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Before the 1920s, Sannomiya was just an edge of the city. The major downtowns were Motomachi and Shinkaichi, which are west of Sannomiya. However, after Sogo Department Store moved to the place in front of Sannomiya Station from Motomachi in 1933, the area started to develop rapidly.
Sannomiya is also a hub of many transportation systems in Kobe. JR West, Hankyu Railway, Hanshin Electric Railway, Kobe Municipal Subway, and Kobe New Transit use Kobe-Sannomiya Station as their core station in the area.
The Kobe Incident in 1868 occurred in this district, in front of Sannomiya Shrine.