Compared to other regions in Japan, Kobe is geographically considerably unique as the entire city is tightly encompassed with mountains (Mt. Rokko and Mt. Maya) and the sea (Seto Inland Sea). This outstanding peculiarity enables Kobe locals to receive amazingly rich bounties from its nature.
By the way, what comes to mind when you hear the word “Kobe’s night time attractions”? With regard to food, most of you would probably come up with ideas of having local cuisine such as Kobe beef from local ranches or fresh seafood from local fisheries. That’s legit! You’ve got a sensible choice. Plus, after or before your delightful dinner, we highly recommend you go and experience Kobe’s awe-inspiring night view from Mt. Rokko (Rokkosan) that is regarded as one of the best night views all across Japan.
Usually, in order to get to the top of Mt. Rokko from downtown Kobe, it takes about 45 minutes by public transportation. However, after strolling around town during the daytime, some of you might feel reluctant to go, even if you really wanted to, due to feeling a bit fatigued. If that’s the case, don’t fret! The special bus tour that we are eager to introduce to you will undoubtedly suit your needs.
“Kobe Night View Bus Tour-Rokkosan (Mt. Rokko)” is exactly the one! It’s a comfortable three-hour bus tour departing from Shinki Bus Sannomiya Higashi Noriba (east bus stop) which is close to JR Sannomiya Station. (*Reservation is required. For more details, please see the information at the end of the article.)
1: Ticket counter (under JR train tracks) 2: Shinki Bus Sannomiya terminal 3: East bus stop (as seen in the photo below.) 4: About 100m (two-minute walk) 5: JR Sannomiya Station
En route, a tour attendant will kindly explain to you all the charms Mt. Rokko has to offer, including its history. (*An English-speaking attendant does not always accompany the tour.) In about 40 minutes, the bus will be arriving at its first destination, “Rokko Garden Terrace”. It’s the most famous spot to enjoy the marvelous city night view in the area. While making your way toward the Terrace, you will encounter this dome-shaped observatory “Rokko Shidare Observatory” on the hill.
The observatory is lit by state-of-the-art LED technology. Fushimi Masayuki, an illumination designer, arranged this year’s lighting concept and design based on the season (from March 2019 to March 2020) and it’s synchronized to the multiple scenes from “Makura no Soshi” as a motif. (*Makura no Soshi is one of the most significant Japanese books written by Sei Shonagon during the 990s and early 1000s in the Heian period. It is well-known internationally as “The Pillow Book”).
The illumination presents different colors of each season. For example, in winter, the illumination expresses white snow as a symbol of the cold season (as seen in the photo above).
As time progresses, the color turns red that represents a fire bucket to warm up people. If time allows, it would be a good idea to stop by The Rokko Shidare Observatory itself.
In the Rokko Garden Terrace, an iconic observatory is towering up and its roof-top is one of the best places where you can admire the spectacular night view in the Terrace. On the way to the roof-top, we found some snow on the stairs that impressed us during the tour. The cold weather with snow is the best part of winter. Although this winter is much milder than usual, it’s still very cold here in the Mt. Rokko area.
The reddish-purple sky combined with the unobstructed cityscape at dusk is extremely breathtaking.
Ms. Takayama, today’s tour attendant, pointed out our current location on the map and explained to us the next destination “Tenran Observatory”. The bus drove us to Tenran Observatory in about 10 minutes from the Rokko Garden Terrace.
The color of the sky completely turned dark blue when we arrived at Tenran Observatory. As the Tenran Observatory is situated on a lower altitude compared to the Rokko Garden Terrace, you can enjoy different aspects of Kobe’s beautiful night view. On top of that, location-wise, you will also be able to see some of the popular landmarks in Osaka if the weather is clear enough.
Take a look at the information panel at the observatory deck to learn more about Kobe. All of the information is conveniently written in English.
The Tenran Observatory was named after the former Japanese Emperor Hirohito, who visited here in 1981(the Showa period). “Tenran (天覧)” comes from “Tenno (天皇) meaning emperor” and “ran (覧) meaning watch, see, or observe”.
On a side note, you might notice that there is a black bird-like silhouette on the right side of the photo above. It’s a figure of a green pheasant, Japan’s national bird. Please check it out if you have a chance to come here in the daytime.
The tour includes a free beverage service (tea or coffee) at a café. Please sit back and relax for a while over a hot drink that will surely warm up your body in the cold winter mountain. (*The café location will change depending on the day and the route.)
After visiting two major night view spots in Mt. Rokko, the bus will go straight back to downtown Kobe. The bus usually arrives at the terminal in Sannomiya at around 8 pm. We believe that you will still have some time to explore the night in Kobe. If you haven’t had dinner yet, check out one of Kobe’s hottest gourmet websites “eat-kobenight.jp” to discover your favorites from a variety of restaurants and bar lineups. The night is still young!
Tour name: Kobe Night View Tour-Rokkosan (Mt. Rokko)
Price: adult 2,000 yen, child 1,000 yen (*Reservation is required.)
Date: every Friday and Saturday (October 2019 to March 2020)
Time: 17:00 to 19:50
Reservation: https://www.shinki-tour.com/TourDetail.aspx?tc=BE19027014CC#start (Japanese)
*The tour route may change depending on the day.