Get in touch with nature
Shin-Meishin Expressway Takarazuka-kita Service Area — (by car) —
Takarazuka Nishitanino-mori Park [3 km] — (by car) — Maruyama Wetlands — Ōiwagatake [4.7 km]
In 2018, the Takarazuka-kita Service Area and Smart Interchange (SA/Smart IC) of the Shin-Meishin Expressway opened to the public in Nishitani in northern Takarazuka. With the opening of the Takarazuka-kita SA/Smart IC, it’s now easier than ever to get to Takarazuka from places like Himeji, Kobe, Takatsuki, Kyoto, and Shiga. Why not take this opportunity to visit Takarazuka and spend a day hiking the abundant nature of the Nishitani area?
Let’s look at a sample one-day walk that makes use of the popular Takarazuka-kita SA/Smart IC.
The routes given here follow actual paths, but they are not paved. Some of the road surfaces are gravel or bare rock and therefore slippery. Be sure to wear appropriate hiking gear.
The exterior design concept is ‘Takarazuka Modernism’
Tezuka Pockets, the place to buy goods featuring Tezuka characters
The Takarazuka Revue section has displays of exquisite costumes
The bright, clean inside area even has a diaper changing room
The extensive food court
Situated in Nishitani in northern Takarazuka, the Takarazuka-kita Service Area was built on the concept of ‘Takarazuka Modernism’ and is modeled on the southern European scenery around Hanano-michi Avenue in central Takarazuka. The floor space of the service area’s commercial building is among the largest in western Japan and houses a food court with a variety of dishes.
Even if you’re not coming in by car from the expressway, you can enter the service area via the Welcome Gate. So if you’re hiking the Nishitanino-mori Park in the morning and going to spend the afternoon in the Maruyama Wetlands, it’s an ideal place to stop for lunch. In the shopping area, you’ll find products unique to Takarazuka, such as Takarazuka Revue goods, and a section called Tezuka Pockets, where goods featuring characters from the works of manga artist Osamu Tezuka are sold.
The autumn colors brighten up the forest deep in the mountains
The lookout provides a commanding view of the surroundings
Get an adrenaline rush as you navigate the narrow Umanose
Pavilion located on a ridge to the lookout
There’s a restroom in the Nishinotani farmhouse
Here you can immerse yourself in the nature of satoyama (agrarian foothills). A walking path has been carved out that runs about 8 km. The route described here goes from Hoyodani square in the east, along a recreational trail running along the water’s edge, then gradually uphill through the rejuvenated wetlands before joining up with the east ridge trail leading to the scenic lookout. After enjoying the panoramic 360-degree view, descend via the Umanose (‘Horse’s Back’) and down to Nishinotani. But this is hardly the only hiking route. You can combine sections of the area’s many trails to create a custom-made route and ensure that you and your friends—young and old—can enjoy a different hike each time.
The log path marks the entranceway to the wetlands
The observation deck channels the Maruyama Wetlands’ healing power
A walkway from the observation deck lets you get even closer to nature
Extending over a wide area on the south side of Nishitanino-mori Park are the Maruyama Wetlands. Home to a rich abundance of nature, they are among the largest wetlands in Hyogo Prefecture and have been designated as a Natural Monument by Takarazuka. In order to protect the plants and animals in the wetlands, stay on the path and be sure to take all of your own garbage home with you. Partway along the path is an observation deck that’s a great viewing spot. Situated in the middle of the wetlands, this spot affords hikers mental and physical healing with the surrounding trees and refreshing breezes.
From the summit you get a bird’s-eye view of the Sengari Reservoir
Hazuhachiman Shrine can be seen on the far side of the Sengari Reservoir
View from the summit. There’s no shade here so wear a sun hat
After enjoying a walk in the Maruyama Wetlands, next we head to Ōiwagatake, a mountain that straddles the three municipalities of Takarazuka, Kobe, and Sanda.
The changing scenery on the way to the summit includes wetlands, rivers, and valleys. We also recommend you try this course throughout the year to enjoy the unique pleasures of the seasons, such as the budding leaves of early summer or the brilliant colors of the autumn leaves.
At an elevation of just 384 meters, Ōiwagatake makes for an easy climb. But don’t let the relatively low height fool you—once you get to the top, there are splendid views looking down on the Sengari Reservoir to the northwest and the Shin-Meishin Expressway to the south.
Note that there are some slippery sections along the route, so enjoy the scenery but also watch your footing.