Amida Waterfall (Amida-ga-taki [阿弥陀ヶ滝])

Gujo / near Takasu / near Shirotori, Gifu Prefecture, Japan

Rating: 3     Difficulty: 2
The Amida Waterfall

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

The Amida Waterfall (Amida-ga-taki [阿弥陀ヶ滝]; or just Amida Falls) was kind of our waterfalling excuse to take a quick detour as we were making the long drive from Takayama to Inuyama. Included as one of Japan's Top 100 Waterfalls, it was said to be 60m tall and 7m wide, which statistically would have similar dimensions to say Hirayu Great Falls, but it seemed like Amida Falls took on a more slender appearance during our early morning visit. My parents translated the name of the waterfall in kanji directly into Chinese and thought it meant the "God Bless Waterfall". Corroborating the religious association with this waterfall, we saw an alcove with shrine-like statues behind the misty base of the falls. There also appeared to be other religious infrastructure like a small shrine along the trail as well.

Dad gleaned from the signage here (none of which were in English) that the way the waterfall struck rocks at the bottom somehow resembled Buddha in prayer position. At least that was his theory about the reasoning behind the name of this falls. In a different literature, a priest named Taicho originally named the falls the Long Falls when he found it in the year 723. But since then, Buddhist monks were said to have practiced at the falls, and apparently in the 15th century, one such priest found enlightenment and thus named this the Amida Waterfall.

Perhaps this waterfall ought to be more recognizable to a wider audience because it was famously depicted by Katsushika Hokusai, who was an influential and prolific artist of the Edo Period in the early 19th century. His work "Amida Waterfall on the Kiso Road" (木曾路ノ奥阿弥陀ケ滝 or Kisoji no oku amida ga taki), which was said to have been produced around 1832, depicted the waterfall coming from a halo or "round eye" of light with a couple of onlookers enjoying the scene. That halo was said to have come from Amida, the Buddha of Boundless Light, which could be yet another reinforcement of the name of the waterfall. In fact, one of the map signs we saw along the trail even had such an image appearing on it.

We experienced the Amida Waterfall by going on a pretty straightforward 1.4km loop hike. We went in a counterclockwise direction so we ended up ascending a few steps as the trail went high enough to hug ledges and slopes fairly high above a tributary of the Maedanigawa. After passing by a little shrine as well as a lookout shelter, we then reached a small bridge where we managed to get direct looks at the falls. A slippery and wet spur path on the right led up to the plunge pool of the falls adjacent to some alcove decked out with little statues. On the other side of the bridge, we got a different angled look at the falls, but the rocks here seemed to be even more slippery and somewhat dangerous. After having our fill of this falls, we then returned to the trailhead on the opposite side of the stream where we managed to get closer to a few intermediate cascades along the way. Overall, our hike took about an hour though we had spent lots of time admiring the falls so perhaps the actual time spent hiking would be a bit less than that.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

We visited Amida Falls after leaving Takayama, which featured a charming city center as well as well-preserved and re-created homes at Hida-no-Sato, which also featured this viewWe visited Amida Falls after leaving Takayama, which featured a charming city center as well as well-preserved and re-created homes at Hida-no-Sato, which also featured this view
About 58km north of Amida Falls was Ogimachi, which was one of the traditional villages of the Shirakawago perhaps most famous for their thatched straw rooftopsAbout 58km north of Amida Falls was Ogimachi, which was one of the traditional villages of the Shirakawago perhaps most famous for their thatched straw rooftops
About two hour's drive or 124km south of Amida Falls was the Inuyama Castle, which was said to be the oldest castle still standing in JapanAbout two hour's drive or 124km south of Amida Falls was the Inuyama Castle, which was said to be the oldest castle still standing in Japan
One of the highlights of the Inuyama Castle was the view from the top of the castle, which also took in the Kiso River (or Kisogawa; said to be Japan's version of the Rhine)One of the highlights of the Inuyama Castle was the view from the top of the castle, which also took in the Kiso River (or Kisogawa; said to be Japan's version of the Rhine)
At the trailhead for the Amida WaterfallAt the trailhead for the Amida Waterfall

We did the loop hike in a counterclockwise manner so that meant we had to get most of the climbing done up front as we went up steps like this as well as a few switchbacksWe did the loop hike in a counterclockwise manner so that meant we had to get most of the climbing done up front as we went up steps like this as well as a few switchbacks

As we made our climb, we got this look back down across the red bridge spanning the stream responsible for the Amida FallsAs we made our climb, we got this look back down across the red bridge spanning the stream responsible for the Amida Falls

During the ascent, we saw this spring or pool of water with some spoons by it suggesting that perhaps you can 'cleanse' yourself or even drink from it?During the ascent, we saw this spring or pool of water with some spoons by it suggesting that perhaps you can 'cleanse' yourself or even drink from it?

