6 Hidden Gems in Kobe’s Coolest Street

photography by: Shweta Shah

For most of us, the city name of “Kobe” rings familiar culinarily, as this major Japanese metropolis is globally renowned for being the birthplace of Kobe Beef, the mouthwatering meaty delicacy that gained popularity all over the world. Somewhat overshadowed by its scrumptious and home-born piece of meat, one might assumes that the city has not much to offer beyond that, yet it couldn’t be furthest from the truth, considering the myriads of iconic sites and adorable crannies Kobe is bestowed with. While every visitor in Kobe would most probably gravitate towards the vibrant streets of downtown Sannomiya, the nearby Otsunakadori street is still a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Chock-full with quaint little fashion stores, old warehouses, retro buildings, tea houses and coffee shops, modern restaurants and stores selling a hodgepodge of handmade knickknacks, the street is a great place to explore, wandering around for at least half a day. Anonymous to tourists and most locals too, here are six places you shouldn’t miss when visiting there.

Chanomi Tea Stand

I urge you to start your day with a hot cup of organic green tea at the free style Japanese tea stand called “Chanomi, whose owner Masat Masatushi Uemura, a last year university student, recently opened as a relaxed and chilled place to authentically experience the Japanese tea culture.
Once a florist, his tea stand was beautifully decorated with dry flowers the day I visited for the first time. Additionally, he loves changing the decor almost weekly, so his regular clients won’t get bored of the same ambiance. He personally travels around Japan, visiting various Cha-en’s (places where tea is grown) in order to taste and select the types of tea to sell in his tea stand.
One of his main goals is to break common stereotypes about tea and teaware while making high-quality blends accessible to drinkers. He serves his teas in handmade pottery, purchased directly from potters allover Japan, ultimately rejecting the idea that Japanese tea must be consumed in a specific type of cups, embracing openness and innovation.
His menu consists of various straight teas, drip teas, tea lattes, alcoholic tea drinks and so on, paying extreme importance to the temperature, waiting time, quantity of tea for each drinker, catering to each drinker’s personal preferences.
Chanomi tea stand provides a great opportunity to explore a different world of teas Masat has created, enlightening the significance of Japanese tea, which according to him, Japanese people are slowly forgetting or have forgotten already. Besides the joyful selection of tea-drinks, the stand offers for sale tea leaves, pottery and bottles, serving as a charming souvenir to take home.

Chanomi Tea Stand


GOODDAYS

Home to original jewelries and accessories from Kobe, the cute little shop of GOODDAYS has a medley of items from different brands all under one roof, providing both men and women with an opportunity to find a curated selection of adornments.

Among the shop’s highlights is the jewelry brand “UNKNOWN”, being one of my favorites, it’s a local label with a different focus on simple and finely shaped design, rarely found outside of Japan, as the concept is simultaneously modern and indigenous.


photography by: Shweta Shah


Cafe de Agenda

Offering an innumerable variety of unique desserts and drinks, Café de Agenda is an exceptional and cozy place to spend a lazy afternoon at, exploring its mind-boggling items with your eyes and taste buds.
Serving each of their cakes, tarts and parfaits with a delightful sauce, this flamboyant coffee shop is anything but boring, constantly catching your senses with strong colors and unconventional flavors.
Besides seasonal fruit dessert, the menu has chocolate cakes, matcha and hojicha cheese cake, chiffon cakes and much more, all accompanied by an outstanding sauce art, deliciously decorating the plate, whereas their noteworthy drink list includes tiramisu latte, black sesame and ground roasted soybean latte, crème brûlée latte and a large selection of tea.


photography by: Shweta Shah


photography by: Cafe de Agenda


photography by: Cafe de Agenda


Poletoko

PoLeToKo is the only store in Japan to have a complete lineup of handmade miscellaneous goods of pole-pole animals, singularly handcrafted using natural wood.

Unlike generic figurines, the moment you touch those adorable dolls, the sense of warmth is strikingly apparent, making the cute animal-shaped handicrafts especially favorable by children and Christmas lovers.


photography by: Shweta Shah


Kaya cafe

Transformed into a vintage-like café after its owner thoroughly renovated an old building in Sakaemachi Otsunaka Street, Kaya café stands out both aesthetically and culinarily.
The owner, being extremely passionate about antiques and vintage furniture, decorated his entire café with antiques and rare vintage furniture from all over the world.
Specializing in tofu tiramisu, tofu desserts and rice omelets, or omuraisu as it’s locally known in Japan, Kaya café minimizes the usage of dairy products while focusing more on soya-based ingredients, as part of their attempt to promote healthy lifestyle.
Despite being non-vegan, the café serves tiramisu in wooden boxes known as “Masu”, complemented by numerous freshly prepared toppings. Among their specialties are seasonal tiramisu, pumpkin and chestnut tiramisu, pancakes, parfaits, black sesame banana juice and the aforementioned rice omelets.

I would argue that if you wish to keep your waistline thin while enjoying scrumptious desserts, this is definitely the place to visit.


Amplop

This lovable store is run by cheerful and friendly owner, who selects handicrafts that according to her make people aware of their origin of life, inspired from her time in Bali, Indonesia, where she jointly fabricated artifacts with local craftsmen. Interestingly, she carefully picks unique stuff from all over the world, most notably a selection of cool items from Indonesia, focusing on both enjoyable to use and sense-stimulating dresses and house accessories.
In 2020 the shop marked its 16th anniversary, originally opened in 2004 as an underground general store on Otsunakadori, where the Kobe Sakaemachi Retro Building is built.

Recently when I passed by the shop, I’ve noticed that Amplop owner had opened an adjacent brand-new pop-up store, as she was stranded in Japan following the Covid-19 pandemic.


Final Words

I often ask myself as to why only few people wander around this interesting street, whether it’s the fact that a lot of these places are located inside buildings, making them uneasy to spot while passing by, Otsunakadori has so much to offer, just keep all your senses wide open and you’ll surely bump into many more hidden gems.


About me

I’m a young boutique travel assist for Japan, working under the brand name of WABi SaBI, belonging to a local Indian family living in Kobe for over 45 years.
My aim in WABi SaBI is to make a travel package that best fits my clients’ needs by creating a customized itinerary, tailor made according to their requirements.
I mainly focus on off the beaten path sites, perpetually looking for new and fascinating places to visit, ultimately incorporating them in my uniquely crafted routes.
One of the benefits of being a local in Japan is the opportunity to discover truly interesting crannies and nooks, while also sampling many types of exceptional local food, helping me to not only create extraordinary tours, but also provide countless insider tips of where to go and what to eat.

Check out my Instagram page for more exciting and insightful content.

photography by: Shweta Shah