In recent years, art festivals have sprung up all over Japan, and art festivals have become a new tourist craze. However, it is believed that foreign visitors may be deterred by the inconvenience of needing to drive to the venues, or by the difficulty of understanding the artworks. The “ROKKO MEETS ART WALK” is held every fall in Mt. Rokko, KOBE. It’s not only to be accessible with ease from the city, but the artwork that incorporates the natural scenery can be also appreciated by anyone. Why don’t you take a look at this article and go on a healing ROKKO MEETS ART WALK trip?
Introduction of "ROKKO MEETS ART WALK “
When you think of Kobe, many people think of it as a port. It is indeed one of Japan’s major international trading ports and an important tourist port. However, Mount Rokko, which is not far from the city, has long been a popular tourist destination for Kansai residents, as it offers a great view of the night scenery and is close to the famous hot spring “Arima Onsen”.
This year, the 13th event of “ROKKO MEETS ART WALK 2022” is already synonymous with Mt. Rokko in autumn. Each year, the exhibition uses the facilities on Mt. Rokko as a stage, and the exhibition works are a blend of local landscape and history, and each time you visit (the event), you will find a new charm of Rokko. Unlike other art festivals, the curator invites artists to produce works, and there is also an open call for entries for anyone who is interested. If you love Rokko and want to make a creative work when you visit, you may have a chance to exhibit it in the future!
How do I get there? How do I move between venues?
Heading to Mt. Rokko
Mt. Rokko is located in a convenient location and is easily accessible from “Sannomiya”, the downtown area of Kobe, and Umeda, Osaka. From the following three stations, you can transfer to Kobe City bus system “16” or “106” to “Rokko Cable Car Lower Station”, and then easily climb the mountain in just 10 minutes.
●Hankyu Railway Rokko Station
●JR Rokkomichi Station
●Hanshin Electric Railway Mikage Station
Since Mt. Rokko is near to “Arima Onsen”, one of Japan’s most famous three hot springs, it is highly recommended that you consider or put in your itinerary the hot springs trip before or after your visit to the venues, you might take the “Rokko Arima Cable Car” to visit.
Move between venues
Taking the Rokko Cable Car and arrive at “Rokko Cable Sanjo Station”, you can transfer to the bus that connects the venue halls. There are three of them:
●Rokko Sanjo Bus (Main Line)
●Rokko Sanjo Bus (kazenokyoukai Loop ※Only during the Art Festival)
For detailed route map, please refer to the official website:
6 Sections Highlights
“ROKKO MEETS ART WALK 2022” consists in 10 venues, which can be divided into 6 sections (the green dotted line above). At the bottom of the venue map, “01 Rokko Cable Car” is the arrival point after taking the Rokko Cable Car up the mountain. In this section, we will take this as the starting point and navigate in a clockwise direction through the highlights and those impressive works of each section that amazed me.
1.The view from the Sky Terrace at Mt. ROKKO(01 Rokko Cable Car)
As soon as you get off from the “Rokko Cable Sanjo Station”, you will meet the No. 1 artwork of this year. The artist has created a number of human-shaped signs with holes in their faces, which are often seen at tourist spots, and the humorous and cute style of the paintings, together with his own character “Rokko Boy”, attracted many people to take photos.
The station is equipped with a service center and lockers for luggage. On the third floor, there is a café named “TENRAN CAFE” and it has a viewing platform with an uninterrupted view of Kobe City. Next, take a bus outside the station to the venue.
2.Experience a playful design at Rokko Garden (02 Hyogo Prefectural Rokko Mountain Visitor Center / 03 ROKKOSAN SILENCE RESORT)
The port of Kobe became a foreign settlement in Meiji era (1868-1912), and the neighboring Mount Rokko was developed as a resting place. The statue of Arthur Hesketh Groom, known as the “founder of Mt. Rokko,” stands in the Hyogo Prefectural Mt. Rokko Visitor Center, and the seemingly amusement equipment sculpture, which is also located in the green grass, is one of the works in this project.
