10. Set Up Your Business in Kobe

Apr 14

10. Set Up Your Business in Kobe

Have you decided on what Japanese city to start your business in? Have you considered setting up in Kobe city, one of the urban cities in Japan? This article explains the process involved in starting your business in Kobe and the advantages of setting up your business there.

1. The Overall Process of Starting a Business in Japan with a Startup VISA
2. How to Start Your Business in Kobe
3. Advantages of Starting a Business in Kobe
4. Conclusion

The Overall Process of Starting a Business in Japan with a Startup VISA
In starting a business in Japan with a Startup VISA, the following steps are involved:

1. Preparing the application documents to obtain a Startup VISA
2. Coming to Japan with the obtained Startup VISA
3. Preparing to run your business
4. Establishing your company and preparing to obtain a Business Manager VISA
5. Obtaining a Business Manager VISA
6. Start your business

※ A Startup VISA is not applicable to all municipalities in Japan, but only to some cities like Kobe city. 

▼For a detailed explanation of the process, please read the article an Overview: Business Startup in Japan.
How to Start Your Business in Kobe

Obtain a Startup VISA with the support of Kobe city

A Startup VISA is the name of a unique VISA for foreigners that allows them to stay in Japan for up to a year in preparation for obtaining a Business Manager VISA. Currently, this VISA program is administered by ten municipalities in Japan, including Kobe city. Applicants for the Startup VISA are supported by their local government officials in their preparations for starting a business. Each municipality has different target industries for which they offer the Startup VISA, and each of them has its own support programs. Therefore, when choosing a municipality for starting your business with a Startup VISA, you should consider not only the geography and market environment for your business but also whether the services offered by each municipality are suitable for your business. 

If you start your business in Kobe, the target business industries are:

1. Businesses utilizing advanced technology such as IT, health, medical/welfare, environment, and logistics
2. Businesses that induce high-added value and innovation in existing industries
3. Other projects that the mayor of Kobe deems necessary


Procedure for obtaining a Startup VISA in Kobe city

1. Consult with the Kobe city office
2. Secure housing
3. Prepare the necessary documents and submit them to the Kobe city office
4. Get approval from the municipal government of Kobe city
5. Apply to the Immigration Bureau for a Startup VISA 

For the necessary documents and detailed process of the Startup VISA application, please check this article. You can download the required documents here.
If necessary, you can ask the Kobe city office for help in preparing the documents.

Consultation Desks and Facilities

・Kobe City Hall
Before you begin the application process for a Startup VISA, please consult with the Kobe city office. They will assist you with regards to the VISA application, securing housing, and preparing documents for submission.
Kobe City Hall
Address: New Industry Division of New Industry Department, Medical and New Industry Headquarters,
23F, 6-5-1, Kano-Cho, Chuo-Ku, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. 
Hours: 8:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (excluding weekends and national holidays)
Tel: +81 78-322-0241

Kobe City will issue a confirmation certificate to foreign entrepreneurs whose application documents have been approved. After that, please submit the certificate to the Immigration Bureau of Japan and apply for the certification of the Startup VISA. Kobe city office will also support you in the procedures with the Immigration Bureau of Japan.

・Kobe District Immigration Office
This is the headquarters of the Kobe Immigration Office. This is where you can switch your residence status, and obtain the Startup VISA. 
Kobe District Immigration Office
Address: 650-0024 Kobe Local Joint Government Bldg., 
29 Kaigan-dori, Chuo-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan.
Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (excluding weekends and national holidays)
There is also a branch office: 
Himeji Port Branch Office
Address: 672-8063 Himeji Port Joint Government Bldg., 
294-1 Suga, Shikama-ku, Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture Japan.
Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (excluding weekends and national holidays)

Starting your business in preparation for obtaining a Business Manager VISA

After obtaining a Startup VISA and coming to Japan, during your one-year period of stay, in order to meet the requirements for obtaining a Business Manager VISA, you will have to establish and manage your company.

Procedures for Obtaining a Business Manager VISA

1. Secure a business office (contracted in the name of an individual)
2. Establish a company
3. Notify the tax office, the municipality, and the prefecture of the commencement of your business
4. Obtain a license (if necessary)
5. Change the name on the contract of the company’s head office to that of the company
6. Prepare the application documents for the Business Manager VISA
7. Apply for permission to change your status of residence to the Business Manager

For the necessary documents and detailed process of the Startup VISA application, please visit this page (A Guide to Obtaining a Business Manager VISA).

