In Search of Little-Visited Falls
If a waterfall is indicated on the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI) map, excluding a simple ‘O-taki’, there’s a high likelihood that visiting it is a relatively manageable endeavour. There are exceptions, of course, to this rule, such as the Hijiri Falls in Okutama, where persistence was required to first pinpoint it, along with a good dose of adventurousness and a touch of daredevilry to actually get there. On my first reconnaissance mission back in September, I found what looked to be an aluminium ladder heading in its general direction. However, with no signage or any trail to speak of, it didn’t instil much confidence. As someone who doesn’t give in very easily, I vowed to do some research and return for another trip in the autumn.
Walking up from the Kawanoribashi bus stop entrance with the masses in splendid autumn weather, I deliberately moved at a snail’s pace so as to be at the back of the pack. Given that the ladder literally dives down from the concrete roadside easement, I didn’t want to alarm anyone by suddenly disappearing over the edge. After descending the ladder, there is a flat section that follows the road above. It is after that that the fun starts. After a short traverse, there is some ‘tiger rope’ knotted with loops to run down the first very steep section, followed by some newer-looking climbing rope. After which, you scurry down beside a limestone wall. For the final 10 metres or so, you are left to your own devices to reach the riverbank.
Your hard work is rewarded by witnessing a sublime limestone gorge carved out by the forces of nature. Viewable from the pebble-strewn riverbank is the lower, two-tiered Hijiri Taki 聖滝 or sacred falls. Behind this are several more waterfalls, including the Meoto Falls; however, getting to these ones requires sawanobori or ‘stream climbing’, which is best left to the real daredevils. With so few people even reaching this location, I felt privileged to have the opportunity to experience it and spent a good hour soaking up and photographing the majesty of this spectacular spot.
Road from the Kawanoribashi bus stop entrance.
Hijiri Taki Okutama.
Sawanobori rope Hijiri Falls.
Quiet moment at the Hijiri Falls.
Hijiri Falls map.