September 25, 2015

Japan - Kobe: Lost on Mount Rokko National Park

Once upon a time, there were 3 Unfit Runners who wanted to perform some fat cleansing after feasting on a copious amount of booze, oysters and Kobe beef. Wondering if the holy water of Arima Onsen can cleanse them of their sins, they decided to embark on a journey to the North, via the treacherous slopes of Mt Rokko  via a series of train, bus, ropeway and a cable car with the plan of not walking more than 500 meters during the entire journey.

In preparation of the journey, the heroes decided to gorge themselves silly with Kobe beef, leading to extreme food coma, resulting in them deciding to have a 1 hour Siesta (Afternoon Nap) before venturing into the Holy Lands.

There was their first and probably worst mistake.

The journey started out smoothly enough, with spirits high and hopes alight with an image of a soothing hot water with a bottle of sake floating inside a wooden tub (approved by Alcoholic). As in all epic and legendary tales, the heroes ran into trouble once they reached the summit of Mt Rokko, preparing for the last leg of the journey which entails riding a cable car down the mountain.

The first signs of trouble started when Big Boned Guy (also known as BBG) noticed that there were no cable cars moving along the steel wires, upon reaching the summit after a lengthy bus ride.

"Maybe the Japanese cable car system is very high tech?" says Alcoholic, "They will probably fire the cable car from a launching tube at the base station!"

Although Alcoholic is a respected Kung Fu master and an accomplished engineer, we doubted the wisdom behind his words.

Feeling anxious, we hiked briskly to the cable car base station (not before we took some time taking pictures).

Upon reaching the base station, we were confronted by the unbreachable  Gates-of-No-Entry-Because-We-are-Closed. Despite using all our combined power and doing numerous we-fie in front of the gate, our resources were not enough to summon the demons of Mt Rokko to restart the cable car. We missed the last cable car by 20mins.

"Shucks! We shouldn't have taken that siesta!" screams BBG

"Is there any other routes to Arima?" asked PES E

"Seems like the alternative route involves taking the same transport back down and we will need to change a series of train which entails us traveling around Mt Rokko." says BBG.

"Let's go back to the hotel!" says Alcoholic, "We won't want to miss the results of the Singapore general election!" 

"I wonder what time will the bus service ends.." muses PES E.

The last statement alerted the heroes to the greater danger that awaits them... Being stranded on the slopes of Mt Rokko. The heroes were silent for a moment as they contemplated on the bad ending that awaits them: Dead on Mt Rokko with the frozen corpses of PES E and Alcoholic found huddling together while BBG feasted on their dead flesh as his supply of sweets ran out.

Note: BBG has a high resistant to cold and he enjoys walking in 10 degrees temperature in T-shirt and Berms...  

The 3 heroes broke into a run and dash for the bus stop which is 300 meters away, fearing that the last bus had also left the summit. When they reached the bus stop, they spotted a bus which was about to pull away from the bus-stop. The heroes pulled out their hidden Kobe beef reserves and made a mad dash managed to board the bus... blindly.

It was only on the bus that they realized that the bus does not go back down the mountains and is serving as a trunk service around the Mt Rokko area. Alcoholic and BBG started to examine the map to see if there would be any bus interchange which would allow the heroes to switch to a bus which would take them down the inhospitable mountain while PES E continued to crack jokes on kind of possible positions that their frozen corpses will look like when discovered by the search team.

The heroes managed to spot another bus station 500 meters away from one of the bus-stop which the current bus serves and they got off, ready for a mighty trek as the sun started to dip below the horizons.

 "What if the last bus also left? My super powers of negative prediction is tingling!" whined PES E.

"Shut your trap!" yelled the other 2 heroes.

" I was right when I predicted that there is no more Yamasaki 18 years East of Kobe. I think I have an affinity to predict bad things."

(Note: PES E was correct about the Yamasaki 18 years. The heroes could not find any bottles of that legendary drink despite combing the shops of Kobe, Osaka and Tokyo)

"Hey, I manage to predict the crash of the China stock market too. I think I am getting good at predicting bad stuff!"  