“ROKKOSAN SILENCE RESORT”, which is just a five-minute walk from the Hyogo Prefectural Rokko Mountain Visitor Center (Memorial Terrace), has an impressive exterior and interior. The gallery on the second floor contains the works of manga artist Yuichi Yokoyama.
3.Walking in a Forest with Pleasant Notes (04 Rokko Forest Sound Museum)
This is a famous music box museum, which not only exhibits music boxes made in Europe and America from the 19th to the early 20th century, but also allows you to make music boxes by hand and listen to music box instruments that play automatically.
The garden inside the facility is very beautiful and the walking route is well prepared. There are music boxes that look like birdhouses everywhere, and when you pull down the music box, Ghibli’s animation music will surround the trees, which is very therapeutic.
There are many exhibits works in the garden, the main visual work “闘う女の子と中国の文官” is also included. The woman’s body is a clay figurine and her head is reversed into other eras, as if the surrounding area exudes an uncanny atmosphere.
After walking around, we recommend you to have lunch at the terrace of “森のCafe”, or take a rest at the tree house, the hammock by the pool, or the table and chairs in the garden, which will make you want to spend the whole day in the music box and the music of nature together!
4.Plants and Works that Bring Surprise (05 Rokko Alpine Botanical Garden)
The peak of Mt. Rokko is 931 meters above sea level, and the botanical garden is located at 865 meters. With its cool climate, the botanical garden is home to about 1,500 species of alpine plants from all over the world, native plants of Rokko, and wild grasses. In every season, no matter if you look up or bend down, you can see a wide variety of small and lovely flowers and plants.
It is not only the alpine plants that are surprising here, but every year, during the exhibition, this place also becomes one of the major venues. For example, outside “Shop Alpicola”, a store located at the west exit, you can see the artist’s works in which he has cut himself into sections by placing a human stand horizontally. The artist has gained his reputation for experimental works that explore the artistry of the body, by observing himself day by day, he transforms the inspiration he gains from this act into his works.
This three-dimensional work is also amazingly constructed with plastic tubes. Inside the tube, there is “water”, the origin of life, and a single-cell organism, the “green-eyed worm”. The green-looking green-eyed worms keep reproducing, so that the whole work will have a different, all-green appearance by the end of the session.
The work near the east exit, “狭間の森” is a group of small, uncanny, three-legged monsters, each with a different shape and posture, extremely lovely and is said to be one of the most popular works in the exhibition, and looking at them is like entering a fantasy forest.
5.Enjoy Rokko nature with your whole body (06 Rokko Garden Terrance / 07 Rokko-Shidare Natural Somatosensory Observatory/ 08 Rokko-Arima Ropeway Sancho Station)
In addition to the aforementioned Sky Terrace, the Rokko Garden Terrace is also a great place to see the view of Kobe. This year, on the terrace, there is a statue of a cow on the top half and a milk carton with white liquid gushing out on the bottom half. It seems to have a connection with the neighboring “Rokko Mountain Ranch” and the rich food culture of Kobe.
The cypress building, which looks like a giant tree, is the landmark of the district, “Natural Somatosensory Observatory Rokko-Shidare” and as its name suggests, depending on the season, you can feel natural changes such as sunlight, wind, clouds and even ice inside the building.
On the steps in front of the entrance, there are several pigs made of “scraps”, which the artist has collected from the local tourism industry. The large pigs are made of sleds and ski poles from the Rokko Mountain Ski Resort, while the small ones are made of cooking utensils and tableware from the restaurants of the amusement facilities. From this work, we can interpret the changes in the development of the tourism industry of Mt. Rokko from the period of high economic growth to the present.
Then go around to the”Rokko-Arima Ropeway Sancho Station. On the other side of the station, on a platform that has been abandoned, there is a huge net made of thread that the artist has spent 14 years to expand. This is the work that was selected for this year’s General Award.
6.Must-visit architecture master church is right here (09 Grand Hotel Rokko Sky Villa / 10 Church of the Wind (Kazenokyokai), Rokkosan Arts Theater and Art Center)
The last section introduces a group of works located in the “Church of the Wind(Kazenokyokai)” area. In the photo above, this sandy area used to be the Rokko Oriental Hotel（六甲オリエンタルホテル）, which was closed in 2007 and demolished in 2017.
