The JR Kobe Line is the collective name given to two railway lines operated by JR West that connect Osaka Station to Kobe Station and Kobe Station to Himeji Station. The eastern section between Kobe and Osaka is actually part of the Tokaido Main Line and because the Tokaido Main Line also includes the JR Kyoto Line (which runs from Osaka to Kyoto), many through services run on both the JR Kobe and JR Kyoto lines. In particular, Special Rapid Service (新快速) trains on this line are through services that provide a fast and convenient link between the major cities of Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, and Himeji. The western section of the JR Kobe Line between Kobe and Himeji is officially part of the Sanyo Main Line and some through services also continue beyond Himeji to destinations further west.
The JR Kobe Line also has several stations which are all located inside the city of Kobe and these can be very useful when touring the city’s attractions. Sannomiya Station is the main entry point for Kobe, but other stops at the Nada, Motomachi, Kobe, Suma, and Maiko stations are also very useful for sightseers.
At Sannomiya Station eastbound trains for Osaka and Kyoto run from Platforms 1 and 2 and westbound trains for Kobe and Himeji run from Platforms 3 and 4. This line and the JR Kyoto Line are both fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
There are 15 stations between Sannomiya and Osaka.
Sannomiya – Nada – Maya – Rokkomichi – Sumiyoshi – Settsu-Motoyama – Konan-Yamate – Ashiya – Sakura Shukugawa – Nishinomiya – Koshienguchi – Tachibana – Amagasaki – Tsukamoto – Osaka
Beyond Osaka Station through services continue to destinations on the JR Kyoto Line such as Shin-Osaka Station and Kyoto Station. The key destinations on these lines are listed below with example train fares and journey times given from Sannomiya Station.
The Sannomiya area is Kobe’s main transportation hub, because several railway stations and bus terminals are located here and they give immediate access to Kobe’s central commercial and entertainment district. The main sightseeing attraction near Sannomiya Station is Ikuta Jinja Shrine, which is believed to date from the 3rd century and is one of Japan’s oldest shrines. Kobe itself is a friendly and cosmopolitan port city. Its main attractions are Nankinmachi (Kobe’s Chinatown), Mount Rokko, Kobe Harborland, Meriken Park, and the Ijinkan, an area of foreign houses built in the 19th century.
Transfer here to the Seishin-Yamate Subway Line which has services bound for Shin-Kobe Station and to the Port Liner which serves Port Island and Kobe Airport. Transfer at the Hankyu Kobe-Sannomiya Station to the Hankyu Kobe Line and Kobe Kosoku Line. Transfer at the Hanshin Kobe-Sannomiya Station to the Hanshin Main Line.
Exit here for Kobe Oji Zoo where you can view a variety of animals including giant pandas, big cats, elephants, and koalas.
Transfer here to the Rokko Liner for Rokkō Island.
Osaka Station is located in Osaka’s most popular shopping district: Umeda. Popular attractions and shopping areas in Umeda are the Umeda Sky Building, HEP Five, and Grand Front Osaka. Osaka’s other top attractions include Osaka Castle, the bright lights of the Dotonbori entertainment district, Tsutenkaku Tower in the colorful Shinsekai district, and the Universal Studies Japan (USJ) theme park.
Osaka station is also a major transportation hub. Transfers can be made here to the following JR train lines: the Osaka Loop Line, Kansai Airport Line, Yamatoji Line, Hanwa Line, Takarazuka Line, Kobe Line, and Kyoto Line. Transfers can also be made at nearby stations to the Midosuji Subway Line, the Hanshin Main Line, and Hankyu Railway’s Kobe Line, Kyoto Line, and Takarazuka Line.
Through services continue beyond Osaka Station to the stations listed below.
Shin-Osaka Station is the terminus of two high-speed shinkansen lines, the Tokaido Shinkansen line from Tokyo, and the Sanyo Shinkansen line from Fukuoka in Kyushu. Here you can also transfer to the Osaka Higashi Line and the Midosuji Subway Line.
Kyoto is an ancient city with many famous historical shrines, temples, palaces and gardens. Among these the Golden Pavilion of Kinkakuji Temple, Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, and the bamboo forest of Arashiyama are major tourist attractions.
Kyoto is also renowned for its fine food and riverside dining, as well as its more modern structures such as Kyoto Tower, and the Kyoto Station building. In recent years the Kyoto Railway Museum, with its railway vehicle exhibits, dioramas, steam train rides, and train driving simulator, has also become a very popular attraction.
There are 25 stations between Sannomiya and Himeji.
Sannomiya – Motomachi – Kobe – Hyogo – Shin-Nagata – Takatori – Suma-Kaihinkoen – Suma – Shioya – Tarumi – Maiko – Asagiri – Akashi – Nishi-Akashi – Okubo – Uozumi – Tsuchiyama – Higashi-Kakogawa – Kakogawa – Hoden – Sone – Himeji Bessho – Gochaku – Higashi-Himeji – Himeji
The key destinations are listed below with example train fares and journey times given from Sannomiya Station.
Exit here for Motomachi Shopping Street and Nankinmachi (Kobe’s Chinatown). Meriken Park is a seafront recreational area which is a 15 minute walk from Motomachi Station. Here you can find Kobe Maritime Museum and Kobe Port Tower.
This station is most convenient for Kobe Harborland, a commercial complex with lots of shops, restaurants, a Ferris Wheel, and the Anpanman Children’s Museum which is dedicated to the popular anime series.
Exit here for Suma Seaside Park which is a popular for its white sandy beach in the summer.
This station has access to the western end of Suma Seaside Park. It is also a 3 minute walk to Sanyo-Suma Station on the Sanyo-Dentetsu Line. Transfer to the Sanyo-Dentetsu Line and travel one more stop to Sumaura-koen Station and you have immediate access to Suma Sanjo Amusement Park and the Suma Ropeway which has cable car rides to an observatory on Mount Hachibuse.
Exit here for Akashi Kaikyo Bridge which links Kobe to Awaji Island and is the world’s longest suspension bridge. The bridge can be viewed from Maiko Park, which is also a popular cherry blossom viewing location. Akashi Kaikyo Bridge Exhibition Center is located at the foot of the bridge and has detailed displays about the bridge’s construction. There is also a walkway on the bridge itself called Maiko Marine Promenade which leads to an observation lounge.
Exit here for Okura Beach which is another popular summertime location with barbecue facilities and views of Akashi Kaikyo Bridge..
Akashi’s main attractions are Akashi Castle and the surrounding park which is a popular picnic area in the cherry blossom season. Akashi Municipal Planetarium is Japan’s oldest planetarium, and Uonotana fish market is a good spot to eat fresh sushi.
Exit here for Himeji Castle; one of only 12 original medieval castles to have survived the last World War and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Widely considered Japan’s most beautiful castle, Himeji Castle is also known as Shirasagi-jo or “White Heron Castle” because of its brilliant white walls and elegant appearance. Other attractions in Himeji are the Kokoen Garden and the large mountain temple of Shoshazan Engyoji.
The JR Kobe Line has Local, Rapid, and Special Rapid trains but only Local trains stop at all stations. To plan your journey via the JR Kobe Line use the JR West Timetable and Route Finder. A bilingual PDF of the JR guide to stops is available which also includes the JR Kyoto Line and the JR Biwako Line sections of the Tokaido Main Line. The entire Tokaido Main Line and the Sanyo Main Line are colored navy blue. Route maps for Kobe and for the whole Kansai region can also be found on the JR West website.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.