Without any doubt, one of the most unique aspects of Kobe is its geographical features. The entire city is encircled by the Rokko mountain range (Rokkosan-Kei) and the Seto Inland Sea (Seto Naikai) that are located considerably close to each other. On top of that, both locations are very easily accessible from downtown Kobe by multiple public transportation systems. Surprisingly, the access to the local mountains is extremely well-organized since several great cable cars and ropeways have been running throughout the major routes to the mountains. It should always be another uniqueness of the Kobe area.
Among Kobe’s aerial tramway lineup, Rokko-Arima Ropeway has been regarded as the most dynamic and outstanding ropeway, and it has been offering enjoyable and memorable moments to tourists as well as the locals for more than half a century since its establishment in 1969. And this year, on March 20th, their state-of-the-art gondola cars were released to the public.
The Rokko-Arima Ropeway runs between the mountaintop of Mt. Rokko (Rokkosan) and the Arima Onsen (hot spring) area. This route is best for those who would like to feel the magnificent nature of Mt. Rokko, to experience the breathtaking view from the Ropeway, and to relax at the stress-free, tranquil Arima Onsen.
The amazing and new ropeway departs at the Rokko Sancho Station located on the mountaintop. To get there from Sannomiya, the city center of Kobe, please take a local train to either “Hankyu Rokko Station” or “JR Rokkomichi Station” and transfer to the Kobe city bus to reach the Rokko Cable Shita bus stop.
When you arrive, the Rokko Cable Car Station will be right in sight.
The bus stop is situated on a hill. When you look back at the route you came from, you’ll realize that the residential areas are gone far away. An only 20-minute yet steep bus ride takes you to the high-altitude environment. From here, you can see the Setouchi Inland Sea on the farther side.
A red mailbox stands next to the bus stop. So many tourists from all across the world have probably sent letters to their friends or family members from here, talking about how their Kobe trip has been up until that point. It’s quite romantic, don’t you think? You can purchase postcards and stamps at the Rokko Cable ticket counter nearby.
If you visit Arima Onsen and other popular sightseeing locations en route, this combo ticket is the best choice for you. The ticket includes fares for “Rokko Cable”, “Rokko Sanjo Bus”, and “Rokko-Arima Ropeway” and it covers all fares of the transportation to Arima Onsen (the final destination).
The sloping cable car platform will make you anticipate something special to happen during the upcoming ride.
The retro-style decor of the cable cars gives a nostalgic feeling to riders. The Rokko Cable consists of two cars, the lower car being the better option, if weather permits, as you can feel the wonderful fresh breeze and enjoy a beautiful view from the open-air wooden seats. Plus, the 25 degree slope the cars travel on will make your ride extremely entertaining.
Along the way to the mountaintop, bright green trees and blooming spring flowers will attract your eyes. You’ll be surprised by the car closely passing by in the opposite direction. The car will arrive at the Rokko Sanjo Station (the mountaintop) in about 10 minutes.
After leaving the cable car station, please proceed to bus stop #1 and take the Rokko Sanjo Bus to the Rokko Sancho Station. The duration of the bus ride is about 13 minutes.
The Rokko-Arima Ropeway station is placed on the spacious property close to the Rokko garden terrace (https://kobe-rokko.jp/en/events/345/). Inside the building, the impressive new gondola posters will greet you. Their new gondolas were imported from Switzerland and just began their operation on March 20th, in the Rokko-Arima Ropeway’s 50th anniversary year.
As you can see in the photo, very wide and large windows were specially installed to this leading-edge Swiss-made gondola. The windows cover almost the entirety of the gondola, enabling you to enjoy a spectacular 360-degree panoramic view of Mt. Rokko’s wonderful nature. All their staff members were actually overwhelmed by its thrilling ride when they took the first ride, said the station manager.
If you have time to stop by the waiting area at the station, you will learn the history of Rokko-Arima Ropeway. The old gondola “Shakunage”, which was operated until 2004, is on display. Compared to the Shakunage, the brand-new gondola, with its stylish modern design, looks visibly futuristic and appealing.
