Recently, I had the good fortune to enjoy a ‘Workation’ (work & play) atop Mt. Rokko in Kobe. The new space RokkoNomad, which is scheduled to open this spring is elegantly nestled among Japanese Pine trees, perched 800 meters atop Mt. Rokko and overlooks Osaka Bay. It’s the ultimate sunset spot. With a wood burning fireplace it’s cozy in the winter and in summer it’s cool and shady location high upon the mountain in the forest is a pleasant retreat from the scorching city temperatures.
I arrived at Shin Kobe station in the early afternoon and walked along Kitano street admiring the city view as well as all the cake and coffee shops. But ‘just looked’ as I was on my way to my favorite cycle shop in the city; Spark Scone & Bicycle. Upon arriving I had the great fortune of being able to order the last scone in the shop. While munching down on my scone – I discussed with the shop’s owner what the best bicycle would be for my adventure up to the top of Mt. Rokko and then down the other side. We settled on a Surly ‘Pack Rat’.
I happily hopped like a spring bunny on my new wheels and rode it to Kitanomad’s workspace for a bit of computer and coffee time. After doing a little local research, sending off a few messages and thinking up a few new ideas – I was ready to do some shopping to prepare for my time upon Mt. Rokko. Just one floor below Kitanomad’s workspace is the Eat Local Farm Shop run by the same crew that puts on Kobe’s weekly Farmer’s Market. I stocked up on lots of veggies and some ‘hoshi-imo’ (semi-dried sweet potatoes) to keep me ‘genki’ during my stay on Mt. Rokko. After stuffing my harvest into my UL pink backpack I was back on my bike and soon found myself leaning back in my seat, in low gear and pushing hard on the peddles.
Two hours later, 800 meters higher and a good 1,500+ calories burnt; I found myself at the Rokkonomad: Kobe’s newest, freshest, and most brilliant work and stay facility which is scheduled to open this spring. Soon after arrival on this crisp winter day I poured myself a fresh cup of hot coffee took a seat in the main room and fixed my eyes off in the distance. I felt a bit out of an old Nescafe commercial – except that it was real. The location really was amazing – and being in a posh but casual wooden house-cabin in the middle of a National Park – I enjoyed the moment. Once familiar with my surroundings I opened up my iPad pro took a few images of the stunning surroundings – sent off a few e-mails, updated the Papersky IG, and then headed out to the Rokkonomad’s main porch area to view the sunset over the Osaka Bay.
The next morning I spent exploring Rokko hiking trails and after lunch and a bit of writing headed off on a ride to check out the Rokko neighborhood with its many beautiful old houses sitting quietly in the forest. It was interesting to see Japan’s first ever Golf Course built a good 100 years ago, and from there I went on to check out the Rokko Alpine Botanical Garden before heading down the mountain along Ura-Rokko Road to visit a guesthouse called KEHARE in Ogo town.
At the guesthouse, I was greeted by Mr. and Mrs. Miyake of NIU FARM, which runs the farmhouse. After a wonderful all veggie meal prepared by them and made almost entirely of produce grown on the farm I was once again feeling most content. With a small electric lantern I headed to my room in the old farmhouse and made a teleconference call to London to chat with a writer about Papersky’s – Tokyo Tree Trek course. After the call I returned to the kitchen for a nice lemon & spice hot drink and a homemade ‘dorayaki’ (bean pancake). Life and work in Kobe were perfect!
In retrospect, as I sit at my house/office in Tokyo dreaming of the next destination to explore I realized that the idea of a ‘workation’ is brilliant in that it creates a new generation of nomadic life. It gives us the ability to jump from destination to destination as we would roam our very own house going from one room to the next. ‘Workations’, I believe allow us to be free in spirit as well as refresh our soul and energize our brain. And the interesting thing about my Kobe ‘workation’ experience was the idea of roaming and traveling about within a single location. All within a 20km circumference I was literally able to travel far and wide while staying close and near. In one moment I was in Japan’s 7th largest city enjoying the metropolitan life of cycle shops and scones, the next I was in the middle of a national park – being a naturalist and a writer while sipping coffee, and finally (but still in Kobe) I was down on the farm working by the light of a lantern and eating fresh vegetables. What a world! What a trip! What a life! What a ‘Workation’!