The 2 other heroes ignored PES E.

The heroes reached the bus-stop that promised salvation and, alas! The last bus left at 6pm. It is now 610pm.

"S***T! Nevermind, there is another bus stop 1km away which runs on another route which will bring us down to the base. Let's go quickly before we miss that bus too!"

We broke into a brisk walk to the next bus stop. Our training for all the runs we had done over the years came in handy. Besides, it had gotten too cold to walk. Running should warm us up a bit.

While walking to the next bus stop, PES E came up with a brilliant idea as he watched private vehicle zoom past them.

"How about we do a Grand Theft Auto by hijacking one of the cars? It is only a 5 step process?"

"What are the 5 steps?" asked Alcoholic.

"First, stop a car: Second, open the driver door: Third, pull the driver out and send him rolling on the ground: Fourth, jump into the driver seat and close the door: Fifth, step on the gas pedal to safety!"

"What if there is a passenger?" asked Alcoholic.

"Than one of us will need to coordinate and perform the 5 step process in synchronization!"

"What if there is a passenger and a dog?" asked Alcoholic.

"Than 3 of us will need to coordinate and perform the 5 step process with one of us proficient in dog handling!"

"Than how do you suppose we do this in synchronization without any practice?"

"Well, we will probably need to hijack a car to practice on it before we can actually perform the actual hijacking! Ahhh! There is the bus stop!"

Eager to get out of this God forsaken mountain, we sprinted to the bus stop, only to realize that the last bus from the other route, was also gone.

Undaunted, the heroes contemplated running down the mountain along the windy road, which has no pavement.

A minute later, a car came screaming down the slopes, probably inspired by Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift and Initial D with its engine roaring and tires screeching.

The heroes decided not to risk their neck hiking down the slopes of Mt Rokko due to a combination of darkness, crazy drivers, no-pavement roads.

"Perhaps the ropeway that we took on the way up is not close yet!"

"Well, that is a 1.5km walk back to the ropeway station! Are you guys up for it!"

"We are going to do a morning run tomorrow anyway, might as well do it now. As SG Unfit Runners, if we need to go down, we should go down running!"

The heroes strapped up and literally dashed back to the ropeway station, each of us muttering prayers to our individual gods.

A blaze of light met their eyes as they ran around a bend, much to their relief. It seemed that the ropeway station would be in operation all the way till 9pm. There is even a restaurant on the top of the ropeway station for visitors to dine and enjoy the full glory of the city lights of Kobe and Osaka.

 "So what should we tell the folks back home for the reason why we braved the dangerous slopes of Mt Rokko and never got to soak in the spring waters of Arima Onsen?"

"Well, we have photos to show on the beautiful night scenery of Kobe. Let us just tell them that our quest was to enjoy the night lights of Kobe city all along!"

"Good idea! Meanwhile, let me blog about our adventures of being lost on Mt Rokko!"   


  1. Hahaha! What an interesting post!
    I am planning a trip to Arima Onsen and Mount Rokko too in June but it really seems that the ropeways and what not closes early. Is there a way to travel there via public transport (trains, buses), either from Kobe or Arima onsen? I wanna enjoy the night view.

    1. Hi, If you want to enjoy the view at the top of Mt Rokko, the ropeway from Rokko Cable Shita closes quite late, to facilitate tourists to enjoy the night view of Kobe. There is a nice restaurant at the cable car station too. However, if you want to get to Arima Onsen and come back the same way, I suggest that you make it an early morning trip rather than an afternoon trip like us. If you want to enjoy a night soak at Arima, I suggest that you book a room at the Onsen or around the area on the other side of Mt Rokko for the night. A late night bus ride might be possible but seems complex to me. Mt Rokko area is actually quite interesting and warrants at least two days exploring the area.

    2. There is direct train from Kobe to Arima Onsen but it is a pretty long ride. Won't recommend you to stay too late at Arima else you may miss the last train.


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