Waterfalls of Japan’s Nishizawa Gorge are an awe-inspiring site for hikers

By THERON GODBOLD | Stars and Stripes | Published: July 16, 2020

Hidden in the forested mountains north of Mount Fuji, you’ll find a picturesque canyon loaded with waterfalls called Nishizawa Gorge.

Inside Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park in Yamanashi prefecture, the gorge is one of three hike-able gorges in the park. The trail — 7 miles long, round trip — is filled with awe-inspiring scenery that leads to a five-tiered waterfall called Nanatsugama-Godan-no-Taki or Seven Iron Pots-Five Steps.

Walking to the largest set of falls isn’t for everyone as it takes nearly two hours to reach them from the large parking lot near the trailhead. During my visit in early July, the last couple hundred feet of trail from the base of the falls to the top was temporarily closed due to a bridge washed out by heavy rains. Nonetheless, the view from the base, and the strenuous walk to get there, are worth the effort.

A paved road leads to the trailhead where a small rest area and bathroom marks the entrance to the trail. From here, the sounds of nature — birds, wind and the rush of flowing water — slowly begin to fill your ears.

At the beginning, gravel paths lead you deeper into the cavernous woods. Small waterfalls lie along the path, hinting at something much bigger ahead.

Farther on, the path grows steeper with roots and rocks threatening your ankles with almost every step. As you climb higher into the mountainous woodlands, the rush of water grows louder. Hiking boots and poles are recommended. The trip may be too much for young children.

Small break areas can be found along the path, giving some hikers a much-needed respite from the rugged trail. At the top of the falls, when it’s accessible, are a bathroom and small wooden benches that are a handy place to eat a packed lunch.

The mystical look of the sunlight refracting through the water at the base of the falls creates an ethereal glow. That sight was more than enough to make the slick rocks, steep inclines and skittering over or around rock faces well worth the journey.

Twitter: @GodboldTheron

DIRECTIONS: Take the JR Chuo Line to Yamanashi-shi Station. From here, travel via city bus or approximately one hour until you reach the Nishizawa-keikoku bus stop, then follow the signs to the start of the trailhead. Google maps GPS code: VP9V+GQ Yamanashi, Japan

TIMES: Open year-round

COSTS: Free, though donations are requested for restroom maintenance

FOOD: Pack a lunch, as there are no restaurants nearby.

INFORMATION: Phone: 0553-22-1111; Online: yamanashi-kankou.jp/foreign/english/spot/p1_4789.htm

Gorgeous waterfalls are just feet away during the hike to Nishizawa Gorge in Yamanashi prefecture, Japan.