Around 73% of Japan is mountainous. Away from the gentle temples and shrines, or the hustle and bustle of its frenetic neon cities, there is a wild country to explore. Nature-lovers in Japan can expect epic drives, rewarding hikes, and getting deep into forests that cover the land.
All those mountains mean waterfalls – or taki, in Japanese. There are many waterfalls in Japan that have, through the ages, not only inspired Japanese in the form of poems, paintings, and pilgrimages, but that have also given rise to myths and legends. Some waterfalls in Japan are outright sacred spots, said to be inhabited by kami, or gods.
Sound interesting? Well, here is our list of some of the very best waterfalls to visit in Japan, from the mighty to the majestic, to give you a taste of what to expect in this veritable land of Japanese waterfalls.
The Best Waterfalls in Japan to Explore
Located in northern Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture, Senga Falls are a sight to behold. With a drop of 31 meters, the water tumbles between high rocks creating a mist in the surrounding trees; it was allegedly created through seismic activity, as displayed by the sharp drop.
A great thing about Senga Falls is the fact there’s a car park right nearby, so it’s easily accessible. Located in the Shosenkyo Valley, it’s possible to hike from the lower part of the Arakawa river – which the falls are a part of – up to the waterfall itself (around 2.5 miles). Once up there, on a clear day, you can even be rewarded with views of Mount Fuji!
- Location: Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture
- Cost: Free
- Tip: Pair a trip to Senga Falls with a visit to Shosenkyo Gorge (beautiful in fall)
Atera Seven Falls
Made up of not just one, but seven drops (as the name implies), the sight of Atera “Nanataki” – literally “Seven Falls” – is pretty cool, with each drop clearly visible as the water makes its way along the Atera River.
Legend has it that sorcerer Abe no Seimei trained at Atera Seven Falls when he was younger; the scenery definitely lends itself to the sort of place a wizard would hang out. And, if you happen to be trying for kids, you should head to the Kodakaraishi or “Child-bearing Stone” – said to bless visitors with children!
- Location: Shiro City, Aichi Prefecture
- Cost: Free
- Tip: Go on the last Sunday in July for the Atera no Nanataki Festival
At 133 meters, making it the tallest waterfall in Japan (with a single, uninterrupted drop, that is), Nachi Falls is a short distance from Seigantoji (a Buddhist temple) and Kumano Nachi-taisha, an important Shinto shrine/ It’s one of the main destinations of the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage.
Nachi-taisha, one of three Kumano shrines on the Kii Peninsula, is an ancient spot, existing way before the Buddhist temple appeared. However, with the three-story pagoda of the Buddhist temple complex appearing in the mist, with the waterfall in the background, it is even more charming.
One of three most beautiful waterfalls in Japan, apparently Nachi Falls was an original religious site in the area for Japan’s pre-Shinto belief system – and you can see why. It still garners spiritual awe when visiting, and has numerous festivals and rituals related to it. To us, it is one of the best places to visit in all of Japan.
Hiking up the Daimonzaka, a paved route, is an easy way to get out into nature for more views of the waterfall (great if you don’t have time to hike the whole Kumano Kodo).
- Location: Nachikatsuura, Wakayama Prefecture
- Cost: ¥300 to access viewing platform; open from 7:00 a.m to 4:30 p.m.
- Tip: There’s parking right near Seigantoji temple
Akiu Great Falls
Through the torii (shrine gate) and into another world of spirituality and closeness to nature, Akiu Great Falls near Sendai is not just an amazing sight to witness; it also happens to be a famous spot in Japan for leaf-peeping.
Falling 55 meters into the gleaming river below, there’s a short hike that can be done, leading down to the base of the waterfall. You stroll along Rairaikyo Gorge, soaking up rock formations and – especially in spring or autumn – the general beauty of the gorge.
On the other hand, if you’re feeling less energetic, there’s a teahouse where you can soak up the scenery in comfort.
