I was born in Boston, lived there till 1st grade, then we moved out near Salem MA.
When I First came to Japan we lived in Kobe City, then Miki, then back to Kobe again to Kita-ku, out in back of the mountains on the north side of the city. Kita-ku is jokingly called ' the Tibet of Kobe' because of both the elevation and the cold winter. It's the only area in Kobe that gets down to-6C in the winter. It's lovely out there, quiet and cool in the summer.
Now I live on Awaji Island .We've been here for four years now. We both love the ocean, and DH's grandmother was born on the island, so he'd wanted to live here a long time. We'd come over and look at land and houses, and never found anything quite right, and continued to look off and on. The other factor was DH would have had to go to work by ferry. It stopped in harsh weather, and until you got down to the dock in the morning you'd have no idea how long the wait was. It would have been too hard trying to commute that way.
The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge was completed in '98 but by then we'd settled into Kita-ku, bought a house and everything, in '96. The tolls were outrageous, too, about $60 round trip! The bridge is a thing of beauty, and I used to love renewing my driver's license because the office is near the mainland anchor of the bridge where there's a park, so afterwards I'd go there and enjoy the view.
In 2011 DH was on the net, and started to yell, "Look at this! Come here!" He'd found land facing the bridge, up on a hill, a perfect view. We moved over here in 2012. The tolls were reduced to about $8 each way, which was the final push we needed.
There's a good bit to do, Awaji is known for fresh fish, fruit, and flowers. There are several parks devoted to seasonal floral displays and an indoor botanical garden. There's an herb park further south (fields of lavender), a koala park, and small museums. A disused elementary school has been converted and houses a casual cafe, full course restaurant , a shop selling local veggies and honey, and a bakery. The bakery holds classes.
The fault that ruptured in the '95 quake has been preserved as is and is covered with a building, and is now a museum where you can study about earthquakes. It's astonishing. On one side of the fault the land rose about 7 feet in 20 seconds. There's an earthquake simulator you can try and experience briefly the same strength quake (although I don't recommend it if you have back problems, the jerking is a bit severe) .
One of the largest parks is in a place called Yume Butai (Stage of Dreams) . It was designed and built by Tadao Ando in the space vacated by land excavation for Kansai Airport. You could spend all day there and not se e everything, if you like architecture. If not, you can see the national park and terraced gardens in a day.
I worried that it might be hard to get things, but that's not the case, and Kobe is only 30 minutes away, so,it's worked out well.
Edited for clarity.