Meriken Park (メリケンパーク) is a nice waterfront park in Kobe's port area. Built on an outcropping of reclaimed land, the park is covered in grassy lawn and open courtyards dotted with a collection of modern art installations and fountains. It is home to some of the city's more iconic contemporary architecture such as the red Kobe Port Tower and the Kobe Maritime Museum.
The park was devastated by the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, but has now become a popular spot for locals and tourists again. A small memorial in the park commemorates the many victims who were killed in the port during the earthquake. A short section of damaged waterfront has been left unrepaired as a reminder of the earthquake's tremendous destructive power.
The Kobe Maritime Museum stands at the center of the park in a building topped by a dramatic white steel framework meant to evoke the image of sails. Half of the building is devoted to shipping. The first floor explains how Kobe Port functions and exhibits models of modern ships. The second floor introduces the history of the port and how it has been an important connection between Japan and the outside world. Actual historic boats are on display outdoors around the museum.
The other half of the Maritime Museum building is occupied by the Kawasaki Good Times World, the corporate museum of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, manufacturer of various mechanical components and vehicles including shinkansen trains, jet planes, helicopters and motorcycles. The museum exhibits the history of the company and its many successful products, and visitors are encouraged to have hands-on experiences with some of the vehicles.
To the west of the Maritime Museum stands the Kobe Port Tower, a unique, red-painted steel structure that has become a symbol of the port and the city. Built in 1963, the tower stands 108 meters tall and visitors may take an elevator up to its five top floors. Two of the floors house a restaurant and a rotating cafe, while the other three house observation decks that provide 360-degree views of the city from approximately 100 meters above ground.
Next to the tower, between Meriken Park and Kobe Harborland, sits the Nakatottei Chuo Terminal from where two companies operate sightseeing cruises around Kobe Bay. Cruises take around 45 minutes and cost 1300 yen.
Kobe Port Tower
Admission ends 30 minutes before closing
1000 yen (tower, Maritime Museum and Kawasaki Museum)
Kobe Maritime Museum and Kawasaki Good Times World
1000 yen (both museums and Port Tower)