The ” Kazenokyokai ” by the architect Tadao Ando is still intact and is open for viewing during the annual exhibition. If you like architecture, don’t miss the”Kazenokyokai”, which is also known as “Tadao Ando’s Church Trilogy” along with Osaka Church of the Light and Hokkaido Chapel on the Water.
This year, instead of the original fair-faced concrete color, the church was transformed into a red space with the ingenuity of Shinji Ohmaki, a modern Japanese art writer. The church is transformed into a red space, and the bell tower, which has been silent for 20 years, rings again, as if rekindling the fire of life.
In the same area, there is an art center transformed from a former hotel, which features the works of seven artists, including mysterious, humorous, eccentric and warm, with different themes and styles. Among them, I particularly like this room, where the artist has posted silhouettes of people taking pictures of the scenery on the wall, making it worthwhile for the viewer to be surrounded by the viewer upon entering the room.
5 tips for having a great time.
1.The "Seal" designed by the students of Mt. Rokko
When I visited art festivals in previous years, almost all of them had a stamp table near the artworks, so that connoisseurs could collect stamps to commemorate the event. The stamps for “MEETS ART WALK 2022” are very special, as all the stamps have different patterns and were designed by the school children at the Mt. Rokko.
2.Enjoy the theme food "Miso"
A special feature of this year’s event is the launching of a new famous item “Mt. Rokko Miso Cuisine”. 7 restaurants and cafes on Mt. Rokko participating in this event use Rokko miso to make miso meals that are only available during the event. The purpose of the event is to let visitors enjoy nature and art while also tasting local quality ingredients.
In addition, there are a number of restaurants on Mt. Rokko where you can enjoy a meal while taking in the view below.
At Granite Cafe at Rokko Garden Terrace, you can enjoy authentic course meals and set menus.
The restaurant boasts stylish creative dishes specially prepared by the chef and handmade sweets.
At night, you can dine with a wonderful night view.
3.Nighttime event "Hikari no Mori ～Night Art Walk～ -" limited event during the exhibition period
On weekends and national holidays during the exhibition period, the “Rokko Alpine Botanical Garden” and “Rokko Forest Sound Museum” will be open until 8:00 pm. At night, the two venues will be illuminated and you can visit them to see the nighttime works.
The artist, Korta Korahashi, who has been a regular guest at major art festivals, also used lighting and video to bring a different atmosphere to the event.
4.Late autumn "maple red" accompanied to make the work more interesting
I was actually visiting in early October, when the scenery was still pale green like the other photos in this article. In the past, the best time to see the red leaves on Mt. Rokko was from early to late November. I believe that with the red leaves, the artwork will look different again!
5.Prepare for the changing "mountain weather"
In the evening of the day of my visit, it was foggy and raining, and the temperature dropped dramatically. Although it was a pity not to be able to see the night view, the foggy scene of Mt. Rokko also had a special atmosphere. If you want to go there, don’t forget to bring rain gear and warm clothes.
Nature and Art Nearby
After visiting “ROKKO MEETS ART WALK 2022”, I believe you will find that the magnificent city of Kobe has abundant natural scenery nearby, and the artworks are not difficult to understand. For example, my partner, who was walking with me, saw the installation design in front of a large building on the way and asked if it was also this work. We didn’t have it in the brochure, but I thought if I felt amazement and beauty in it, and thought it was art, then it was!
Mt. Rokko is such an amazing place that you are welcome to visit in autumn and meet artworks in nature.
“ROKKO MEETS ART WALK 2022
Exhibition period: August 27, 2022 (Sat) – November 23, 2022 (Wed・National Holiday)
There will be no holidays during the festival. Only ROKKOSAN SILENCE RESORT is closed every Monday in October.
Visiting hours: 10:00 – 17:00 *Depending on the venue, some works will be available for viewing after 17:00.
Viewing Passport: 2,500 yen for adults, 1,000 yen for children.
Viewing Passport with night pass: 3,300 yen for adults, 1,400 yen for children (200 yen discount for tickets purchased at designated sales offices of the cooperative railroad or city streets, please refer to the official website for details)