Once you step inside the gondola car, the super wide-open view spreads before you. As the car provides two sections, “viewing seat section” and “standing section”, you can select your favorite way to savor this dynamic aerial ride. If you take the front viewing seat installed one step lower than the regular floor, you can catch a bird’s-eye view of the beautiful mountains and will definitely feel like you’re flying in the sky.
The spectacular mountain view shows different aspects with delightful colors from season to season. Fresh green trees from spring to summer, brilliant red leaves in autumn, and pure white snow in winter.
The Rokko-Arima Ropeway operates two gondolas. The red colored one is inspired by the autumn leaves of the Arima area and Mt. Rokko, and the silver one in the photo represents the wild nature of the mountain.
A few minutes before arriving at the Arima Onsen Station, the car approaches a special point where the slope suddenly becomes much steeper than the regular route. The feeling of falling while passing through the point will probably remind you of an amusement ride at a fun park. It’s a little thrilling, scary, yet a lot of fun! Please don’t close your eyes in fear because it’s absolutely safe.
After a 12-minute trip, the gondola comes to the destination “Arima Onsen Station”.
The renovated station building with its modern and sophisticated design will surely capture your interest and attention. Furthermore, in the glass-walled hallway right next to the gondola gate, you can see and learn how the ropeway has been securely supported by a very thick strong wire.
Next to the Station, there is a quiet road that goes to the center of the Arima Onsen area. Take a stroll around the area and find yourself relaxed and calm in a laid-back environment full of nature. It normally takes about 10 minutes to get straight to the main area but it would be a great idea to make a detour to feel the fresh air and see something special in this onsen town.
On both sides of the road, a variety of spring flowers are blooming as if they were welcoming visitors. Many Kobe locals also visit the Arima Onsen area in spring to take a pleasant walk.
Centering around two famous hot spring spas “Kin-no-yu” and “Gin-no-yu”, various types of traditional Japanese hot spring spas, hotels, shops, and restaurants are dotted all over the town. The Arima Onsen is mainly composed of two hot spring sources; Kinsen and Ginsen. The Kinsen (“gold hot spring” in Japanese) contains high levels of iron and the color of the water is a gold-like reddish brown. On the other hand, the Ginsen (“silver hot spring” in Japanese) has colorless carbonic spring water that shines like silver. The components of carbonic spring water are well known for the possibility to improve blood circulation and the metabolism.
While wandering around, you can find hot spring sources (seven in total) in the area. This one is the “Gosho Sengen”.
The Arima Onsen is acknowledged as one of the three oldest hot spring towns in Japan along with Dogo Onsen (Ehime Pref.) and Shirahama Onsen (Wakayama Pref.). As the entire area has a traditional Japanese atmosphere with the history of the onsen, some old folks from domestic areas long for the good old times and new generations feel something new here. It would be a great idea to explore peaceful and serene back alleys and free yourself from the bustling stress of everyday life. Please don’t forget to soak in the hot spring spas and to try Arima’s confection “Tansan Senbei” (carbonic acid crackers made of flour). It’s a classic! This lightly sweetened round-shaped cracker is known as one of Arima Onsen’s best souvenirs.
The Arima Onsen started its fame back in the 15th century as the hot spring was loved by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, one of the most famous and successful Japanese military commanders from the Sengoku period (from 1467 to 1615). Together with this historical background, there are two symbolic bridges “Taiko-bashi bridge” (“Taiko” is another name of Hideyoshi Toyotomi) and “Nene-bashi bridge” (Nene is Hideyoshi’s wife) that lay across the Arima-gawa River near the Kobe Electric Railway “Arima Onsen Station”.
Please unwind yourself with the rich nature of Mt. Rokko, the fabulous view from the brand-new gondola, and the soothing time at the Arima Onsen. As both train and bus transportation services are conveniently available from the Arima Onsen to the Sannomiya Station, it’s a perfect day-trip route from downtown Kobe.
Address：4512-336 Kita Rokko, Rokkosan-cho, Nada-ku, Kobe-shi
Closed on：Open daily
*The opening hours will be shortened on Saturdays and Sundays due to the state of emergency announced by the government. For more details, please visit the official website (https://koberope.jp/en/rokko).
*In response to the COVID-19 situation, the transportation schedule may change. To see the latest information, please go see the following URL.
Rokko Cable / Rokko Sanjo Bus（https://www.rokkosan.com/en/access/）