The Amida Falls Trail followed this forested area after the ascent flattened outThe Amida Falls Trail followed this forested area after the ascent flattened out

Looking way down at some intermediate cascadeLooking way down at some intermediate cascade

Mom and Dad passing by some small shrine en route to the Amida WaterfallMom and Dad passing by some small shrine en route to the Amida Waterfall

Approaching the Amida FallsApproaching the Amida Falls

This fellow was flying a drone during our visit, but he somehow crashed it and that was the end of thatThis fellow was flying a drone during our visit, but he somehow crashed it and that was the end of that

Signage fronting the tall Amida WaterfallSignage fronting the tall Amida Waterfall

Angled look right up towards the top of the Amida FallsAngled look right up towards the top of the Amida Falls

Checking out these small statues behind an alcove with a weeping wall just to the right of the base of the Amida WaterfallChecking out these small statues behind an alcove with a weeping wall just to the right of the base of the Amida Waterfall

Checking out the Amida Falls from the other side of its rocky plunge poolChecking out the Amida Falls from the other side of its rocky plunge pool

Looking downstream from the base of the Amida WaterfallLooking downstream from the base of the Amida Waterfall

Last direct look at the Amida Waterfall before heading back to the car parkLast direct look at the Amida Waterfall before heading back to the car park

Looking towards the small shrine from the other side of the streamLooking towards the small shrine from the other side of the stream

A closer look at an intermediate cascade as we were heading back to the trailheadA closer look at an intermediate cascade as we were heading back to the trailhead

Mom forging ahead as she was getting near the trailheadMom forging ahead as she was getting near the trailhead

Just about back at the Amida Falls car parkJust about back at the Amida Falls car park


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Checking out the falls from various spots on the right side of its stream


Checking out the falls from various spots on the slippery left side of its stream


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

Since we visited this waterfall from Takayama and next went to Inuyama, this will be how we'll describe the directions. These are by no means the only ways to get to Amida Falls, but it should give you a pretty good idea of which exits from the expressway to take as well as how to navigate up to the car park.

From Takayama, we drove north on the Route 41 before hopping on the Takayama West Expressway. We followed this high speed toll road for about 17km to its junction with the Tokai-Hokuriku Expressway. We then followed the Tokai-Hokuriku Expressway south for about 32km before getting off at the Takasu IC exit.

We then headed northwest on the Route 45 towards the Route 156 at Takasu. Turning left onto Route 156, we then took this road for about 4km to a signposted turnoff to our right just before a bridge over the Nagara River (or Nagaragawa). Once on this turnoff, we drove another 400m more before turning right (by now Amida Falls signs were present). Then, we continued following the signs as we pursued this road for just under the next 3km before keeping left at the fork and driving the remaining 500m or so to the car park and trailhead. Overall, this drive took us about 75 minutes to cover the 63km or so.

Coming from the other direction in Inuyama, which is just north of Nagoya, we would make our way to the Tokai-Hokuriku Expressway and head north on the high speed toll road for about 68km to the Shirotori IC exit. Then, we'd make our way to the Route 156 and head north for about 8.5km before keeping left at the fork just before the 156 would cross the Nagara River (there should be signage for the Amida Waterfall at this point). After another 150m, we would then turned left at the next turnoff (again following the signs) and pursue the rest of the route as stated above for the last 3.5km. Overall, this drive would take us about 90 minutes to cover the 78km or so.

To give you some geographical context, Inuyama was about 25km north of Nagoya (Warning: there was A LOT of traffic and traffic lights on the direct route between these cities). Meanwhile, Takayama was about 85km west of Matsumoto, and Matsumoto was 220km (about 3 hours drive) northwest of Tokyo. Meanwhile, Nagoya was about 344km west of Tokyo (over 4 hours by car but under 3 hours by rail).




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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