Bandokoro Waterfall (Bandokoro Otaki [番所大滝])

Norikura Highlands, Nagano Prefecture, Japan

Rating: 3     Difficulty: 2
Bandokoro Waterfall and the viewing platform sheltering us from most of the mist

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

The Bandokoro Waterfall (Bandokoro Otaki [番所大滝]; Bandokoro Great Falls or just Bandokoro Falls) was one of three notable waterfalls in the Norikura Kogen (Norikura Highlands) of the Japan Alps and within reach as a day trip out of Matsumoto. Unfortunately, this was the only waterfall we were able to see as we missed out on Zengorou daki (Zengorou Waterfall) and Sanbon daki (Sanbon Waterfall) as we apparently underestimated how limited not having a rental car would be in this area.

It turned out that this was probably the one time on our trip where the language barrier made it difficult to use the local buses here (which were quite infrequent as some interarrival times were within an hour but more often more than a couple hours!). Julie wondered why they didn't have a Tourist Info Center at the Shin-Shimashima Bus Terminal/Train Station instead of deep in the Norikura Kogen where we had to take an expensive bus (at least 1150円 per person) to get up there anyways! And I have to agree with her!

Some kind of hydro scheme downstream of the Bandokoro Waterfall We stopped at the Bandokoro-daki stop (see directions below), where we went on a short walk descending down some steps towards a very misty overlook platform. The falls was definitely no slouch as it forcefully tumbled in a trapezoidal shape some 35m in height I believe. But with the force of the water when we saw it, there was a high volume of spray that wafted right up from the base of the falls and right into the sheltered platform. The net effect was us attempting to get a clean photograph that was next to impossible to achieve.

The walking path continued further downstream towards some hydro scheme. It appeared the path continued even further down the river, but we didn't explore any further than this.

Heading back the other way, we walked on a path that went further upstream above the Bandokoro Waterfall. It was a pleasant riverside walkway passing by a pair of other small but fairly picturesque waterfalls.

From trying to translate the kanji characters, one of the waterfalls was 8m and was called the Bandokoro Little Waterfall. Another one was an even tinier waterfall in a picturesque but dark alcove, but the kanji didn't make sense to me as its first two characters said something to effect of 1000 Simple something (where I didn't know how to translate the last character). In any case, the riverside walk was a pleasant stroll through admittedly, we were concerned about the bus situation the whole time we were doing this excursion.

Eventually, another 30 minutes or so of walking, we reached the main road again where we decided to walk back down the hill towards the Bandokoro stop. Had we persisted on remaining in the area, it would've been another 2.9km walk uphill towards the visitor center.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

Direct view of the Bandokoro-OtakiDirect view of the Bandokoro-Otaki
Bandokoro-daki was our waterfall excuse to come out here, but the big highlight was the wooden Matsumoto Castle, which was a UNESCO siteBandokoro-daki was our waterfall excuse to come out here, but the big highlight was the wooden Matsumoto Castle, which was a UNESCO site
We were able to do a shoes-off tour of the interior of the Matsumoto-jo, which mazed us up and down its structure with some impressive views of the surroundingsWe were able to do a shoes-off tour of the interior of the Matsumoto-jo, which mazed us up and down its structure with some impressive views of the surroundings
The charming Nakamachidori District of Matsumoto had some interesting shops and a little shrine that was interesting to visitThe charming Nakamachidori District of Matsumoto had some interesting shops and a little shrine that was interesting to visit
The day before we went on our Bandokoro-Otaki adventure, we visited the Matsumoto-jo or Matsumoto CastleThe day before we went on our Bandokoro-Otaki adventure, we visited the Matsumoto-jo or Matsumoto Castle; this was the main reason why we went all the way out to Matsumoto in the first place and the Bandokoro Waterfall was our waterfalling excuse to linger here

Looking across the river towards some rugged cliff walls as we were making our way to Bandokoro-OtakiLooking across the river towards some rugged cliff walls as we were making our way to Bandokoro-Otaki

Direct look at the Bandokoro Waterfall with some hint at its precipitous contextDirect look at the Bandokoro Waterfall with some hint at its precipitous context

Looking upstream from the small hydro scheme as the river was channeling towards itLooking upstream from the small hydro scheme as the river was channeling towards it

Julie on the lush walk skirting the river and the gorgeJulie on the lush walk skirting the river and the gorge

Julie continues to walk further upstream from the Bandokoro WaterfallJulie continues to walk further upstream from the Bandokoro Waterfall

This was the 8m Little Bandokoro Waterfall, which was one of the attractive cascades just upstream from Bandokoro-OtakiThis was the 8m Little Bandokoro Waterfall, which was one of the attractive cascades just upstream from Bandokoro-Otaki

I guessed the name of the 8m waterfall based on trying to translate this signI guessed the name of the 8m waterfall based on trying to translate this sign

Julie continues along the lush walk upstream of both Bandokoro WaterfallsJulie continues along the lush walk upstream of both Bandokoro Waterfalls

Another of the smaller cascades upstream from Bandokoro-OtakiAnother of the smaller cascades upstream from the Bandokoro Waterfall

After our abridged Bandokoro adventure, we returned to Matsumoto and checked out the charming Nakamachi-dori DistrictAfter our abridged Bandokoro adventure, we returned to Matsumoto and checked out the charming Nakamachi-dori District


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

From Matsumoto, we took an early train (I don't think it was part of the JR line) to the Shin-Shimashima Station. From there, we caught a bus that went from Shin-Shimashima Station to the Bandokoro-dake Stop. I guess typically the route we took would continue to the National Vacation Village and ultimately to the Shirahone Onsen Spa area, neither of which we reached as we were content to see the Bandokoro-daki.

It turned out that after visiting the Bandokoro Waterfall, I think we had to either catch a different connecting bus at the National Vacation Village to get to the Norikura dake passing by the two other waterfalls we wanted to go to or do some serious walking given the inconvenient bus schedules.

In any case, our itinerary turned out to be the following:
  1. Caught 6:00 train (not on JR network) from Matsumoto to Shin-Shimashima Station
  2. Caught 7:00 bus (I think) from Shin-Shimashima Station to Bandokoro-daki stop
  3. Arrived at Bandokoro-daki stop at 8:00 and started walking
  4. Caught 10:18 bus back to Shin-Shimashima Station
  5. Around 11:20, waited for train back to Matsumoto and arrived there at 12:00
The main road where we waited for the return bus to Matsumoto As for the drama regarding our bus situation and language barrier, the misunderstanding was that we got a discounted fare that included both the train ride from Matsumoto as well as the bus ride that went up to the Shirahone Onsen Spa. But along the way, we thought we could get off the bus at the Bandokoro Stop, then either walk or catch other buses continuing uphill towards the other two waterfalls in the Norikura Highlands. Unfortunately, the discount bus tickets we got only worked for one or two buses in each direction and their schedules were such that it was impossible to visit all the waterfalls while still being able to return to Matsumoto.

The moment we caught buses outside the timetable given on our discount tickets to Shirahone Onsen Spa, they confiscated our ticket, tried to return some money (which was far less than what we paid) and we were supposed to pay the remaining fares as we went on the buses from here on out. We thought we were getting ripped off, but in actuality, they were making us pay a la carte plus a penalty change fee for switching out of the discount ticket.

Sound confusing? Well, imagine trying to figure this out with the language barrier. The workers didn't speak English and all we had was a phrase book that only got us so far.

Anyways, for geographical context, Matsumoto was around 3.5 hours by train from Tokyo.




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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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