In the early 1980s, Kobe began work on Kobe Academic Park, an area of the city with a heavy concentration of universities. Kobe hoped to use this area to facilitate the free exchange of ideas between researchers, students, and city officials. This focus on freedom led many to believe that the Liberty Bell would be a great symbol for this new endeavor. In 1985, Philadelphia presented Kobe with a replica of the Liberty Bell. This new connection led to the creation of the formal Sister City relationship one year later. Kobe and Philadelphia have been sister cities since October 17, 1986.

In November 2011, Vice Mayor Saburo Nakamura visited Philadelphia with the Vice Chairperson of the Kobe City Assembly and officials to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Sister City relationship. Their schedule included a visit to University of Pennsylvania, meeting with Epitek, Inc. at the Science Center, a reception at Dilworth Pasxon, LLP and dinner at the Union League hosted by the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia. Mayor Nutter also met with them in the Mayor’s Reception Room where they exchanged gifts. In addition to city officials, five high school students and two teachers visited and had homestays with students at Bodine High School.

Both Philadelphia and Kobe are home to major ports and life science incubators. They have similar populations—both around 1.5 million residents. Kobe is famous for its sake brewing; Philadelphia for it’s beer brewing, and both cities have recently gained fame for their “foodie” culture—which goes well beyond Kobe beef and Philly cheesesteaks!