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Bike Packing Weekend
Seamlessly flitting between city and country

Rokkō , Hyōgo Prefecture

Kobe is an urban city nestled among nature, with a thriving farming and fishing industry; the distance between rural and urban areas may be closer than in any other city. Mt. Rokkō, a symbol of Kobe, has urban areas on its southern side (“Omote-Rokkō”) and rural areas on its northern side (“Ura-Rokkō”). Recent years have seen active interchange among consumers and producers. This time, we discover the unique community in "Ura-Rokkō", starting from "ROKKONOMAD", a "workcation" facility in the heart of Mt.Rokkō.


Ura-Rokkō is a delightful community! 

Recently, Lucas has really gotten into the Rokkō area in Hyogō Prefecture. It all started at the end of last year, when he experienced a work vacation at “ROKKONOMAD“, a “share office in the forest where you can stay” in the middle of Mt.Rokkō. “ROKKONOMAD” is a unique exchange center in Hyogō that attracts creators and activists from outside the prefecture, and it was there that Lucas caught wind of a new movement.

Capitalizing on its location, with urban areas on the south side of Mt. Rokkō and farming villages on the north side, Kobe has recently seen the emergence of creative exchanges between farming villages and cities, between producers and consumers. This is a bicycle trip to meet the producers spearheading this movement. Our guide is Isao Tomita, who runs ‘Spark,’ a bicycle and scone store in the heart of Kobe with his wife. He’s a mountain biker who loves trail riding.

“ROKKONOMAD” commands a view of Osaka Bay from its wooden deck.
ROKKONOMAD is a great place to interact with others.

“I want you to experience the true depth of Mt. Rokkō firsthand,” says Tomita-san as he leads us to a trail in the Rokkō mountain range. With its easy access from the city, varied terrain, and well-maintained trails, the Rokkō mountain range is a treasure trove for trail riding! After playing on single track for a while, we head off to smoother surfaces.

Isao Tomita, a mountain biker, served as our guide.

The first day’s itinerary takes us to the northern part of Mt. Rokkō, the “Ura-Rokkō” or farming area. Suddenly appearing in a residential area of Kita Ward, “Yuge Farm” is a pioneering private dairy farm that started 37 years ago with the concept of “sustainable dairy farming in the city.” While raising dairy cows and producing dairy products, they are also working on resource recycling by generating biogas from manure and using it as an energy source, as well as cultivating herbs and fruit trees with the liquid fertilizer by-product.

After wolfing down their famous pizza, we head further north. Mr. Masao Yamazaki of SHARE WOODS, whom we encounter on the way, is a lumber coordinator who makes use of the wood harvested from Mt. Rokkō, for products and building materials. In an area where there was no forestry apparatus (logging, processing, and distribution system) they have created such a system and are selling the products with the added value of “local timber”. Beyond the cycle of circulation that contributes to the mountain and the local economy, Mr. Yamazaki envisions a healthy Mt. Rokkō 30 to 50 years down the line. Tomita, who is planning to build mountain bike trails in the surrounding mountains, shares Yamazaki’s viewpoint. Will collaboration between the two come in the form of the effective use of wood cut down during maintenance!? The potential of such a future is exciting.

Special pizza topped with cheese made at Yuge Farm.
Mr. Masao Yamazaki of “SHARE WOODS” is paving the way for the future of local lumber.

We cycle leisurely through the bucolic countryside amid swaying green ears of rice. In the evening, we arrive at our lodgings for the day, Kehare, a hands-on homestay in Ougo-chō, Kita Ward. Kohei and Yukie Miyake, the owners of the farm and organizers of workshops, are ambitious, environmentally symbiotic farmers who do everything from planting seeds to making fertilizer by themselves. Here, Yukie-san serves us delicious home-cooked meals using their carefully reared seasonal produce. The vegetarian dishes, which Lucas praises as “the best vegetable dishes in Japan,” is one of the highlights of the trip.

