Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway, Part 2: Herb Gardens and Urban Recreation

Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway.

Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway.

Last month, I rode the Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway in Kobe, Japan. In part 2 of the photo essay, we will explore some of the ropeway’s main attractions and discuss some potential lessons for urban planners. Click here for part 1


From the site tour, it became quite clear that the herbs garden and ropeway has a symbiotic relationship — neither one can exist optimally without one or the other.

To gain a better understanding of the site, the herb garden provides visitors with an array of promotional materials which highlights its main amenities and offerings.

Promotional items and pamphlets providing visitors with information about the site's many features and products.

Spring Edition of the Herb Gardens and Ropeway guide places a heavy emphasis on fresh, seasonal offerings as well as events that celebrate the coming of spring. Thanks to the highly visual in nature of these brochures, it even helps non-Japanese readers understand the site offerings.

The ropeway is a year round attraction, offering visitors with opportunities to see different types of flora during different seasons.

Panning through the brochures, it becomes clear that the herb gardens and ropeway is designed to be a year round attraction. During spring, cherry blossoms are the site’s top attraction while different flowers and herbs are available for viewing during other seasons. Seasonal festivals and events are also held year round to encourage repeat visitation and diversify site offerings.

The site map clearly marks all the main attractions in the Herb Gardens. Note that there is a simple, but highly informative "flowering schedule" beneath the map. This helps inform visitors the approximate dates on which flowers they may wish to view.

3-D map clearly marks all the main attractions in the Herb Gardens. Note that there is a simple, but highly informative “flowering schedule” beneath the map. This tells visitors the dates in which different flowers are available for viewing.



Once visitors disembark from the gondola, they are essentially dropped off in a serene hilltop Japanese-style garden built in an European-themed village. For international visitors, it may seem a little strange to see Bavarian-style buildings in the middle of Japan.

However, it’s important to remember that Kobe was one of the first entry points for Westerners in the 1800s. As a result, the City has a fine collection of ijinkan, or foreigners’ homes where they’ve become popular attractions for domestic tourists. Apparently, a popular saying amongst locals is, “If you can’t go to Paris, go to Kobe.” 

From general observations, the herb gardens were meticulously maintained (full site renovations in 2011 also helped refurbish existing buildings). While I didn’t visit when the flowers and cherry blossoms were in full bloom, the site was still beautifully curated with many opportunities for sightseeing and enjoyment. With 12 gardens, 75,000 herbs and 200 kinds of flowers, there were pleasant surprises around almost every corner.

Herb Gardens, top station.

Beautifully designed herb gardens inspired by Kobe’s ties to Europe and its fashionable/cosmopolitan vibe.

City skyline, Port Island, and Osaka Bay can be seen from the viewing deck.

City skyline, Port Island, and Osaka Bay can be seen from the observation viewing deck. I’ve been told that Kobe is equally impressive at night from this location. In fact, locals have coined it the “Ten Million Dollar Night View”.

Rest house, restaurants and gift shops keep guests entertained.

Rest house, flowers, restaurants and gift shops keep guests entertained. As night falls, the buildings are illuminated in the ropeway’s “Forest of Illuminations” event, providing a picturesque backdrop against the city lights.

Central flower bed provides beautiful backdrop for photos.

Attractive flower beds provides visitors with many photo opportunities. To the far right, a new German themed eatery was being built to expand the site’s food offerings.

Plentiful seating available.

Plentiful shaded outdoor seating available. Perfect place to hang out during warm, sunny days.

A wide range of flowers and plants are available for purchase.

A wide range of flowers and plants are available for purchase.

Guests sample the many different herb and flower scents.

Guests immerse themselves in an endless assortment of herb and flower scents.

Concert hall provides venue space for musicians, performances, and lectures.

Concert hall is a popular venue space for musicians, performances, and lectures — especially for piano recitals.  

A delicious salad buffet, pasta, and fish with was served during my visit. The restaurant is designed with large windows, allowing visitors to enjoy the natural surroundings and take in views of nature in the comfort of a climate controlled setting.

Next to the concert hall, a full service restaurant with a salad buffet is offered. Note the restaurant is designed with large windows, allowing visitors to enjoy and take in views of nature in the comfort of a climate controlled setting. This is a great place to relax and rest before trekking to the gardens below.

After a quick lunch, we made our way down to the many gardens at the site.

After a quick lunch, we made our way down to the main gardens.

Assortment of plants and flowers showcased at the Herb Gardens.

Assortment of plants and flowers showcased.

Ropeway system glides silently overhead as visitors enjoy the site and scents of the gardens.

