In the past week I have spent 2 days in the air, 1 free day in Kobe, 1 free day in Kyoto, 1 free day in Osaka and 4 non-free days working in Kobe.
In the past I've also spent a couple of days in Yokohama, Kumagaya and Tokyo.
Kyoto is the one with the reputation for being the idyllic temple city. Yokohama, Osaka and Tokyo are the big noisy cities. All most people know about Kobe is that it had a really bad Earthquake a few years ago.
However on my trip to Kyoto, I found it to be louder, busier and less pleasant than any of the other cities. It did indeed have the shrines and temples and I visited some. Rather than being idyllic, they were plomped down in the middle of this noisy city with ugly buildings all around.
Yokohama, Osaka and Tokyo are indeed big, shiny cities with much shopping to be had. However Kobe, as a place to stay for a short trip, seemed to be the best of the lot. It's quieter, you can walk the city and for the tourist who doesn't want to try to hard, there is the Motomachi shopping street, the Sannomyia center gai shopping street, the Sannomyia hondori shopping street and few shrines and gardens of its own.
Kobe seems to be so horribly underrepresented on the internet and so if you Google for "Motomachi" you get things about Yokohama and if you Google for "Motomachi Kobe" you get no pictures of a wide convered shopping street with many good stores, which is what it is.
So if you Google for it and this page comes up instead, trust me, it's worth a visit. I got my daughter a Kimono there. Something I never managed to find in Yokohama.
Oasaka has a way better techy store, but techy stores don't make the family happy when you get home with a box of USB sticks for gifts.