The Port Liner (also called the Port Island Line) is an automated rapid transit system that links Kobe Airport and destinations on Port Island with Sannomiya Station in central Kobe. The Port Liner has the distinction of being the world’s first fully automated driverless railway line.
This is one of two lines operated by the Kobe New Transit Company. The other line is the Rokko Liner (or Rokko Island Line) which connects central Kobe with Rokko Island. Neither of these lines are covered by the Japan Rail Pass but other discount tickets are available which are listed below.
About Port Island
Kobe’s Port Island is an artificial island constructed in the Port of Kobe during the 1960s and ‘70s before finally opening for public use in 1981. The island is located between the mainland and another man-made island further south that is the location of Kobe Airport. Port Island itself is home to a terminal for international cruise ships, a number of university campuses, parks, convention facilities, hotels, museums, and a zoo.
There are 9 stations on the main route of the Port Liner running between Sannomiya in the north and Kobe Airport in the south.
Sannomiya – Boeki Center – Port Terminal – Naka Koen – Minatojima – Shimin Hiroba – Iryo Center – K Computer Mae – Kobe Airport
In addition to the main route there is a loop that runs north from Shimin Hiroba stopping at three more stations before rejoining the main route at Naka Koen.
Shimin Hiroba – Minami Koen – Naka Futo – Kita Futo – Naka Koen
Although the main route is double-tracked and has trains running in both north and south directions, the loop line is single-tracked and runs only northward. The key destinations are listed below with fares and example journey times given from Sannomiya Station.
Sannomiya is Kobe’s central district of commerce and entertainment with many department stores, restaurants, and bars. The major attraction in this area is Ikuta Jinja Shrine which is said to date from the 3rd century and is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan. The shrine is a 5 minute walk to the north of Sannomiya Station. Kobe City Museum is also a 10 minute walk to the south of Sannomiya Station. This museum has exhibits related to Kobe’s history as an international port and also a fine art collection. The historical section of the museum is free to enter but the art collection costs 300 yen for adults, 150 yen for university students, and is free for children. The museum is open from 10.00 to 17.00 (with last entry at 16.30) and is closed on Mondays and from December 29th to January 3rd.
Sannomiya is also a major transportation hub in Kobe with several railway stations and bus services. Transfer at JR Sannomiya Station to the JR Kobe Line. Transfer to Hanshin Kobe-Sannomiya Station for the Hanshin Main Line. Transfer to Hankyu Kobe-Sannomiya Station for the Hankyu Kobe Line and the Kobe Kosoku Line. Transfer to the Seishin-Yamate Subway Line at Sannomiya Subway Station and to the Kaigan Subway Line at Sannomiya-Hanadokeimae Subway Station.
Port Terminal Station
This station is the stop for Kobe Port Terminal which is a terminal for international cruise ships and ferries.
Train fare: 210 yen
Train time: 5 minutes
Poaishiosai Park (also called simply Shiosai Park) is a 9 minute walk from this station. This park features a seaside promenade which is well-known for its panoramic views over Kobe’s bay area. In particular, the night view from this location allows you to enjoy Kobe’s fully illuminated waterfront cityscape.
The Ariston Hotel is a 4 minute walk from this station. This hotel is located in a quiet residential area and has its own on-site Italian restaurant, laundromat, and has both Western style and Japanese traditional style guest rooms. This hotel also offers halal meals and with a resident Muslim concierge and other special facilities it prides itself on being “Kansai’s No. 1 Muslim-Friendly Hotel”.
Shimin Hiroba Station
This station is convenient for Kobe Portopia Hotel. This luxury hotel has an incredible array of facilities which include Japanese, French, Chinese, and Italian restaurants, a heated indoor swimming pool, a rooftop pool, a fitness gym, a spa and sauna, tennis courts, and a shopping mall. The hotel is a 2 minute walk from Shimin Hiroba Station. Kobe Port Island Sports Center is a 6 minute walk from the station and offers a range of swimming facilities as well as skating facilities in the winter. Other facilities nearby are Kobe International Exhibition Hall and Kobe International Conference Center.
Train fare: 250 yen
Train time: 11 minutes
K Computer Mae Station
This station was named after a supercomputer at the nearby RIKEN Center for Computational Science. As the supercomputer was decommissioned in 2019 it is possible the station name will change in the near future. Exit here for Kobe Animal Kingdom. Kobe Animal Kingdom is a flower park and zoo with a large interior section that makes it a good rainy day location. The zoo features bird shows, sheep dog performances, animal feeding experiences, camel rides, and horse rides as well as explanatory talks about such resident creatures as the red panda or ring-tailed lemurs. Kobe Animal Kingdom is a 1 minute walk from the station. Admission is 1,800 yen for adults and 1,000 yen for elementary school children. The zoo is open from 10.00 to 17.00 on weekdays and to 17.30 on weekends with last entry 30 minutes before closing. Between December and February closing time is 30 minutes earlier. The zoo is closed on Thursdays.
