Public transportation provides multiple convenient ways to summit Mt. Rokko. If you’re traveling from Sannomiya Station or Kobe City proper, you can ascend the mountain via the Mt. Rokko Cable Car. In operation since 1932, the open-air car offers an old-timey charm as it cuts through Rokko’s dense mountain forest. The cable operates on a two-car, one-track system. So, halfway up the mountain, the ascending and descending cars dramatically pass one another.
The ride is 10 minutes flat and places you at the top next to a stunning lookout perch. Attached to the cable car station, this observation deck offers a full view of Kobe and the bay below. You can even see Osaka City in the distance. I suggest stopping at the small café there to enjoy a hot or cold beverage (depending on the season) while taking in the stunning vista from their outdoor patio.
Mt. Rokko's Observation Deck
Mt. Rokko’s observation deck is particularly famous for its nighttime views of the city. It’s worth visiting the mountain for this reason alone. It makes quite a scene as the sun sets and Kobe slowly illuminates the night sky. The summit of Mt. Rokko has even been called one of the top three views in Japan.
For visitors coming from Arima Onsen—an ancient hot spring town on the backside of the mountain—there is a ropeway that will bring you directory from Arima to Mt. Rokko’s peak. From the ropeway’s summit station there is easy access to the Rokko Sanjo Bus, which connects major tourist sites on the mountain.
Many mornings the peak of Mt. Rokko is shrouded in clouds. If conditions are right, the accumulation provides a fantastical ropeway ride. The morning I rode the Rokko-Arima ropeway, we spent the last half of our ascent cloaked in a dense white fog. The poor visibility was surprisingly beautiful, offering the surreal experience of being inside a cloud. In better conditions, the ropeway offers beautiful views of the mountains and seasonal foliage.
Rokko Garden Terrace
Once you’re on Mt. Rokko, there are several attractions to enjoy. A short walk from the Rokko-Arima Ropeway Station is the Rokko Garden Terrace complex. On clearer days, the collection of restaurants, shops and art installations offer gorgeous panoramic views of the surrounding area. When I visited, unfortunately, clouds had descended on the area.
Even so, I could enjoy some of the art piece on display, including the Rokko Shidare Observatory, which is housed in an elaborate, webbed steel sculpture.
Rokko Alpine Botanical Garden
A short bus ride from Rokko Garden Terrace is the Rokko Alpine Botanical Garden. While the garden offers its most stunning scenes during the spring cherry blossom and autumn foliage seasons, with over 1,500 varieties of plants, there are always flowers in bloom. One portion of the garden is devoted entirely to plants native to alpine ecosystems, showcasing the rugged beauty of Mt. Rokko’s vegetation. The site has been visited by the Emperor and Prime Ministers in the past, and is an impressive collection of mountainous flora.
If you’re looking for an escape from the urban tourist sites of Kobe and Osaka, Mt. Rokko offers easy access to the natural beauties of Hyogo Prefecture.
For a trip to Mt. Rokko I recommend the Hanshin Line’s HANSHIN TOURIST PASS. The pass covers all Hanshin Line train transportation between Osaka, Kobe, and Mt. Rokko. ROKKOSAN TOURIST PASS covers the Mt. Rokko cable car, ropeway, and bus systems. The pass is available for purchase at Hanshin Line ticket offices, including the one at Kobe Sannomiya Station.
To get to Mt. Rokko Cable Car Station from Kobe Sannomiya, take the Hanshin Line Super Express to Mikage Station. From there you can grab the Kobe City Bus #16 bound for Rokko Cable Shita. Once you’re on the mountain, the Rokko Sanjo Bus offers easy transportation between the Rokko Cable Car’s summit station, Rokko Alpine Botanical Garden, Rokko Garden Terrace, and the Rokko-Arima Ropeway Station.
I’m an American journalist and editor based in Tokyo. After nearly 20 years living in Japan, I’m still discovering new and exciting places in Japan outside of Tokyo and off the beaten path, such as the ancient “Kumano Kodo" pilgrimage trails and the charming seaside fishing village, Kada.