Explore the Mountains Around Kobe
Downtown Kobe is flanked by the Rokko Mountain range. Besides giving the city a constantly present dramatic backdrop, this also means that hiking trails and lush greenery are easily within reach.
If fact, you can be in what at least feels like untouched nature only minutes after getting off the
shinkansen train. Just head north from Shin-Kobe station and you will soon be surrounded by a forest, able to stroll along a small river, and hear and the sound of a big waterfall not too far away. This is the Nunobiki falls, one of the most well known set of waterfalls in Japan and a place that has had played a significant role in Japanese arts and literature for centuries, as they make appearances in several classical stories and poems. Some of these artworks date back
as far as the Heian Period (794 to 1185). The falls themselves are indeed impressive, so it’s
easy to understand why they have inspired so many people throughout the years. Needless to say the experience is well worth the 15 minute or so hike it takes to get there from the station. If you are feeling lazy however, you can also see the waterfall from the Shin-Kobe Ropeway, as it passes almost directly above it.
Nunobiki Herb Garden
Continue up, either by foot or ropeway, and you will eventually reach the Nunobiki Herb Garden,the biggest of its kind in all of Japan. In the garden you will also find a big glasshouse that houses a cafe, foot onsen and an abundance of lush plants, as well as an outdoor garden where you can enjoy the smell of blooming flowers to the sound of classical music. As it’s all situated on top of a mountain, the area gives you plenty of opportunities to enjoy good views of the city down below.
You can also reach the Nunobiki Dam by following the mountain stream from the waterfalls. This is one of the oldest water reservoirs in Japan of this size, built back in 1900, and therefore a designated Important Cultural Property.
Another mountain worth exploring is Mount Maya, located about 2 km west of Shin Kobe Station. The view from Kikusedai, the viewpoint on top of this 699 m high peak is absolutely breathtaking, as it gives you not only a good view of central Kobe, but also Osaka and Osaka Bay far, far down below. Getting up there is quite a lot of fun as well. As the trip is divided into two parts.
The first is by cable car up the steep hillside. Once you reach Nijoeki, the terminal station of the cable car, you have the choice of either hiking the rest of the way up to the top, passing a nature park as well as a temple on your way, or continue the last stretch on a smaller ropeway, although this is not recommended if you are afraid of heights.
Once you reach the peak, try to score one of the window seats at Maya 702, a small café located next to the viewpoint and topmost ropeway station. Ideally, try to make it on time to watch the spectacular show that occurs just as the sun is about to set, and the entire city down below turns on its lights.