Kobe, the sixth-largest city in Japan by population (there are 1.5 million residents) has been completely rebuilt in the last 20 years, following an earthquake. The new Kobe includes two artificial islands, Port and Rokko, where newish Kobe MICE venues can be found. Marathon and distance runners might be interested to know that Kobe is the home of running shoe brand Asics, and of course it is also the origin of Kobe beef, widely regarded as among the best in the world. It is also known for its natural springs and spa area of Arima, for pearls and for the brewing of sake.
Kobe has a small, artificial-island airport, next to Port Island, named Kobe Airport (UKB), which is five miles from the city center to the south but has only domestic service, most notably to Tokyo’s domestic airport, Haneda. For international service, visitors must come from Kansai International Airport (KIX), 50 miles to the southwest around the large curve of Osaka Bay. That airport also has service to all the key Japanese cities and, in addition, to long-haul destinations such as Amsterdam, Dubai, Paris, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Melbourne, and Singapore.
MICE planners are spoiled in Kobe, what with the Kobe International Conference Center and the Kobe International Exhibition Hall sitting side by side in the Chuo-ku district of the city. The conference center has a main hall for up to 700 persons, a large function room for 360 and another 18 meeting rooms, while the exhibition hall has the Convention Hall for up to 4,000 persons, another floor for another 4,000, yet another space for 3,000 and a lobby for 500, among other areas.
Kobe MICE hotels include the 745-room Kobe Portopia, which has 36 meeting rooms, including the 1,702-seat Portopia Hall, and 13 restaurants; the 593-room ANA Crowne Plaza Kobe, which has 23 meeting areas, including a ballroom for 2,500 persons and a room on its 35th floor with suitably wonderful views; the 475-room Okura Kobe, which also has 35 floors, as well as 10 function areas, including the Heian Ballroom for 3,000 persons; the 319-room Kobe Meriken Park Oriental, a half-moon-shape, gleaming-white property jutting into the bay that has 10 meeting rooms, including a ballroom for 930 persons; and the 270-room Kobe Bay Sheraton Hotel & Towers, which has 11 function areas, including a ballroom for up to 900 persons.
Unique spaces in which to put on private events include award-winning building Hillside Kobe, known in Japanese as Kobe Geihinkan, which was built in 1919, sits in three acres of woodland with gardens, and has seven interesting areas, both inside and out, for events, as well as a French-inspired restaurant; Hotel Kinzan, almost 90 years in operation, which is one of the ryokan-style hotels at the Arima onsen hot springs area, with a natural bathing areas of its own, as well as a Japanese restaurant and seven function areas, including one for 165 persons; Kobe Animal Kingdom, a zoological garden with three restaurants and areas in between the animals for functions; Kobe Shi-shin-kan sake brewery, which was founded in 1751 and has function space, a tasting cellar and a restaurant, and the Kobe Concerto boat for trips around the harbor (best when the city is daily lit up at night), for up to 600 persons.
Traditional Japanese restaurants ideal for groups include Nadaman, part of a very, very good fine-dining chain; Sushi Kanbe at the luxurious, 116-room Oriental Hotel; and Okabayashi, another traditional choice. For Kobe beef, try Steakland or Wakkoqu.