Kobe is not only a bustling industrial and commercial city, but it is also surrounded by natural beauty. The nearby mountains and the sea make it an attractive place to visit all year round. In fact, people in Kobe use mountains and the sea as reference points whenever they give directions or when looking for addresses.
Rokko, a mountain chain that borders the city towards the north, has nice hiking trails and wonderful sightseeing spots which are inviting for a visit during all seasons.
Mt. Rokko and Mt. Maya, the two main peaks of the Rokko mountain chain, see hundreds of visitors every weekend who enjoy exploring the numerous hiking trails. Depending on the time of the year, one can admire azaleas or hydrangeas in full bloom, or the colorful leaves of Japanese maple trees.
Koyo (leaves-changing season in Japan) is a perfect excuse to spend a weekend out in Kobe’s mountains, enjoying the bright red, yellow and orange of the leaves.
A relaxing picnic at Futatabi Park on top of Kobe’s Mt. Rokko can be an alternative to hiking while still being able to enjoy nature. Futatabi Park can easily be reached by car too, however, why not try a short hike (30 minutes) from Shin-Kobe station?
Futatabi means “again”, and once visited, you certainly want to come back as this a perfect spot to enjoy nature throughout all seasons. The park spots a small pond and a children’s playground and there are tables scattered around inviting for a picnic. This makes it a perfect place for families with children to enjoy a sunny Sunday morning.
It is also well-visited by young couples looking for a romantic place and by groups of very healthy-looking Japanese retirees all dressed up in perfect hiking gear.
If you like the view from the top of the mountain but you would prefer a bit more sophistication rather than a picnic, try the terrace of the restaurant at the Hotel de Maya. There is a stunning view over Kobe and the sea, which for sure will fit your style, either for lunch, dinner, or just a coffee break.
North of the Kitano quarter, you can catch a short ride on the ropeway up Mt. Rokko to Nunobiki Herb Park, a delightful park where more than 200 species of fragrant herbs can be enjoyed in different areas, such as the “Kitchen garden” or the “Japanese Herbs garden”. In the park’s restaurant, one can taste a variety of herbal teas as well as dishes prepared with aromatic herbs.
Nunobiki Herb Park also offers a range of cultural activities such as concerts and craftsmanship classes making the most of the beautiful and “aromatic” scenery.
Last but not least in our “green tour” of Kobe, you can enjoy several parks full with flowers of all kinds. Sorakuen, a Japanese-style garden in downtown Kobe, is in fact an expansive park in the middle of the city, close to Motomachi or Sannomiya Station.
Suma Rykyu Park, a botanical garden in French style, reminds us of the Western heritage of the city, as it resembles Versailles Park.
Close to the airport, on Port Island, there is Kacho-en, a park that spots incredibly colorful flowers and exotic birds in its 16,000 square meter greenhouse. A visit there is worthwhile at any time of the year, be it sun or rain outside.