Mr. and Mrs. Miyake run the hands-on homestay “Kehare” in an old house in Ougo-chō along

Cycling between thatched roofs and terraced rice paddies

The next morning, we visit the vegetable plots of Seiko Morimoto, a friend and fellow farmer the Miyakes. Morimoto teaches at the ”Micro Farmers School”, which opened last fall and is a place where prospective new farmers can learn practical skills while continuing their Half Farmer, Half X lifestyle. Perhaps attributable to role models like the Miyakes and Morimoto-san, but it seems that there are many producers in Ura-rokkō who combine creative work with small-scale, diversified farming. 

Seiko Morimoto, a farmer who is very popular with chefs.

On the second day, we further explore Ogo-chō, with its beautiful terraced rice fields. On the way, we stop at the very popular bagel store “Hanatone” in an old thatched house to satisfy our hunger.  While Ogo-chō is famous for its rice – especially the sake rice “Yamada Nishiki,” – it used to be a post town built on the orders of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The erstwhile Honjin (inn designated for use by a daimyo)  now functions as a hub where locals get together.  Kosuke Tsurumaki, director of the “Association for the Preservation of the Ruins of the Main Camp at Ogo-shuku,” was involved in its renovation. Interested in regional revitalization, Tsurumaki moved here after working in Tokyo, Nishinomiya, and Sendai, and has been active in various aspects of community development in Ogo-chō, from running the Micro Farmer’s School to replacing the thatch on the old folk houses that remain in the area.

Cruising through the rural area of Ogo-chō, with its beautiful terraced rice paddies and old houses
Bagel specialty store “Hanatone” in a traditional old house. The baked wheat gluten bagel is to die for!
Mr. Kosuke Tsurumaki, who is involved in the maintenance and utilization of the “The Main Camp at Ogo-shuku”.

 In the afternoon, we depart Ougo-chō and head for “Omote Rokkō”. The ascent of Mt. Rokko is strenuous, but an hour and a half of climbing earns us a comfortable downhill glide. Our destination in this urban area is “FARMSTAND” which stocks food products from Kobe. They also run a farmer’s market, “EAT LOCAL KOBE,” where you can find the ingredients of the Miyakes and Morimoto-san. The owner describes it as an experimental space that allows chefs and consumers to become familiar with local ingredients by purchasing vegetables from farmers procured on a stable basis.

We arrive at our final destination “SPARK Scone & Bicycle“, run by Mr. Tomita.  We celebrate our goal with some excellent scones baked by his wife Yasuko-san. As Tomita says, “By visiting the community behind my hometown by bicycle instead of car, I was able to discover the depth and intrigue of Ura-Rokkō firsthand.” This tour through “food” and “urban development” starting at “ROKKONOMAD” allows both locals and travelers to rediscover the charms of Kobe, where both nature and urban culture can be enjoyed in equal measure. 

At “SPARK Scone & Bicycle” run by Mr. Tomita, we enjoyed delicious scones baked by his wife.
Arrival at the ocean side, our destination. We’ve pedaled from the city to the countryside, from the mountains to the sea.

Bike Packing Guide
Yuge Farm
5-2 Nishimarutama Yamadachoshimotanigami Kita-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo
Address not disclosed
143-2 Ogocho Koda Kita-ku,
Kobe-shi, Hyogo
Association for the Preservation of the Ruins of the Main Camp at Ogo-shuku
792-1 Ogocho Ogo Kita-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo
1-7-15 Yamamotodori Chuo-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo
SPARK Scone & Bicycle
 4-18-21 Nakayamatedori Chuo-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo
A helmet and cycling wear brand based out of Santa Cruz, California. Giro founded the world renowned Grinduro race and is an active supporter of cycling.
A members-only shared office in Mt. Rokkō, opened in March this year. The log house is only a 30-minute drive from the center of Kobe, and with its extraordinary location in a forest within a national park and its panoramic views, it is the perfect base for a work-cation (work and vacation experience).
A detailed description of the cycle route we followed in Bike Packing Weekend is available on the route app Strava under PAPERSKY Cycling Club. Download the app and enjoy your ride.
text | Ryoko Kuraishi photography & videography | Ryuta Iwasaki Special Thanks | Giro, Specialized, ROKKONOMAD