I always find the best adventures in places that are not extremely well-known. You know, the places that are mind-blowingly gorgeous, but not crawling with tourists (other than yourself!) so you can easily take pictures and soak it in. As I’ve lived in Kansai (the central area of Japan,) I’ve asked locals what places they would recommend seeing. I have a particular affinity for waterfalls, so I may have asked about them more than once. I just find waterfalls are especially impressive and beautiful. Something about the calming sound of a waterfall just pulls me in. Here in Japan, that calming sound is often accompanied by a peaceful background of beautiful foliage and maybe even a traditional bridge or two.
Two really amazing waterfall destinations that I’ve been able to find amazing on a couple of different levels. First, they are closer to conventionally popular destinations than you might think. You don’t have to travel too far by train to get into the great outdoors.
Secondly, I like these waterfalls because they don’t require a lot of hiking. You don’t have to spend your whole day hiking a mountain, so they’re easy to squeeze into a packed itinerary. Personally, I’m not a really avid hiker. I don’t want to miss out of amazing sights, so I will hike, but it’s not pretty. I tend to huff and puff all the way up every mountain, with my backpack seemingly gaining kilograms every ten feet of incline. On more than one occasion I’ve been passed by elderly Japanese hikers that tell me I can do it.
So here goes, if you’re looking to see some waterfalls in central Japan, these are my recommendations.
1. Minoh Falls, Osaka, Japan
Would you believe that there is a gorgeous, greenery surrounded waterfall right in Osaka? I didn’t. I remember asking around about a year after our move here and a friend telling me, “Oh yeah, there’s one about 40 minutes away from here in Osaka.”
That’s right, there is more to Osaka than skyscrapers, street food, and shopping. I had no idea when I first moved here!
I had a hard time finding this place until my friend gave me the address. But the good news is, that means it’s less well-known! You can be sure to have a fairly quiet experience. I visited with my family on a warm summer’s day, and there were only about 10 people there, all of them Japanese.
When You Get There
There are signs to follow on the main road. They will lead you down a paved sidewalk, and, you come out from the sidewalk, you’ll be able to see the bright red bridge and the waterfall. If you go during a weekend, there are some little shops with souvenirs and food open. We went in the evening, so they were already closed when we got there. Even with the shops closed, there are picnic tables where you can sit down and eat your own food, as well as benches for viewing in front of the waterfall. Conveniently, there are restrooms as well.
There is a place where you can stand close enough to the waterfall to get splashed a little, as well as a path down to the river. If you want to go further, there are some paved hiking paths, too, but we didn’t venture there.
I think a nice thing about this place is that there isn’t a really hard, long walk. Of course, those can be fun, but this is a nice place for a quick trip and a beautiful waterfall. It’s easy to access from the road and you don’t need any equipment or hiking experience. You can go there and just soak in the beauty.
How to Get To Minoh Falls
Address: 〒562-0002 Osaka Prefecture, Minoh, Minookoen, 1-18
It’s about a 1 kilometer walk from Ishibashi Station in Osaka, which can be reached easily from the central Namba station. If you drive, there is free parking just past the park entrance.
2. Akame 48 Waterfalls, Mie, Japan
The Akame Waterfalls are a little harder to get to, but definitely worth the effort. They are also more well-known than the Minoh Falls, so you’ll probably see more tourists. However, there is actually more than 48 waterfalls! In Japanese, 48 just means “many.”
When You Get There
At the entrance to the waterfalls, there is a giant salamander museum that is pretty interesting and included with your admission. Admission, by the way, is really cheap at only 400 yen, or about $4. You walk through this museum to enter the hiking route, so make sure to check out the amphibians hanging out before you head out!
The route to see all of the waterfalls is formidable at 4 km one way. That said, it’s still considered low-medium hiking difficulty.
There are paved paths in some areas, but it’s mostly hiking a dirt path that is slightly wet from the falls. You’ll definitely want to wear shoes and pants you don’t mind getting muddy. There are rest stops along the way and restaurants about halfway up that are open during the day at certain times of the year. They are really unclear on when it is open, but we went late December and they were closed.
When we went, we only went about halfway up and were still able to see many beautiful waterfalls. The falls gets bigger as you go, so I definitely plan to go back soon and see the rest of them!
It’s open year round and we found that it was actually pretty warm even in December. It wasn’t warm outside, but the natural foliage and humidity kept the warmth in. The walk up got our heart rate up, too!
How to Get To Akame 48 Waterfalls:
Address: 〒518-0469 Mie Prefecture, Nabari, 赤目町長坂861−1
Take a train from Osaka Uehommachi to Stacio Akameguchi. From there, take a bus that will drop you off 300 meters from the entrance. Again, if you drive, there is limited free parking near the entrance.