My Trip to Nunobiki Falls, Kobe’s Hidden Gem

My Trip to Nunobiki Falls, Kobe’s Hidden Gem

Even though it’s close to the city, Nunobiki Falls is an attraction that’s little-known by tourists. Here’s a traveller’s guide to finding this gem.

After my trip to Awaji Island, I arrived back at Kobe. I was headed to Osaka next but since I was already in Kobe, I decided to take some time to explore the city. A few days ago, an online search of mine revealed that Kobe has a beautiful waterfall: Nunobiki Falls. It was time to pay it a visit.

History of Nunobiki Falls

According to this map on one of the information boards at the park, Nunobiki Falls is made up of four waterfalls: Menataki, Tsuzumigadaki, Meotodaki and Ontaki.

In the tales of Ise, a group of officials appreciate the Nunobiki Falls before creating verses of poetry. | Image credit: Minneapolis Institute of Art

The Nunobiki Falls comprise four separate falls as well as man-modified cascades. The falls hold great literary and artistic significance in Japanese history, with mentions of it found in the Heian-period work Tales of Ise (Episode 87, for literary fans out there).

Finding my way there

Having arrived at Shin-Kobe Station on the Seishin-Yamate Line, I followed the signs pointing to the location of the waterfall. It led me behind the station, and from there I referred to my phone for directions. I crossed an overhead bridge and arrived at the Shin-Kobe Shinkansen Station.

Behind Shin-Kobe Shinkansen Station, Mt. Rokko looms, brimming with nature.

The Nunobiki Falls were further behind this station, tucked somewhere in the forested mounds. I had to find a way to go across the station. But walking into it, I realised that there was no exit leading to the opposite side. I had reached a dead end. However, soon after exiting the station, I came across a staircase.

Was this the route to Nunobiki Falls? The rusty handrails contributed to my doubts, but there was no way of knowing unless I tried, right? I barely cleared the flight of steps before I was met by a thick foliage of wild grass and weeds. I guess this wasn’t the way – but even if it was, there was no way I was ready to trudge through tall grass to get to my destination.

Dejected, I made my way back to the station. It was during then that I noticed streams of water flowing from the direction of the mountains.

There was a waterfall nearby after all! Maybe I had just went the wrong way. Retracing my steps to the start of the overhead bridge, I noticed that there was a non-elevated route that went in the same direction of Shin-Kobe Station. Taking this path, I soon arrived at the lower level of the station. Just outside, there was a sign that directed me to Nunobiki Falls – I had finally found my way!

The hike up

After walking past a map of the falls and some houses, I arrived at a wide bridge that spanned across a stream. Past the bridge, the path split off into two routes. I took the elevated one thinking that it would lead to the falls. The sound of rushing water was near, but I did not know where exactly it was coming from.

Signs like these make for easier navigation around the vicinity; just remember to look out for the duck, which appears to be the mascot for Mt. Rokko.

A distance along it, however, I started to doubt that I was on the right path. I was heading up, but just not in the direction of the falls. I retraced my steps again, then took a path that led deeper into the park. It led me to Mentaki, the first of the cascades.

Mentaki: The first cascade

nunobiki falls

Part natural and part man-modified, Mentaki was a rewarding sight to behold, especially after the long hike up. The scene was picturesque, with the surrounding areas enclosed by rich green flora that provided shade from the afternoon sun. Several maple trees promised a spectacular sight when autumn comes.

Mentaki features a stone brick hut by the side of the waterfall. There were also benches for weary travellers to rest on before they continue the rest of their hike.

Ontaki: The final and grandest of the falls

Having spotted the first of the falls, I continued on the path that led up to deeper parts of the forest. The incline was slightly steep, with dirt and stone steps paving most of the way. A stream of water ran beside me and it was punctuated by several small cascades.

Flanked on all sides by flora and the sound of nothing but rushing water, I could not believe that I was in the heart of a modern metropolis just minutes ago.

The roar of water neared once again as I continued along the path towards the last and grandest of the falls, Ontaki. As I passed by one final small cascade, I was finally greeted by a grand waterfall.

nunobiki falls

Ontaki is made up of two fast-flowing cascades, too high to fit into a single frame of my digital camera.

nunobiki falls

The water flowed fast from the top of the first cascade, behind a grey stone wall that’s too tall for the water’s origin to be seen. Plant life had found homes on the crevices of the stone face, while several surrounding rocks were covered entirely by trees blooming in rich summer green. The water collected itself in a sizeable basin of clear turquoise before overflowing down the next cascade to the stream below.

Enclosed with nothing but flora and having to share the peace with only the occasional visitor, Nunobiki Falls is truly a gem well-hidden in Kobe city. Even if you don’t really care about its historical significance, it’s still worth visiting since it’s in close proximity to the city, little-known by tourists and a great place to immerse in nature.

Getting there

nunobiki falls

This billboard map can be seen at the start of the hike.

At Shin-Kobe Shinkansen Station, make your way to the lower level of the station and out to the waiting area. Follow the big green arrows on the left of the waiting area. It’ll point you through a short tunnel (watch out for vehicles) before you emerge at an incline to the right which is accompanied by a big map of the area.

A sign directing you to the falls.

Walk along the path through the row of houses and you’ll arrive at a bridge. Nunobiki Falls is opposite the bridge.

This rest area appears just before Mentaki

After crossing the bridge, take the path that leads to the left and walk alongside the stream before you reach Mentaki.

About Author

Gabriel Oh
Gabriel Oh

A lover of words and their intrinsic value, Gabriel enjoys a good book as much as he does writing a good story. While he dabbles in illustration and photography, he just wishes that they would love him back as much. Gabriel has a deep-rooted interest in Japanese culture and language, eventually venturing to the Land of the Rising Sun for the first time in 2016. Having made many wonderful memories there, he now hopes to share what he has so that others can learn from his stories and eventually make their own.


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