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Bicycling a bit on Rokkosan in between Working

The feeling of riding on the mountain with the wind blowing in your face! Totally forget about work for a moment.

I decided to go for a quick bike ride on Rokkosan. This is because working in the same space for a long time makes one stagnate and work efficiency drops. Needless to say, the best thing about ROKKONOMAD is just one step out the door is the wide forest of Rokkosan. Normally, if you want a natural environment to refresh your mind, it often takes too much time and effort to get there, so one might not be able to switch their mindset effectively. (Actually one advantage of Kobe is that it only takes 30-40 minutes to get to the mountains or the sea.)

The West Rokko Driveway, which traverses the top of Rokkosan, has gentle inclines and curves that make it nice to bicycle.

Some ROKKONOMAD members have even cycled from their homes on Port Island and pedaled up to the share office on the mountain. However, to be honest, the Omote Rokko Driveway (the road leading up Rokkosan from Tsurukko, Nada-ku, Kobe City, which was a toll road until 2002) is a very steep slope. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are very familiar with it. Also, if you want to try it, weekdays are recommended because there are a lot of cars on the road on weekends.

However, if you take the Prefectural Road 16 Akashi-Kobe-Takarazuka Route (Nishi-Rokko Driveway) from the Arima Road in Suzurandai, Kita Ward, Kobe City, passing by the Kobe Municipal Arboretum and coming up the mountain, you don’t have to be a serious cyclist to do it, as it doesn’t have endless hills with steep angles. In fact, this time I rode uphill from the former site of the Suzuranoyu (public bath) along the Arima Highway (rumor has it that it is scheduled to reopen in 2022) and stopped by the Kobe Municipal Arboretum. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the botanical garden, and the first 10 minutes or so are a bit tough, but it starts to slow down around the Gotsuji intersection before the botanical garden. After crossing the forest botanical garden, the rest of the course is light ups and downs, and one can just let the wind cut through and go for a quick ride.

Accelerate through the curves around the Kobe Municipal Arboretum without pedaling!

Kobe is a good city because it allows people to make various choices according to their own level and mood when dealing with nature. Those who really want to hill climb can choose the Omote Rokko Driveway and bike up from the bottom. If that’s a bit too hard……, one can load a bike in the back of the car and set off, starting from the top of the mountain and cycling around. If you don’t have a car, one can choose to put their bike in a bag, ride the Rokko Cable, and put the bike together at the top of the mountain. As mentioned above, once on the mountain, the rest is fairly easy.

Kobe Municipal Arboretum with its beautiful winter groves (*Bicycles are allowed up to the entrance. Bicycles are not allowed inside the park.)

The best thing about dashing up the mountain is that one can get away from artificial light, sound, and air flow. Forget the noise of the fluorescent lights in the office, the ring/alert sounds of the smartphone, the flat light of the LED monitor, or the monotonous blast of the air conditioner, and let the intricate sounds of the leaves against the wind and the sunlight glinting off the trees surround you. The light, sound, and wind of nature are basic but complex patterns so they really stimulate the brain. 

With the new coronavirus, the practice of distributed workplaces has taken off, and there have been more and more articles about the benefits of workcations (i.e., combining work and vacation), but where do these benefits come from? Is it because by “moving” from the city to nature, we can distance ourselves from our daily timeline and get a calmer, more comprehensive view of our business? Is it because the complexity of the natural world, as described in “complex systems,” one of the trends in modern science, stimulates our five senses to a great extent? There are scientific theories that being in nature lowers cortisol levels, also known as the stress hormone, and activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Incidentally, although it is not about activating the brain, there have been articles that report that phytoncide, an aromatic volatile substance emitted by trees in the forest, activates NK cells that kill cancer and virus-infected cells, thereby enhancing immunity. Though they are just things I have ready, I think that the more man-made we become in the future, the more we will need to go to nature to re-energize ourselves.

If you turn at the Gotsuji intersection near the Kobe Municipal Arboretum and go down the Kobe Minotani Line, you will soon find yourself at Futatabi Park. If you keep going south, you will pass by the Venus Bridge and come out near Toa Road.

Well, it doesn’t have to be that logical, but if you’re just an office worker who sits around all day, you’ll feel the stiff muscles in your buttocks, pelvic area, and thighs being stretched when you pedal your bike uphill, and you’ll also feel your blood flow improving (laughs).

This time we drove along the Nishi-Rokko driveway, but if you go down the mountain from the Urarokko driveway, you will find yourself in Karato, Arino-cho, Kita-ku, Kobe City, where you can drive through rural areas.

Due to the development of smartphones, one is now able to be in touch no matter where we are. This means that when one receives an email or a phone call from a client, subordinate, or business partner, one could reply to it no matter where they are.
If you don’t usually reply to emails during meetings, one could go for a bike ride, surf, or rock climb for about the same amount of time, i.e. an hour or two, and then reply when back, and it won’t interfere with work very much.

I also recommend going on a farm tour by bicycle. The golden dusk is a magic hour.

So why not take a short bike ride with the constructive motive of recovering and revitalizing?
I’m sure you’ll be able to come up with a good phrase or solve a problem you’ve been struggling with for the next project while you’re riding.

(Column written by Yohei Yasuda)