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From Kobe Airport to Sannomiya along the Port Liner monorail

Thursday, February 29, 2024

To the right the steel structure of the monorail winds off into the distance. On the left the double deck roadway. In the center, a footpath that heads down into Kobe City
Kobe Bridge

A monorail connects downtown Kobe with its airport. The Port Liner is a 9km long, fully automated light railway running above street level for its entire length. I've wanted to walk it for a couple of years, and finally I had my chance.

With Mrs H safely delivered to the terminal and the car parked, I followed the monorail armed with my trusty Fujifilm X-T20 and a 35mm prime lens. The weather promised to be pleasantly cool and sunny, perfect for a few hours of walking and shooting.

Kobe Airport

An airport terminal seen behind parked cars with the sky dark and threatening.
Kobe Airport

Kobe Airport is built on an artificial island in Osaka Bay. It's a domestic hub, and you can turn up about 20 minutes before your flight and still catch it. There are decent amenities and a viewing platform that I might touch on in a future post.

A monorail track turns ninety degrees to the right as it winds into Kobe Airport
The start of my walk from Kobe Airport to Sannomiya

Port Island

The monorail runs out to Port Island, another artificial island with the lion's share of Kobe's docks. The road and foot bridge is close to 1km long, taking a lazy arch next to the docking station for Kawasaki's Hydrogen Road project. The walk offers stunning views of the docks and the mountains beyond.

Monorail tracks run side by side, supported by concrete columns and turning to the left
The Port Liner Monorail

Then the monorail veers left. We run past corporate headquarters, the home of Japan's Super Computer project and a zoo. This part of Port Island has an open, almost desolate feel.

A massive globe of planet earth, half buried in the surrounding office buildings, with Japan highlighted in silver
Konan University Port Island Campus

Turning right, we're on our way to the main residential block. The walkway is still underneath the raised monorail, but things are about to change. The path rises and we come almost to the same level.

A monorail station stands proud of its surroundings, constructed in a distinctly Japanese concrete brutalist style
Iryo Center station

Then out into a park adorned with concrete structures imprinted with messages of peace from the cities Kobe is twinned with. Look a little closer, and those structures are revealed as light and ventilation wells for the car park beneath.

6 Brutalist ventilation and lighting vents stand proud of fading grass, surrounded by tall office blocks at Port Island central green space
Port Island central green space

Around us are the city's General Hospital, medical research centers and homes. Look hard enough and you might see the Ikea's deep blue box.

We keep on, past more apartments and parklets, once more beneath the twin tracks of the monorail. Onwards to the final park and the bright red arches of Kobe Bridge.

Crossing to the mainland

Up we go, climbing high. On our left, the double-deck highway runs back and forth, cars and trucks roaring by. On our right is the monorail, running along its bridge, carefully styled to blend into the box structure beside it.

To the right the steel structure of the monorail winds off into the distance. On the left the double deck roadway. In the center, a footpath that heads down into Kobe City
Kobe Bridge

Now down to the Port Terminal. Navigating the complicated mass of structures and supports keeps Kobe's transport flying through the air. Dare to stop and you will feel it shuddering and shaking through the soles of your feet.

A raised monorail track crosses a footpath, a train making its way towards the city in the background

Small Parks and Sannomiya

Another small park. There are so many of these escapes, both figurative and literal. Created and maintained as refuges should history repeat and an earthquake come calling.

Two transport bridges span a pedestrian walkway in a park in Japan

Now we're in familiar territory. These streets are ones I pound regularly to get here and there. So familiar I barely pay attention until I arrive at the terminus for the Port Liner.

Just over 3 hours to walk here. 11km covered with all my diversions and back-tracking. It'll take less than 30 minutes to get back.

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction.

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