A trip up a natural observatory beats any tower view26 July, 2012 by Chad
Early last Winter, we paid a visit to Mount Rokko during a day trip to Kobe. It is famous for having a great view of both Kobe and Osaka, since Rokko isn’t actually one particular mountain, but a chain of mountains stretching from Kobe all the way up to Takarazuka.
Kobe city starts at a beautiful southern coast and gradually builds up hill as it gets in land. In effect, a lot of Kobe is built along the base of the mountains. So even the city bus that we took here twirled uphill along some really nice residential areas. Kobe isn’t a particularly big city and most of the trains only run parallel to the coast, so to get anywhere else a bus is required.
Since we were coming from the southern side of Kobe, we dropped off at the nearer Sannomiya Station in central Kobe, but just 10 minutes and 180 yen later by bus and we were up at the Rokko Cablecar Station, where we’d catch our ride up the mountain.
We arrived at the station just in time to miss one of the cars so we would need to wait a while longer for the next one to come down. Having spent most of the morning and afternoon away at the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and adjacent shopping plaza, it was already in the mid-afternoon.
The ticket seller explained to us that most of the sights on the mountain were closed for the winter, or had already closed early, again because of the season. Sadly, it looked like we would have to miss out on visiting any goats or alpacas at the farms there.
It took a while since the ticket prices for the cable car weren’t exactly cheap (1,000 yen for a round trip), but eventually we decided to take the trip up just to see the sunset, having already come this far. In hindsight, it was money well spent and not really that much, considering that the elevator up most towers cost about the same or more.
Before long, the next cable car arrived and like any good tourist we jumped on board only after taking a few shots of the carriage. There weren’t too many other people going up the mountain today, just a couple other groups, one of which judging by their equipment, were probably transiting beyond to the nearby Ski Resort.
The trip up took a while but was enjoyable as the scenery slowly changed as we went up. There was really only one track which was used to go both up and down the mountain, but it split for a little in the middle, where our cable car stopped to allow for the descending car to pass.
As far as mountains go, Mount Rokko really wasn’t that high, just 930 meters or so but as we ascended, the ground started off with sparse bits of melting snow, until it was blanketed in snow. At the top station, even the corners of the roof where rainwater usually dripped from had frozen into icicles.
Rainfall had been light though so there really wasn’t that much snow though. Most of what remained from the past night or so had been swept to the side of the road, and the roads were salted to keep them from refreezing.
Sure enough, all of the buildings near the station had closed too. The only other people here at the station were a few old folk and a couple of local tourists who were all here to just hang out too. Also a couple who were making their way to their car at the adjacent car park. They had probably driven up in the earlier afternoon.
If viewing the sunset was our only agenda, we had indeed come up to Rokko too early. Save for the small gallery on top of the station, everything else seemed to be shut down. After looking through some of the exhibits inside showing off the history of the area and some independent art pieces, we rotated between the cold roof and heated areas down below at the station to thaw out.
With too much time on our hands, we ended up making a whole army of mini-snowmen up on the roof as we waited for the sunset timing. It was empty up here since we were the only ones amused enough by the snow to brave the temperature.
The view from Mt. Rokko was quite spectacular. It’s a distinct feeling from overlooking a city from a tower, where you’d usually be close enough to see the details in the structures. But here, all the buildings blended together, especially as it started to get dark and the buildings started turning on their lights.
Due to how high we were, we could see much further beyond any tower, with Kobe in front of us and Osaka stretching endlessly to the left, despite being at least 30 kilometers away. As always in Japan, the sky was a deep blue that made photos turn out lovely. Though the full richness has to be appreciated in person.
We stayed around all the way till it gotten dark, before catching the last car down the mountain. Only at night did more people come up, one tour group from Korea. They stayed around for just long enough to catch the next cable car, so if you just want a quick look, you really don’t need to come to Rokko that early. Still, we enjoyed the experience as the anticipation made the wait for the sunset worth it.
I would recommend a visit to Mount Rokko for those visiting Kobe or Osaka if you’re into nature. To fully appreciate the attractions up in the mountains though you’d want to visit during a more favorable season since Rokko is also known for some nice gardens and farms (though you’d need to take a bus some distance from the upper terminal to reach them). But even if not, it makes for a good choice for those who want a nice skyline view of the city.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.