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Nunobiki Herb Gardens

On my birthday, I didn’t get the traditional armload of red roses from my lover, nor the typical garden variety nosegay from friends, not even a single stem carnation or daisy plucked from a street vendor’s cart. No. What I got was to tiptoe through 75,000 herbs and flowers of 200 varieties at the Nunobiki Herb Gardens in Kobe!

Cheery cherry blossoms of spring blended into the bold summer spheres of hydrangea, while the Aki no Nanakusa (the 7 flowers of autumn) stood waiting to be covered with the white blanket of winter.

This special day started with a smooth and easy ride aboard the Nunobiki Ropeway, a ski-style gondola that took us to the top of Mount Rokko where 14 themed gardens, 5 exotic glasshouses, 3 quaint cafes, several scenic viewing plazas, a sweet boutique shop, a petite fragrance museum and aromatherapy workshop, a concert hall, and even a petal filled foot bath cascaded down the mountainside. The ride up took only about 10 minutes, but with each inch up the suspended cable, a new view of the port city and harbor islands of Kobe was left in our wake of air and light rain.

nunobiki-waterfall

Nunobiki Falls

Ahead of us, a clear shot of one of the Nunobiki no Taki Waterfalls emerged. For more than a couple of minutes, we watched it pour over the midway point of Mount Rokko’s hiking trail, but only a quick glimpse or two of the Nunobiki Herb Gardens’ beauty was revealed as we ascended in anticipation to the top station.

Once we reached the peak and stepped out of the Ropeway’s glass car, the air seemed drier, the sky was lighter and the ground ever brighter with a carpet of colorful blossoms. We were welcomed by a hint of sunshine breaking through the clouds, a faint fragrance of tea and roses wafting from the boutique, and a scant number of Sunday morning visitors. The conditions proved to be perfect for a quiet and peaceful stroll down this aromatic and picturesque slope of nature.

nunobiki-hydrangea

Hydrangea

With a quick stop and photo op at the observation patio, we had easy access to a paved pathway that took us straight to the herb area and Kitchen Potager. This well-seasoned spot had a plethora of pickings for a plump sachet of blooming scents or the makings for a vat of spicy sauce. With everything from bergamot to white sage, from chamomile to Thai basil, we definitely inhaled the fresh herbal air, and then floated through the lavender field to light in the Four Seasons Garden.

Here, the cheery cherry blossoms of spring blended into the bold summer spheres of hydrangea, while the Aki no Nanakusa (the 7 flowers of autumn) stood waiting to be covered with the white blanket of winter. Having gone full circle through this annual area, we happened upon the 5 Glasshouses…not a stone’s throw away!

nunobiki-nepenthes

Nepenthes

Inside one of these crystal clear castles ivy clung to the walls and bougainvillea dripped from the rafters. Anthuriums and palms sprawled along the walkway, while staghorn ferns poked through the trees and the exotic nepenthes kept their lids lifted to catch the drops of humidity that hung in the air. Perched on a pinewood deck was another glasshouse — the Mint Cafe — an alfresco dining spot that dished out delicacies like herb burgers, vanilla chamomile bread, lavender ice cream, and of course, mint tea. We didn’t take time for tea, but did lap up a lavender ice cream cone as we headed for the Oriental Garden and Waterfall Patio.
Nunobiki lavender

Lavender Ice Cream – LOVELY!

As is the style of Japanese gardens, this petite and pristine park was created as a miniature ideal landscape. Its brick-lined terraces and abstract stone designs married with mossy walls and shapely bonsai gave this garden a natural yin and yang — a place decked out enough for aesthetic recreation, while zen enough for peaceful contemplation and meditation. The Waterfall Patio added a lyrical element to the serene surroundings, offering a treat for all our senses. This relaxation station was a rich respite before we descended our last stretch to the Kaze no Oka Flower Garden, and Middle Ropeway Station.

Indeed, being “here” was enchanting, and getting “here” is easy.

This festive flower garden is adorned with a bounty of brilliant blooming topiaries. Some of these living sculptures have been pruned and clipped, and gathered and nipped into precise poses, shapes and figures, while others have been manicured into meticulous messages. Perhaps the most clearly defined is the garden’s curvy edge that welcomes visitors to the Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens by way of pink and white pansies spelling out each word. This artful and appropriate name badge is first glimpse of this special place that can be seen from the ropeway, and serves as an unmistakable “you are here” mark!

nunobiki name badge

“You are here”!

Indeed, being “here” was enchanting, and getting “here” is easy. So the next time you think about giving flowers to honor a special occasion, or you need a reminder to stop and smell the roses, consider a visit to Nunobiki Herb Gardens — it’s the natural choice!

For facility information and directions, please visit http://www.kobeherb.com.

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