see the map
I've cycled to Kobe twice. On both occasions I went there during the World Cup 2002 to take
a few pictures in front of the Wing Stadium. The 2, 1st stage games were Russia-Tunisia and
Sweden-Nigeria. There was also one 2nd stage game played (Brazil-Belgium), but to that I went
by train from Osaka.
In short, the route to Kobe from Osaka sucks. I don't think there are many alternatives that
one can take other than the main road. Probably every road between Osaka and Kobe is crowded with
cars and people. Not my favourite place to cycle.
Getting from Northern Osaka to Kyoto is much easier than from Kashiwara. The difficult part
here is cycling from Kashiwara to Osaka. It's only about 20 km to Umeda, but it's through
Passed Umeda, along Yodo river is a service road that leads towards Kyoto. The road is
ridiculous though. It has gates every hundred metres preventing cars and scooters from entering
it at night to race. On top of that, there are speed bumps inbetween the gates. Still much better
than cycling on the roads full of cars.
The service road ends before Kyoto, but in the city there are cycling paths. It's actually
pleasant to cycle around the city. The path that I cycled on follows the main river that runs
Mt. Kongo is a very interesting place to visit in the Osaka area. It isn't far from the city
and the access is easy. While living in Kashiwara, I visited the Kongo area a few times and
climbed to the top once. Not only the mountain is an interesting place, but the road to it as
well. The village, Chihayaakasaka, is worth visiting especially. It's situated on the way to the
mountain, right on the foot of Kongo-Ikoma range and it's known for terraced rice paddies. Some
of them are on both sides of the main road, but the most interesting ones are located behind
a high school building that is on a hill to the right of the road.
Farmers start flooding the paddies in June and begin planting rice in late June or early July.
The place is crowded with photographers and painters then. When I went there for the first time
in May, the students from the high school were surprised to see a guy with a camera in May.
They told me that I was too early.
Further up, more than half way to the top is a beautiful, tiny village. It's a typical mountain
village in the valley to the right of the road. I think it's a part of Chihayaakasaka,
so it's called the same.
The main road is situated much higher than the village and it runs along the edge of the valley.
The entire village can be seen from the spots on the road where there are no trees.
This is also the place where hiking trail leading to the top of Mt. Kongo begins.
The entrance is to the left of the main road. There is a big map and some signs (in Japanese).
From there it takes 1 to 2h to climb the mountain.
The main road continues further up passing through something that looks like a Buddhist temple
gate and goes all the way to a ropeway station. The ropeway goes to the top of Mt. Kongo. The
road actually ends there and I think hiking trails begin there as well.
Somewhere near the gate on the way to the ropeway, I was surprised to see a banana tree with
tiny fruits on it - the mini bananas. I was surprised to see a tropical tree at such
altitude in not so tropical country. Amazing adaptation powers. Near the ropeway station, along
the road are the coniferous trees of the kind that loose the needles for the winter. The needles
change colour to orange and brown and fall to the ground creating this sort of orange-brown carpet on the road.
Top of Mt. Kongo is like any other mountain top in Japan. It has ramen/udon shop and
a shrine. There is a viewpoint from which the towns south of Osaka are visible (Tondabayashi
There is also another viewpoint. It's a tower located about 5 to 10 min. by foot from the top on
the eastern side of the mountain. From there, the mountain ranges to the North, East,
and South can be seen including the 1900m peaks in Yoshino-Kumano national park. The view
is really spectacular on a clear autumn day. When I visited the tower in December,
the highest peaks were snow capped.
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