When you are in the area, you should make sure to pay a visit to Akiu Onsen. This is a well-known hot spring village, and – especially after a hike – a soak in an onsen (hot spring) is like heaven on Earth.
- Location: Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture
- Cost: Free
- Tip: Many other scenic spots nearby, such as Rairaikyo Gorge, make it very worthwhile
Fed by springwater from Mount Fuji – and long part of the Asama shrine due to the cult that was associated with the mountain – Shiraito Falls is nestled in the southern foothills of Japan’s tallest mountain. It is part of Fuji-Hakone-Ize National Park and has been a protected area since 1936; this top waterfall in Japan is also inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
Cascading like a curtain off the edge of a 20-meter-high cliff, the height may not be as impressive as others, but the 150-meter-long width of these impressive falls lives up to its name: “Shiraito” means “White Threads,” and the falls does have the impression of many threads of silk.
It’s easy to walk to the Japanese waterfall from the parking area by the roadside, along a marked trail – dotted with souvenir sellers – that leads to this famous spot.
- Location: Fujinomiya, Shizuoka
- Cost: Free
- Tip: Many buses that ply the Fujigoko (Fuji Five Lakes) area stop directly at the falls
Just five miles from Shiraito Falls, Otodome Falls is a huge roaring waterfall, 25 meters high and 5 meters wide. Its name comes from a legend called Soga Monogatari. It’s a story of the 12th century Soga brothers who met at the falls to discuss avenging their murdered father; the waterfall was too loud to discuss their details, so they prayed and the roar of the falls lessened for a while. “Otodome” means “sound-stopping.”
To the east of the waterfall, there is a rock where, supposedly, the brothers hid once they successfully carried out their revenge. Today, it is an especially scenic spot, still located in the Fuji-Hakone-Ize National Park.
- Location: Fujinomiya, Shizuoka
- Cost: Free
- Tip: It’s easily accessible thanks to a simple bus ride from Shin-Fuji Station
Ranked up there as one of Japan’s three most spectacular waterfalls, Kegon Falls truly is a must-see if you are in the area. Located in the popular tourist destination of Nikko, Kegon is formed thanks to being the only exit for water that drains from Lake Chuzenji.
It’s the most famous waterfall in Nikko National Park, which is a big claim, since this area actually boasts 48 waterfalls. As of 1927, it is also one of Japan’s “Eight Views” owing to its stunning natural beauty.
Taking a trip to the waterfall is particularly popular during fall, when the surrounding trees are ablaze with burnt amber and reds. During winter, however, the falls take on another, no less impressive dimension: they are frozen to a near-solid state.
- Location: Nikko, Tochigi
- Cost: ¥570 to access the viewing platform
- Tip: Hours vary depending on the season, so check ahead
This 100-meter tall, 30-meter wide waterfall is definitely one of the more powerful on this list. Especially from late spring to summer, water gushes over the cliff here for a torrent of white water that should sate waterfall fans. It’s cool, too, since it appears out of nowhere as you approach it.
Located in Oze National Park, you can easily combine your trip to Sanjo Falls with some pretty scenic hikes in the area. One of these, Ozegahara, takes hikers along a boardwalk through a stunning and stark marshland (there’s even the option of staying in a hut in the middle of the national park).
One of the coolest things about this top waterfall in Japan is the observatory, which allows you to really get up close to the falls and feel the spray in your face.
- Location: Oze, Fukushima Prefecture
- Cost: Free
- Tip: There’s parking and a restroom at the Miike entrance to the falls
The last of Japan’s three best waterfalls (which we have already mentioned), Nunobiki Falls is not far at all from the urban sprawl of Kobe. Having such a beautiful natural site just a brisk hike from Shin-Kobe Station, up onto Mount Rokko, is very convenient indeed; it’s around 15 to 20 minutes of forested uphill hiking until you reach the 43-meter tall Nunobiki Falls.
