Most people who visit the Kansai region go to Osaka for the food and shopping, or to Kyoto and Nara for the temples and traditional culture. However, roughly an hour and a half away from these prefectures, you can actually visit a paradise with a panoramic view of Osaka Bay, natural scenery, and excellent hot springs! That is in Kobe’s Mt. Rokko.
Mt. Rokko offers a wide range of activities for tourists. Whether you are into sports, light activities, or just simply relaxation, this place will surely be one of your favorites. It is ideal for backpackers, couples, groups, or even family tours!
In order to climb up to Mt. Rokko, you need to ride a Rokko cable car. From the ticket booth, they will offer you different itineraries based on your preferences. The list of activities you can do can be seen on their official website below.
You can enjoy extreme sports, activities, or just simply relax and unwind. Personally, I simply visited Kobe to get a breath of fresh air, so my itinerary was very relaxed. I paid 1,800 yen for the sightseeing activities, unlimited bus rides, and a round-trip cable car ride.
On top of the mountain, you can get to see a stunning view of Kobe Prefecture and Osaka Bay. Right outside the cable car station are bus stops. You will surely not get lost because aside from the detailed guidebook that you can get upon buying your ticket, the bus officers also redirect you to the bus you should ride. Also, the cable car timetable is organized according to the buses’ timetable. That being said, you do not have to wait very long when changing modes of transport as they are frequent.
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The Rokko International Musical Box Museum is one of the most interesting places to visit on top of Mt. Rokko. Here you can see traditional musical boxes of different sizes that play pieces from both local and foreign musicians. Also, every hour they have two 10-minute musical shows which are very interactive. I myself have participated in playing a life-size musical box!
Within the vicinity of the museum, you can get to enjoy the natural scenery. They also have small light posts that create really cute sounds from popular anime such as those from Ghibli. It was very magical to explore the surroundings with such lovely music in the background.
Not very far from the Musical Box Museum, you can ride another lift going to Arima. Arima has lots of hot springs (onsens) in the area. If you have enough time, you can even buy a ticket for roughly 1,500 yen and do hot spring-hopping. I had a great time and I really love hot springs, so for me, I purchased the 800 yen ticket which allows me to enter both the Kin (gold) and Gin (silver) hot springs. I spent roughly an hour each in both hot springs, then enjoyed dumplings and hot spring rice cakes afterward. It was indeed a very relaxing experience for me!
After indulging with the hot springs, I went back up to Mt. Rokko and went to the Garden Terrace where I got to see a night view of Kobe. After that, I went to Shidare Observatory and I got to see beautiful man-made architecture.
It is said that the patterns of the enclosure of this tower are inspired by and based on snowflakes. It is highly recommended to visit the observatory in the evening to get a glimpse of its illuminations. Near the observatory, there is also a good mutton restaurant and of course delicious Kobe beef cuisine!
Mt. Rokko is indeed a very wonderful tourist spot to visit. One day is not enough to enjoy and cover all the activities you can do and places to visit within this mountain range. I believe covering all the activities in this area will take approximately three days at least.
If I have another chance, I will definitely visit Mt. Rokko again and enjoy the rest of the things it can offer to me. However, during my one-day tour of Mt. Rokko, I only visited four spots. I believe that is roughly only 15 to 20% of the actual things you can do there!
If you would like to see other tourist spots within Mt. Rokko that are not mentioned in this article, you can read this other Japan Info article here.