Support from Kobe City

Kobe City will hold an interview at least once a month to check up on your progress, and help with your business activities if necessary.

Kobe City also fully supports the business-related activities of foreign entrepreneurs. Kobe City is focusing on entrepreneur support and is implementing various startup support measures such as 500 KOBE ACCELERATOR, the world’s top-level entrepreneur development program; and Urban Innovation KOBE, the open innovation program of local governments.

In addition to these, Kobe city is preparing to offer various supports such as providing specialist consultation opportunities for entrepreneurs, helping in finding offices and housings, and subsidies for startups.

Changing the status of residence to a Business Manager VISA

About a year after obtaining the Startup VISA, you need to change your residence status of residence from a Designated Activities to a Business Manager.  Kobe city will support the process, so feel free to ask them if necessary.

Advantages of Starting a Business in Kobe


If you are yet to decide on where to start your business in Japan, we recommend Kobe city because of the following advantages:

Market Size

In Japan, the Keihanshin area, which includes Kobe city, is the second-largest market in Japan after the Tokyo metropolitan area. The GDP of the Keihanshin area is approximately 700 billion US dollars, which is equivalent to that of Switzerland, the twentieth largest economy in the world.

This Keihanshin area is composed of Osaka, Kyoto, and Hyogo Prefecture, where Kobe is located. Within this area, anywhere can be accessed approximately within one hour by train. 

Also, Keihanshin area has a population of 19 million . This is the tenth-largest population in the world’s metropolitan area, which shows the size of its market.

Low cost of running a business

Compared with other urban cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, renting an office is cheap. It is one-third the cost of renting in Tokyo and half that of Osaka. You can also get Japan External Trade Organization’s (JETRO) free rental office support when you start your business in Kobe. Since the office rental fee is a major expense in the early stages of starting a business, this is one of the advantages of starting your business in Kobe.

Startup Support

As mentioned above, Kobe adopted the system of Startup VISA. You can start your business with this VISA for a year without a Business Manager VISA, and you can get generous support from Kobe city.

In addition, there is the branch of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in Kobe, which is an international organization specializing in project services such as business operations and implementation. 

Moreover, entrepreneurs in Kobe can receive subsidies of up to 13,000,000 JPY over a period of three years, depending on the results and progress of your business. Supports are also provided for office rent, hiring of employees, obtaining office equipment, building repair, and overseas moving. 

Another attraction of Kobe is that they have an office in Seattle that offers consultation to foreign entrepreneurs who want to start their business in Kobe. The Seattle office closely supports the entrepreneurs in setting up in Kobe. 

In Kobe, where industry, government, and the universities have collaborated to operate one of the largest biomedical clusters in Japan, support for startups in the fields of life sciences and health technology is very strong. With a wide range of resources and networks available and excellent facilities, Kobe is the perfect place for those who are thinking of starting a business in these fields.

Therefore, Kobe city is one of the places with a good environment for starting a business.
For more detailed support and assistance, please check here.

Living Environment

Kobe is a town surrounded by the sea and mountains. It has a long history; Japan had a seclusion system, and Kobe was one of the earliest cities to develop as an international trading city after the opening of Kobe Port in 1868 and the establishment of a foreign settlement.

There are numerous stores that sell halal and vegan food, and also many religious facilities such as mosques and churches. This makes it easy for foreigners to live in. Moreover, there are lots of popular places for sightseeing. Thus, you can easily adapt to life in Kobe and even enjoy it. 

If you would like to know more about living in Kobe, please visit this website.


Kobe is one of the nicest cities for foreign entrepreneurs to start their business in Japan. You can get generous support to set up your business, and Kobe has a good and foreign-friendly environment to live in. If you want to know about the detailed system and have some questions, please freely contact the Kobe City Hall.


Check out our previous articles in our series on foreign entrepreneurship, How to Start a Business in Japan!

• How to Start a Business in Japan: An Overview
• All You Need to Know about the Startup VISA 
• Procedures for Coming to Japan with a Startup VISA: Renting a House and Resident Registration
• Procedures for Coming to Japan with a Startup VISA: Obtaining a Phone Number, a Name Seal, and a Personal Bank Account
• A Guide to obtaining a Business Manager VISA
• Procedures for Incorporating a Business and Renting an Office
• How to Open a Corporate Bank Account for a Startup Business in Japan
• Writing a Good Business Plan for Obtaining a Business Manager VISA

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Chen Xin

About Chen Xin

Chen Xin is a writer for Sugee Kansai, eftax Co., Ltd. We thank her for contributing to our series "How to Start a Business in Japan."