Actually a series of different drops and falls, Nunobiki Falls has appeared numerous times in Japanese art and literature over the years – including the Ise Monogatari (980 AD) – and continues to inspire visitors. Thanks to the Shin-Kobe Ropeway, and a historic herb garden located on Mount Rokko, too, many people drop in to marvel at this famous waterfall.
- Location: Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture
- Cost: Free
- Tip: Combine it with a ropeway ride to the top of Mount Rokko for a stunning view of Kobe after dark
Akame 48 Falls
Akame 48 falls isn’t just a singular waterfall, nor is it just a waterfall with 48 drops; it’s an area that boasts many separate waterfalls. But it’s not just the waterfalls that are famous in this atmospheric region: these falls are famous for ninja.
Renowned as a training ground for the Iga-ryu ninja between the 15th and 18th centuries, there are also myriad mystical tales surrounding the area. For example, the name itself – “Akame” – means “Red Eye.” It comes from a mythological meeting between En-no-Gyoja (the founder of shugendo, mountain ascetic) and Fudo-myoo (a fierce Buddhist deity).
Located in the Akame Valley, the waterfalls here appear along a four-kilometer stretch, as water gushes into a gorge at the bottom for a spectacular finish. Part of the Muro Akame Oyama National Park, the name of the falls isn’t entirely accurate; don’t be disappointed when you don’t count 48 of them. The name refers to the number of vows taken by Bodhisattvas on their way to enlightenment.
- Location: Nagasaka, Mie Prefecture
- Cost: Free
- Tip: The five most spectacular falls are – Biwa, Ninai, Fudo, Senju, and Nunobiki
At 350 meters tall, Shomyo Falls are undisputedly the highest in Japan. Located on Tateyama, not only can you get the treat of seeing one spectacular waterfall when you visit here, but during spring – when the snow melts – you get the bonus of another waterfall: the Hannoki Falls run alongside it.
And sometimes, there’s the Somen Falls – to the right of the Hannoki Falls. So, at the right time of year, Shomyo Falls is actually three waterfalls.
This waterfall gushes powerfully and, being the highest in the country, it’s naturally very impressive. Sometimes there are even huge rainbows created by the mass of spray that comes off the falls.
- Location: Tateyama, Toyama Prefecture
- Cost: Free
- Tip: Head to the rest area nearby to learn about the formation of this awesome waterfall
Made up of a set of twin waterfalls – the Ginga and Ryusei Falls – this natural spot is located on the northern island of Hokkaido. It’s the protruding rock in the middle, separating the two, which makes the sight particularly cinematic. The Ryusei (“Shooting Star”) falls and the Ginga (“Milky Way”) falls are often known as the “Husband and Wife Falls.”
Here, you will not find much in the way of crowds or commercialism; however, the waterfall is thankfully not entirely out of the way. There is a car park area (good if you’re driving; it’s around two hours by car from Asahikawa), and stairs leading up to two viewing decks, where you can get a great shot of this top waterfall in Japan.
- Location: Kamikawa, Hokkaido Prefecture
- Cost: Free
- Tip: Go in summer for the full effect of these twin falls
Quick Travel Tips for Japan
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What to Pack for Japan
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun in Japan. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
Goretex Rain Jacket
We’re building up a collection of shell jackets. We always carry one in our pack and they’ve come in handy a number of times. They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof and really a great travel rain jacket. We have a bunch of different shell jackets after several years, but my favorite right now is from Arc’teryx.
Any jacket can do the job, but the top dollar ones will hold up and really help in inclement weather.
I love real books, but for traveling it can be easier to carry a lighter and more compact item like a Kindle. Plus, then you can download new books on the go!
Please consider purchasing a travel water bottle before your trip! We hate to see one time use plastic bottles ending up in the ocean. The tap water is so good here – seriously please don’t be one of that tourists that buys plastic water bottles in Japan. It’s a waste of money and plastic!
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