Ropeway system gently glides overhead as visitors leisurely stroll between gardens.

Making our way to the glasshouse.

Making our way to the glasshouse/greenhouse.


Inside the greenhouse, many hanging baskets of plants and flowers were all presented in an attractive fashion. Fruits and flower varieties of fuchsia, hibiscus, bananas, guavas and papayas are available for viewing year round.

Outside the glasshouse, visitors can soak their tired feet in the Herb Garden's herbal footbath.

Outside the glasshouse, visitors can soak their feet in a free herbal footbath. A nice little perk, not to mention a perfect way for hikers to relax before they continue their journey down the hill.

Ropeway continues to quietly glides above garden space — almost becoming invisible to guests as they enjoy the site's scents and flower arrangements.

Ropeway continues to glide peacefully above garden and park space.


The leisurely and rhythmic pace of the gondola cabins helps animate the garden space.

During my time, only one cherry blossom tree was blooming. I can only imagine how much more beautiful the ropeway ride and gardens would have been if everything was blooming.

Even though spring did not fully arrive during my visit, I was lucky enough to see one blossoming sakura tree. Once spring kicks into high gear, visitors can participate in a Japanese custom called hanami. This is where friends and family gather under sakura trees to hang out and appreciate the surrounding beauty of nature.

Ropeway travels nearby the Kaze no Oka Flower Garden. Benches are strategically placed for weary visitors coming down the hill and gardens.

The ropeway travels nearby Kaze no Oka Flower Garden. Benches are located on top of the small hill to allow visitors to rest as they trek down from the hill and gardens.

Kaze no Oka station from outside.

After a leisurely stroll, we arrive at the mid-station (Kaze no Oka station). For most visitors, once they reach this location, they board the gondola and travel back to the bottom station. For more adventurous visitors, the bottom can also be accessed via a short hike through the park.

Similar to the other stations, the mid-station is bright and airy. Green plants are placed nearby to as accents.

Similar to the other stations, the mid-station is bright and airy. Plants are placed throughout the station as accent pieces to improve the aesthetics.


From an urban planning perspective, the Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway and Herb Gardens can be viewed as an integrated city attraction which improves citizen access to leisure, relaxation and greenspace. While we at the Gondola Project generally focused on urban transit ropeways in the past, it is important not to forget the importance and impact of urban recreational ropeways.

As cities continue to grow worldwide, the demand for greater access to greenspace is inevitable. Providing opportunities to both work and play is critical to the overall health of its citizens. As such, leisure-oriented gondolas built in urban areas can play a vital role in fulfilling the recreational needs of both locals and tourists.

Since the Rokko Mountain’s first cable car was first opened nearly 100 years ago, civic leaders in Kobe clearly understood the importance of providing accessible and affordable recreation for its inhabitants. The Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway and Herb Gardens simply builds upon the City’s proud history of building recreational ropeways.

As an urban planner (and tourist), I loved how the attraction was packaged so it appeals to a diverse range of users. For instance, extensive hiking trails and the option of a one-way fare allows fitness-minded visitors to ride the gondola to the top and hike their way down. Or if visitors are feeling particularly adventurous that day, they are able to hike up and down the trails.

Meanwhile, for leisurely-minded folks and mobility-impaired individuals, the ropeway provides a convenient, scenic and affordable means of accessing greenspace in a environmentally-sensitive and non-intrusive way.

Ultimately with these site tours, our hope is that we can raise awareness and educate netizens about the many under-appreciated urban ropeways around the world. From this, hopefully we can share and learn how cities have been able to carefully balance the need for recreation and conservation.

In part 3, we’ll summarize our visit and discuss how some important best practices found in the Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway could be applied to other urban recreational gondolas.



Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway, Part 1: Background and Gondola


Last March, I had the opportunity to visit the Japanese port city of Kobe, Japan and tour its most modern cable car, the Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway.

Last March, I had the opportunity to make a side trip to the Japanese port city of Kobe. During my time there, I was lucky enough to spend half a day touring the city’s most popular recreational cable car, the Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway. In this first blog post, I will provide a background of the system.


The Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway and Herb Gardens is one of Kobe, Japan’s preeminent attractions — ranking as TripAdvisor’s top “Thing to Do” in the city. Thanks to its accessible location, charming setting, and integrated visitor experience, the urban cable car continues to attract thousands of visitors each day despite being more than 25 years old.

