Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens and Nunobiki Falls Ultimate Guide

Nunobiki Falls (布引の滝) is considered one of the Three Greatest Divine Waterfalls in Japan, together with the Nachi Falls (那智の滝) in Wakayama Prefecture and the Kegon Falls (華厳滝) in Nikkō National Park in Tochigi Prefecture. And of course, the Nunobiki Falls was also chosen as one of the Top 100 Waterfalls in Japan. So it might be hard to believe that such a famous waterfall is only a 10 to 15-minute hike away from Shin-Kobe Station!

Up the hill from this great waterfall is the Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens (神戸布引ハーブ園). It is most easily accessed by taking a 10-minute scenic ropeway ride up the mountain. At the entrance of Japan’s largest herb garden, you will be welcomed by all the adorable and colorful flowers at the entrance (=゚ω゚)ノ.

An Overview of Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens

© Kobe Tourism Bureau

In the 12 gardens divided by theme, about 200 species and 75,000 seasonal flowers and herb plants bloom throughout the year! On top of that, you will be able to enjoy some delicious herb-infused dishes on the 2nd floor of their Observation Resthouse (展望レストハウス) overlooking Kobe city and Osaka Bay!

Note limited vegetarian dishes are available but please still check out the menu on their website HERE in advance to confirm. You can translate the webpage by Google Chrome’s translation function to the right of the address bar.

You can also request them not to include meat/seafood if you prefer other non-vegetarian menus. Please refer to our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarians and Vegans for some useful phrases.

The facility basically spreads from the middle to the top of the mountain. So a common way to explore the garden is to take the ropeway to Herb Gardens Top Station (ハーブ園山頂駅) first and slowly head down to Kaze no Oka Mid Station (風の丘中間駅) as you stroll through the gardens in each area. From there, utilize the ropeway again to get back to Shin-Kobe Station. The entire trip will take around 90 minutes.

© Kobe Tourism Bureau

Activities at Nunobiki Herbal Gardens

To help you plan your visit, the below activities are listed according to their locations, starting from the top of the mountain. If you do want to participate in any of the activities that are held by the Gardens, plan ahead with the GARDENS’ MAP so you won’t be wasting time and energy on traveling up and down the hill.

  • Herb Guide Tour in Japanese (ハーブガイドツアー): takes place every day at 11:30 am and 2 pm. Each session lasts for around 45 minutes. During the tour, you will find out how to use herbs, how to grow them, and useful ways to use essential oils in your daily life.
    • Please gather in front of the View Plaza’s (展望プラザ) Welcome Garden (ウェルカムガーデン)
    • The tour will take place in Herb Museum (ハーブミュージアム)
    • If it lightly rains, the venue of the tour will be changed to indoor
  • Finding Your Favourite Essential Oil (至高の香り探し): takes place during the Gardens’ opening hours. At the Fragrance Museum (香りの資料館) in Mori no Hall (森のホール), you get to smell and find your favorite fragrance from around 80 essential oils
  • Aroma Studio (アロマスタジオ): takes place on the ground floor of Mori no Hall (森のホール). You get to make your own aroma goods with herbs or essential oil
    • Takes place between March to November
      • Between 11 am to 3 pm on weekdays
      • Between 11 am to 4 pm on weekends and public holidays
    • Required time depends on what you choose to make but takes around 10 – 30 minutes and costs 1,100 to 1,300 yen
  • Herbal Footbath at their Cafe Lounge/Terrace area is the perfect place for some luxurious relaxation

From Nunobiki Herb Gardens to Nunobiki Falls

You might have noticed from the Gardens’ map link above that you can hike your way up or down through the mountain trail. It will take around an hour from Shin-Kobe Station to the south gate of Nunobiki Herb Gardens. From there to the top of the mountain, counting sightseeing, it will take another 40 minutes.

© Kobe Tourism Bureau

© Kobe Tourism Bureau
Obviously, going downhill is a lot easier, especially for those who want to see Nunobiki Falls (布引の滝) from the sky and up close.

So what you can do is, get a one-way ropeway ticket to the top (for an aerial view of the waterfall), walk down the hill, and enter the hiking trail that leads to Nunobiki Falls from Kaze no Oka Mid Station (風の丘中間駅).

After leaving the garden from the garden’s south gate, follow the driveway and walk for around 7 minutes. There should be an entrance to a narrow road leading to the Nunobiki Dam at the left of the motorway. Just walk down the road, and you will get to a dam in 15 minutes.

Keep following the promenade and, crossing the bridge over the dam, and continue walking, you will arrive at Sarunokazura Bridge, then Nunobiki Falls, then Shin-Kobe Station at the end.

Flower Calendar and the Fall Foliage at Nunobiki Herb Gardens

To find out what flowers will be blooming during your visit, check out the flower calendar HERE on their website!

The color of the leaves will start changing from late October, and the season peaks from early November to early December. Some of the best autumn viewing spots are from the ropeway, Kaze no Oka Recreation Area (風の丘芝生広場) at the south of the garden, and the View Plaza on the top of the mountain.