Train fare: 290 yen
Train time: 15 minutes
Kobe Airport Station
Kobe Airport handles domestic flights to locations such as Tokyo, Sapporo, Sendai, Izumo, Nagasaki, Kagoshima, and Okinawa. The high speed Bay Shuttle ferry service provides a 30 minute link between Kobe Airport and Kansai International Airport in Osaka.
Train fare: 340 yen
Train time: 18 minutes
Loop Line Stations
Bando Kobe Science Museum is a 4 minute walk from Minami Koen Station. The museum has six exhibition rooms featuring interactive displays, with workshops, classes, and experiment demonstrations. The museum also features Kobe’s only planetarium with 25,000 stars projected onto the theatre dome. Bando Kobe Science Museum is open from 9.30 to 16.30 from Monday to Thursday and until 19.00 on Fridays, weekends, and holidays. Last entry is 30 minutes before closing time. The museum is closed on Wednesdays, maintenance days, and between December 28th and January 4th. Admission to the museum is 600 yen for adults and 300 yen for children high school age and younger. Admission to the planetarium is 400 yen for adults and 200 yen for children.
UCC Coffee Museum is also a 1 minute walk from Minami Koen Station. The museum’s displays explore the history, culture, and technology of coffee production. There is also a tasting corner, an experience corner where you can roast your own beans, an on-site souvenir shop, and of course a café where you can enjoy coffee blends from all around the world. Audio guides are available in English, Chinese, and Korean. The museum is open from 10.00 to 17.00 with last entry at 16.30, and closed on Mondays and during the New Year’s holidays. Admission to the museum is 300 yen for adults, 150 yen for seniors, and free for children junior school age and younger.
Train fare: 250 yen
Train time: 13 minutes
Naka Futo Station
This station is a 2 minute walk from ASICS Sports Museum. This free museum has interactive sports displays, as well as equipment and gear used by the world’s top athletes. The museum is open from 10.00 to 17.00 with last entry at 16.30. The museum is closed on Sundays, Mondays, national holidays, and during the New Year’s holidays.
Naka Futo Station is also a 3 minute walk from Hotel Pearl City which is a reasonably priced hotel, with comfortable rooms and its own restaurant, spa, and laundromat.
Train fare: 250 yen
Train time: 15 minutes
Tickets can be bought from ticket machines beside the ticket gates at each station. The automated machines are operated by a touch screen which has both English and Japanese language options. To buy a ticket you simply put your money in the machine and press the appropriate fare on the screen.
There are fare charts above the machines showing destinations and fares.
Discount Passes & IC Cards
An All Day Pass on the Port Liner allows one day of unlimited rides and costs 710 yen for adults and 360 yen for children. An All Day Pass on the Port Liner and Rokko Liner allows one day of unlimited rides on both lines and costs 1,220 yen for adults and ¥610 for children. These passes also entitle the bearer to discounts and benefits at certain locations on the Port Liner’s route. For details check the All Day Pass webpage.
The Kobe Machimeguri 1-Day Coupon costs 950 yen and allows unlimited rides on the following lines: the Port Liner, Kobe Kosoku Line (including Hanshin Sannomiya Station), the Seishin-Yamate Subway Line between Shin-Kobe and Shinnagata stations, and all of the Kaigan Subway Line. The coupon also includes 700 yen worth of discounts at around 60 attractions in Kobe.
The Kobe Animal Kingdom and Port Liner Set Ticket basically costs the same as the regular entrance fee to Kobe Animal Kingdom, but covers the cost of both the entrance fee and your round trip journey on the Port Liner, thus saving you 560 yen worth of fares.
The Kansai Thru Pass (also called Surrutto) is a comprehensive rail and bus pass for use in the Kansai region that also covers the Port Liner and Rokko Liner. For details of which rail and bus services are covered by this pass, please check the official Surutto website.
The ICOCA prepaid IC card can be used on both the Port Liner and Rokko Liner and can be charged at ticket machines displaying the ICOCA logo. These cards are available to buy at Sannomiya Station, Shimin Hiroba Station, and Kobe Airport Station. Other regional IC cards, such as Suica, PASMo and Manaca, can also be used interchangeably with the ICOCA on these lines.
For a route map and further details on station facilities check the official Kobe New Transit website. To plan your journey on this and other lines in Kobe, use English language route finders such as Hyperdia or the Japan Transit Planner.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.