For those unfamiliar with the City, Kobe is positioned between the Rokko mountain chains and Osaka Bay and is considered a modern Japanese metropolis known for its cosmopolitan vibe. While the City proper only has a population of 1.5 million residents, Kobe is part of the much larger metropolitan region known as Keihanshin which encompass the cities of Kobe, Kyoto and Osaka. This area represents 15% of the country’s population (19 million) and is Japan’s second most populated region after the Greater Tokyo Area.

Keihanshin Metropolitan Region. Image from Japan Talk.

Keihanshin Metropolitan Region. Image from Japan Talk.

Given its strategic location by the water, Kobe was one of the first Japanese port cities to open up to foreign trade in 1800s and remains a strong hub for trade and commerce today. For tourists, the city is well-known for a number of attractions including its legendary Kobe beef, Arima Onsen hot springs, “exotic” western styled buildings, and fashion.

Throughout this photo essay, many of these themes may reappear as we tour the Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway.

Read more



System Dossier: Expo Alt Urban Gondola (Telecabina Aramón Zaragoza 2008)

Expo Alt Urban Gondola. Image by Flickr user jmig1.

Zaragoza is a historical city in Spain that dates back to Roman times. Located at the center of the Ebro Valley, Zaragoza’s historical influence from a variety of cultures helped differentiate itself from its more well-known neighbours, Madrid and Barcelona.

Zaragoza is a highly prosperous city, which is demonstrated by its wide boulevards, and high-end shopping and dining. In 2008, it hosted the World Fair which attracted 5.6 million visitors.

The main site of the Expo, which housed many of the pavilions, was a 62-acre set of land situated along the Ebro River. Projects such as the 80-meter Water Tower and the fresh water aquarium (Europe’s largest) were constructed in consistency with the Expo’s theme of water preservation and conservation.


Expo Alt. Image by Flickr user Loadmaster.

Expo Alt. Image by Flickr user Loadmaster.

Adding even more excitement to the Zaragoza Expo was the installation of Expo Alt, a 1.2 km cable car ride that transported passengers to the Expo site. The MDG system built by Leitner Ropeways transported passengers across the Ebro River to the Expo site from one of Zaragoza’s main train stations, Zaragoza-Delicias. The cable car was operated by Aramón Group, a renowned Spanish firm who owns and operates five ski resorts within the Aragonian region.

During the trip, riders would be elevated to a height of 50 meters allowing for some fantastic views of both the beautifully designed Water Tower and Bridge Pavillion. Even at the stations, riders were treated to some splendid architecture. Both stations, designed by the Spanish Architect Ignacio Vicens, capture the intricate structure of an ice crystal.

Expo Alt urban cable car crossing the Ebro River. The Bridge Pavilion can be seen beneath the gondola. Image by Flickr user by jmig1.

At the conclusion of the Expo’s three-month span, the gondola attracted one million passengers — demonstrating the system’s importance in bringing visitors to the Expo site. As ridership slowed down after the Expo, system operations were eventually discontinued.

Year Opened (closed) 2008 (2011)
Distance (km) 1.2
Stations 2
Speed (m/s) 6.0
Capacity (pphpd) 2600
Fare round-trip (euros) 5


Photo (Plus Video) of the Week: Línea Azul Soars Above El Alto

Linea Azul (Mi Teleferico Site)

Image from Mi Teleferico.



La Paz-El Alto: Two More Cable Transit Lines Set to Open in 2017


The 2.6km Orange Line and 2.8km White Line will be Mi Teleferico’s 5th and 6th urban cable cars. Image by Mi Teleferico.

For Gondola Project readers and La Paz-El Alto residents, the recent inauguration of the Blue Line (Spanish: Línea Azul) is probably still very fresh in mind.

While the excitement has barely subsided, it might be easy to forget that the Blue Line is just the first of three Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) systems that are scheduled to open this year in the world’s highest metropolis.

Based on online reports, the Orange Line (Spanish: Línea Naranja) and White Line (Spanish: Línea Blanca) are both planned for inauguration by October and December respectively.

The Orange Line will travel in an east-west alignment and will connect to Red Line’s eastern terminus (Central) and the White Line’s northern terminus (Villaroel). From Villaroel, the White Line will travel in a north-south configuration with future integrations to the Brown Line (Spanish: Línea Café) and the Sky Blue Line (Spanish: Línea Celeste).

The opening of the Orange and White Line will create an integrated transport experience from El Alto to Miraflores/San Jorge in La Paz. Image by Mi Teleferico.

The opening of the Orange and White Line will create an integrated transport experience from El Alto to Miraflores/San Jorge in La Paz. Image by Mi Teleférico.

