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Rokko is by no means the highest cycleable point in the Kansai - it's not quite a thousand meters, so the height honors go to Odaigahara, significantly higher at 1,600m. But Rokko is certainly the most centrally located. Starting midway between Kobe and Osaka, and accessible from either, Rokko is the highest you can go quickest from central Kansai - and it's no simple up-the-mountain-and-back-down-the-same-way but a full-fledged route with lots of alternate route possibilities. A cyclist in shape can do the entire route in four hours or so, depending on how long you want to stay at the top (and with everything from a restaurant serving locally made cheese, milk and ice cream to a miniature Swiss village, there's plenty to do). But unless you're a Type A person training for a triathlon, you may want to budget the entire day for the ride - whatever free time you have at the end can be spent in a sidewalk cafe or pub in downtown Kobe, or at one of my favorite hideaways: a little park that very few people know about but that offers absolutely spectacular views of Kobe.

This route gets almost all of the hill climbing done right at the beginning: up the east side to the highest point (931m) followed by a long, generally downhill ride through glorious hill country, ultimately turning off onto the road that passes by Mt. Futatabi on its way straight down into central Kobe. Bring water and determination and pace yourself: remember, it will only be really difficult to the extent that you thought it would be easy.