Nunobiki Herb Gardens’ Opening Hours, Charges, and Access Information

  • For information about the Garden’s opening hours, ropeway fares, and admission fees, please refer to their website HERE
  • From Kobe Municipal Subway (神戸市営地下鉄) and JR Shin-Kobe Station (新神戸駅) to the ropeway station at the foot of the mountain (ハーブ園山麓駅), it is a 5-minute walk

Hiking Your Way Up to Nunobiki Falls

© photo-ac.com

From Shin-Kobe Station, you should see Nunobiki Falls’s directory sign like the one in the photo at the left. Follow the sign, and it should lead you to the promenade to the four waterfalls of Nunobiki Falls.

That is right. Nunobiki Falls is actually a collective name for four waterfalls in the area. From the station, you will encounter them in the sequence of Mentaki Falls (雌滝), Tsudumigataki Falls (鼓ヶ滝), Meototaki Falls (夫婦滝), and lastly, Ontaki Falls (雄滝).

As it is an easy trail, no full-scale hiking equipment is required. But we would still recommend wearing sneakers as the promenade leading to Ontaki can be slippery and not as flat as the other parts of the course (^_-)-☆.

And if you have time, hike for another 60 minutes from Ontaki to get to Nunobiki Dam (布引貯水池), which has been chosen to be one of the Top 100 Dams in Japan! On the way there, you will also pass by the Miharashi Overlook ( みはらし展望台 ), which gives you a panorama view of Kobe City.

Just a 2-minute walk from the station, you will be crossing the brick bridge – Isagobashi (砂子橋), the starting point of the hiking course. However, you need to be careful about oncoming traffic because there are no sidewalks from the station to the bridge.

© Kobe Tourism Bureau

Shortly after you pass the bridge, you will see the staircases in the photo on the right. That is the shortcut to Ontaki Falls, so we suggest you keep walking on the flat road to see the other three waterfalls first.

The Magnificent Nunobiki Falls

Around 5 minutes away from the staircases, the beautiful but magnificent Mentaki Falls will be in front of you.

© photo-ac.com

Sitting on the benches at the lookout, you can spend some relaxing moments fully indulging yourself in the breathtaking view as well as the cleansing air emitting from the Mentaki Falls and the forest around you. The sound of the waterfall is another type of natural therapy that helps to put our minds at ease (*´ω`).

Then, after you have been re-energized, take the staircases to the right and go on your way to Ontaki Falls!

Around a 5-minute walk from Mentaki Falls, the sound of water will become stronger. So loud that people in the past thought the sound was somebody is striking a drum. This is why it is named Tsudumigadaki Falls.

Then with just another 5-minute of hiking, you will reach Meototaki Falls and Ontaki Falls.

Contrasting the Mentaki Falls, the Otaki Falls is a spectacular waterfall that gushes down a rocky mountain violently from a height of 43 meters. Moving your attention to the waterfall basin, the two streams of water that fall in harmony is just like how an old couple takes an easy walk. This is why they are called Meototaki.

Climbing up the staircase that continues at the right of Ontaki Falls, you can take a rest at Nunobiki Ontaki Chaya (おんたき茶屋), which overlooks Ontaki Falls. For those that plan to order some light meals there, just note the broth used for their noodle dishes isn’t vegetarian. You can utilize our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarians and Vegans article when you order your food.

© photo-ac.com

Nunobiki Falls to Nunobiki Dam (布引ダム)

© Kobe Tourism Bureau

Just another 5-minute hike from Nunobiki Ontaki Chaya, you will get to a park where Miharashi Overlook (見晴らし展望台) is located.

Overlooking Kobe City, the park is one of the most popular places for the locals to do their morning hikes. If you get here early enough, you might be able to do some radio calisthenics with them (´▽`*).

Then just another 15-minute hike, the Nunobiki Dam, which was built in 1900, will be in front of you.

The Nunobiki Reservoir on the dam lake stores 600,000 cubic meters of water, praised by the crew of foreign ships. It is said that the mineral-rich water filtered through the rock layer of Mt. Rokkō remained delicious without deterioration even during long voyages when loaded on a ship.

© photo-ac.com
© photo-ac.com

On the way to the dam, you will notice this old-looking bridge. The Sarunokazura Bridge that was completed in 1936 actually didn’t have this “jungle” look. The decoration is actually relatively new that was completed in May 2006.

Cross the bridge, and you will be on your way to Takiyama Castle Ruins (滝山城址), which involves some more difficult hiking.

Lastly, HERE is the map of this hiking course. We only found a Japanese version, so please read it with the spots’ Japanese names.

How to Get to Nunobiki Falls

Please take JR or Kobe Municipal Subway and get off at Shin-Kobe Station. The waterfalls are just a 10 to 15-minute hike from there.

Explore Other Place to Go and Hidden Gems in Kobe

Akashi-Kaikyo-Bridge-Kobe-Hyogo-Japan-
Click the photo to find out more about Kobe!

The port city of Kobe has many other popular attractions and hidden gems that are worthwhile exploring. For example, Arima Onsen Town is probably the next spot you want to visit for those who love hot springs.

The Kitano Ijinkan-gai up on the hill is another place in Kobe for some great Instagram photos!

To find out more about this amazing city, please refer to our article on Kobe City (=゚ω゚)ノ.

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