Japan is famous for its well-curated gardens, combining nature, plants & water to give us a zen-like reprieve from the daily stress. Hence, visiting the various gardens and parks around Kansai area is relaxing and peaceful.
Sorakuen Garden is a little uphill on Kobe city, making you huff and puff a little before getting to the blissful garden. The entrance is non-descript but once you go in, the garden expands into a peaceful area with the flowing sound of water. A few minutes stroll from Kobe metro Kencho-mae Station or a slightly longer walk from Motomachi Station of Hanshin Line or JR Line, with entrance fees to the garden at JPY300.
After the traditional Japanese garden in Sorakuen, take a walk towards the seaside to enjoy the sea breeze at Merikken Park. On the way down towards the seaside, take a side track to Kobe’s Chinatown to try out the various food stalls. Pan-fried gyoza, small bowls of boiling spicy hot udon, fried croquet, steamed buns & siu mais. Everything smells nice!
Tennoji Park is a garden in the middle of the city, surrounded by more parks such as Ten-shiba. There are a few entrances to the garden, an uphill via some residential areas or a more flat entrance via the Tennoji Zoo entrance. There is a small Keitakuen Garden inside Tennoji Park, of which the entrance is quite small with no main signboard that it is easy to miss. Entrance fees is required only for Keitakuen Garden at JPY150, while the rest of Tennoji Park is accessible to the public. On a sunny day, you will easily find the locals strolling or taking a picnic on the grass.
Mozu tombs in the city of Sakai is almost like a big garden on its own. Mozu is one of two “kofuns” or ancient tombs in Sakai city, of which the other is Furichi kofun. Upon coming down from Mozu Station, you are greeted by a quite almost rural locality. The tombs are not conspicuous and actually blends in with the surroundings. Without paying a bit more attention, you will easily miss these key tombs. Take a slow stroll along the areas. Moats still surround some of the bigger tombs, and the colours on a bright day is stunningly reflected on the water.
Minoo Park is actually a little up north from Osaka city, a respite for city folks to enjoy the nature, little hiking trails, a waterfall, and views from the top. The main tracks towards the temple and waterfall is well-paved and easy to walk, although a little uphill. There are other off-beaten trails through the forest for adventure seekers.
The specialty at Minoo is the deep-fried maple tree leaf in a special batter, tasting really great after a hike upwards. Food stalls are aplenty nearby the waterfall, smelling yummy after some workouts.
Minoo Station is the last stop of the Hankyu line from Osaka’s Umeda station, with a change in station at Ishibashi handai-mae, costing JPY270 on the Hankyu line.
Expo Park is a little bit of a surprise, being a site of Expo in the 1970s which is re-purposed (beautifully too) as a recreational park for all to enjoy. The Japanese really has great foresights for a sustainable repurposing and recycling, never wasting anything. And definitely way ahead of all the brouhaha of sustainability big marketing these days. The area is really big whereby some lake areas are used for boating, gardens are used for picnicking, areas for BBQ with really attractive smell, some areas are also turned into concert-style events. Events are held both during the day and night.
All the way up north, take the Osaka metro to the last station of Senri-chuo, before transferring into the monorail to Expo Station. Walk across the major highway to the entrance of the Expo entrance, pay an amount of JPY250 for the gardens. You won’t regret it.