Postwar Kobe prides itself on being a "progressive" city. It attracted nation-wide attention in the Fifties and Sixties for bold and innovative infrastructure construction. Since the Seventies, without slowing down the pace of construction, it has acquired the reputation for being "environmentally enlightened." The city therefore appears to have achieved a balance between the imperatives of the "construction nation" and "green nation." This paper examines the thinking of two Kobe mayors and two governors of Hyōgo prefecture, wherein the city is located, to shed light on an aspect of environmental change in modern Japan that has been overlooked by scholars. By showing how the four heads of local government, by their own account, have tried to resolve the conflicting demands of development and conservation, this paper argues that local political leaders, in contrary to the conventional view of Japanese government, do contribute—sometimes even taking the lead—to the physical and cultural transformation of the territory under their charge.