create the country’s very first golf course on Mt. Rokko.

Surprisingly, before playing his first game on his own golf course, Mr Groom had never played the sport, and while creating the course took advice from two Scottish acquaintances who had played golf in Scotland during their youth.

The course takes shape

After three years of hard work clearing out obstacles such as stones, bushes and weeds by hand, the four-hole course was completed in 1901, and was later expanded to nine holes in 1903, when the Kobe Golf Club was also established. In May the same year, Governor of Hyogo Prefecture Mr. Ichizo Hattori christened the nine-hole course with the first drive, which according to reports only rolled two or three metres.

The current day course

It grew to eighteen holes a year after the Governor's modest first drive in 1904, and after several modifications settled to its current form in 1929.

The course is still going strong, and is open from mid-April to mid-November for players who want to enjoy a course with over 110 years of history. However please note that guests must be introduced or accompanied by a member.


Ramune is the Japanese pronunciation of “lemonade”, and is a common fizzy drink sold all throughout Japan. However, the ramune of today does not contain lemon, nor even has a lemon taste. You will have to try it for yourself to find out the exact taste!


RamuneIt is said that the Scottish trader Alexander Cameron Sim was the first person to sell the fizzy drink in Japan in Kobe’s Foreign Settlement in around 1884. It owed its early success to both the novel bottle, opened by pushing the stopper marble down into the bottle, and to a bout of cholera in 1886- a news article of the time pointed out that you cannot get cholera if you drink carbonated drinks such as ramune.

The famous bottle

Despite disappearing from its homeland of England many years ago, the original bottle, called a Codd-neck bottle after the inventor Hiram Codd, is a firm symbol of summer and is still sold containing ramune all around Japan. Although they can be reused, children would often smash the bottles to get the marbles out, so now they are very tough to prevent injury.

The difference between Cider and Ramune

Arima Teppo Water CiderHave you heard of “Cider”, the carbonated drink, and not the apple alcohol? Kobe's Arima region has its own cider drink, well-known in Japan, and a must-try for visitors to the area.
Cider was originally apple flavoured, but it eventually became undistinguishable from ramune, and now the drinks are only differentiated by their containers- ramune is found in a Codd-neck bottle, and cider is sold in regular bottles and cans.

Try ramune in Kobe

We take carbonated drinks for granted, but ramune's unchanging taste and classic bottle hark back to a time when they were a novelty in Japan. Why not get a bottle of ramune and drink it in the Foreign Settlement for a real blast from the past?

Kobe Beef

Kobe BeefKobe Beef is the most famous export of Kobe City, and arguably even more famous around the world than Kobe City itself. But how much do you actually know about it?

Kobe Beef’s beginnings and its launch to fame

The Port of Kobe was opened to the world in 1868. At the time, people in Japan didn’t eat beef, so the non-Japanese people who came to Japan through the port had problems getting their hands on any. They turned to eating the meat of Tajima cows which were originally used for agriculture, and were delightfully surprised by the high quality of the meat. Ships calling at the Port of Kobe then loaded the beef onto their ships to be savoured abroad, launching it to fame worldwide.

No cows called Kobe Beef cows

To this day, all Kobe Beef comes from the Tajima breed of cow. But not every Tajima cow can be Kobe Beef- it must meet strict quality standards, and only the finest is branded Kobe Beef.
Tajima cows have enjoyed an excellent reputation for hundreds of years, and even in writings from the year 1310 they have been noted for being superior in quality.

The secrets to Kobe Beef: massage, classical music and beer?

The urban legend has developed that Kobe Beef is delicious because the breeders massage their cows, feed them beer and play them classical music, but as fun as it would be to believe, what actually makes Kobe Beef special is the Tajima cows’ excellent genetics which make them ideal for eating, and fiercely protected lineage to ensure that these genetics are handed down through breeding.

Try Kobe Beef in the city where it all began

Kobe Beef has become world famous, meaning that many people have tried to take advantage of the brand name by falsely labelling their meat as “Kobe Beef”. A limited number of restaurants around the world do serve the genuine article, but to be sure, why don’t you come to Kobe and look for “Kobe Beef” on the menu of one of our excellent restaurants?