At the start of the month, the Orange Line’s electromechanical components being manufactured in Doppelmayr’s Austrian headquarters were reportedly fully built with 85% of the parts already shipped to La Paz. For the civil works, 40% is already completed while 2 of the 4 stations are 80% finished. For the White Line, the system is now more than 60% complete as of last month with 100% of the electromechanical equipment already mounted.

Central Station (dated Feb 2017). By SSC user Massaff.

The Orange Line’s Central Station (dated Feb 2017) will be integrated with the the Red Line (seen on the right). Image by SSC user Massaff.

The 2.8km White Line will travel along Busch Av with 133 cabins, providing a trip time of 13 minutes. Image from Mi Teleferico.

The 2.8km White Line will travel along Busch Av with 133 cabins, providing a trip time of 13 minutes. At the Villaroel terminal, it will also feautre the world’s first below grade urban gondola station. Image by Mi Teleférico.

At 2.6km and 2.8km respectively, the Orange Line and White Line can be considered “mid-sized” systems. Compared to the other existing urban gondolas in La Paz, the average length is ~3.7km. In terms of stations, both the upcoming systems should have fairly large catchment areas as they are built with 4 stations each — thereby putting it on par with the Green Line and Yellow Line which also have 4 stations per line.

While both these new CPT systems are impressive, one of the most exciting aspects of these 2017 projects relate to the network effects of connecting four urban cable lines together (Blue Line, Red Line, Orange Line and White Line).

Riders will be able to travel on a near seamless journey onboard 12.8km urban gondolas from the bustling markets in El Alto to the boroughs of Miraflores/San Jorge in La Paz in approximately 60 minutes.

All in all, before the end of 2017, more than 10km of new CPT lines will soar above La Paz-El Alto, making it one of, if not the busiest year of urban cable car construction in the City. The incredible pace of construction and the large volumes of passengers transported on Mi Teleférico demonstrates once again that ropeway technology is more than capable of functioning reliability and efficiently in an urban mass transit environment.

And when 2017 is in the books, the dizzying implementation speed of La Paz-El Alto’s transport plans will continue for at least 2 more years. By 2019, the full build out of the world’s largest urban gondola network is expected to reach more than 33km in length!





Tbilisi/Georgian Ropeways, Part 1.2 – Tbilisi State University Ropeway


Tbilisi State University Campus - Bagebi Ropeway (Image by Marco Fieber).

Tbilisi State University Campus – Bagebi Ropeway (Image by Marco Fieber).

As part of our research into the state of urban cable cars in Tbilisi, we’re starting to learn more and more about the 10+ ropeways in the Georgian capital. One fascinating development we’ve received information about is the reconstruction of the Tbilisi State University (TSU) – Bagebi Ropeway.

This 334m Soviet-era system was built in 1983 to connect TSU with its dormitories in the Bagebi neighbourhood across the Vere River gorge. Unfortunately the system’s life was rather short-lived as operations ceased sometime in the 90s during intense civil unrest.

As we know it today, the TSU station (537m a.s.l.) is located north of the River Vere while the Dormitory station (553m a.s.l.) is located south of the river (see map here).

Opening day of ropeway. Image from Alamy.

Opening day of ropeway. Image from Alamy.

Reconstruction seems to be spurred in part by a desire to improve transportation connectivity across the gorge and to the future State University Metro station. Furthermore the need for cross river transportation has been heightened as a nearby footbridge 400m east of the ropeway is planned for reconstruction as well. With a temporary closure, this will severely impact transport options for the Georgian refugees housed in the university dormitories.

Aside from operational systems and the cable being brought in from Austria, sources indicate that most of the ropeway is being completed by a local company. Since the system is being privately rebuilt, the ropeway will not be municipally owned. There is no word yet on fares and ticketing structure.

If everything goes according to plan, the new urban ropeway will reopen in July 2017 and move Tbilisi one step closer towards a more modernized transport network. Until then, reader Irakli Z. has kindly shared with us some of the photos he took of the current reconstruction process. Enjoy!


Due to language barriers, if there is anything we missed or is incorrect, please let us know in the comments below. Thanks



Soaring Across the Yangtze River

Bridges and subways now cross the Yangtze River but nothing quite matches the joy and excitement of soaring across the delta on an urban ropeway.

Youtuber Luke Starkenburg takes us on a journey to learn more about the majestic Chongqing Yangtze River Cableway (Chinese: 长江索道) in what is probably one of the best videos on China’s second Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) line.

To this day, the cableway still attracts 2.5 million riders each year!

Big thanks to Timothy J for sharing the video with us. 

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