The Harafudo Waterfall (Harafudo-taki [原不動滝]; also just called Harafudo Falls) was one of the more obscure waterfalls that we visited as it was off the beaten track well west of the Kansai area (where the cities of Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara are located) while being pretty much right in the middle between Himeji and Tottori. My parents looked at the kanji of this waterfall's name and had this quizzical look because it literally translated as the "motionless waterfall". We're not certain what that meant, especially since the falls was clearly moving. Even the view you see pictured at the top of this page came from a suspension bridge that was also moving with the winds as well as the steps of each person on it. Perhaps its appearance on a 1969 15 yen stamp essentially frozen the falls in time? Regardless, this was said to be one of Japan's Top 100 Waterfalls as gazetted by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, and our scenic rating for this falls certainly corroborated their survey.
Our visit to this falls was pretty straightforward. From a pretty well-signed car park (see directions below), we walked along a road going past a restroom facility as well as some kind of outdoor gym or playground. We then passed through a little shelter where there was a Buddha statue as well as a small row of Bake-Jizo-like statues (like a smaller version of the ones we saw near Nikko). Then, beyond these things, the trail eventually crossed a bridge over the Hachijogawa Stream before reaching the official trailhead some 450m from the car park. At the trailhead, there was a booth collecting an entrance fee, which was said to be about 200 yen per adult when we were there. Actually, our visit occurred before anyone was in the booth so we dropped the needed yen in a drop hole based on the honor system.
Beyond the entrance booth, the trail then went across a suspension bridge traversing the Hachijogawa before ascending a series of steps. Near a junction, we kept right to go onto another suspension bridge, but this time, it led to a dead-end, and along the bridge, we were able to look directly down at the impressive Harafudo Waterfall. We were never really able to get a clean look at the falls because of the presence of support wires that kept the suspension bridge where it was. From looking at the rugged terrain around the bridge, it would have been difficult to get such an intimate and non-blocked view of the falls so I guess you gotta take the good with the bad.
This was actually a three-tiered falls with a cumulative height of 88m. Given the waterfall's dimensions, it was difficult to get that all-encompassing look at the whole thing in one go. As if the size wasn't enough, there were also lots of foliage around the waterfall, which made it hard to get that clean all look of all the drops in one go as well. But that foliage also meant that it would be an ideal spot to see the koyo (Autumn colors). Unfortunately, as you can see on the photos on this page, our visit probably came a few weeks too early for that. Nevertheless, my parents and I enjoyed a very peaceful and relaxing time here thanks to its relative obscurity.
When we had our fill of the view of the Harafudo Waterfall from the suspension bridge, we then backtracked to the trail junction at the start of the bridge. Then, we explored the other trail to see where it went, but after going up several steep steps, we reached a trail closure where we managed to get a more elevated but partially blocked view of the Harafudo Falls. So we couldn't say for sure where else this trail went since we didn't cross the closure. And so we turned back at this point and went right back to the car park.
All told, we wound up spending about a little over an hour away from the car. The hike itself (not including the part that was closed) was on the order of about 1.4km round trip. Still, we spent lots of time admiring the falls and going on that detour to see where that other trail went. So I'd imagine that a more focused visit could be more on the order of about 45 minutes.
We'll describe the driving directions from Tottori since that was where we made our drive from. Yet even with this starting point, there were some options on which way to go. So we'll start with a couple of approaches from Tottori first, then we'll go over the driving directions from Himeji since the Harafudo Waterfall and the city of Himeji did share the same prefecture.
From looking at the map, the most direct route (and the one that the Japanese GPS had us go on) from Tottori was by taking the Route 29 for about 60km all the way to the signed turnoff for the Harafudo Waterfalls, which would be on the right side of the Route 29. Once on the turnoff, then we'd follow the local road for a little over the next kilometer before parking at the well-signed car park on the left. This drive was said to take around 90 minutes. However, given that the Route 29 initially had lots of traffic lights and then twisted about on mountain roads, we were skeptical of the estimated drive times by GoogleMaps or the GPS. So we actually took an alternate slightly longer route, but it took advantage of the Tottori Expressway, which was toll free (actually it appeared all the expressways in Tottori Prefecture were toll free during our visit).
So from Tottori City, we drove south on the Route 53 before it became the expressway, which we then followed for over 40km or so. We then took an exit at an IC near Ohara, which wrapped us around to the Route 429, which we then took north and east for the next 30km before turning left onto the Route 29. From there, we followed the Route 29 north for about 6km before turning left onto the signposted turnoff for the Harafudo Falls. Then, we followed the last kilometer on the local road to the signed car park on our left. This drive also took us around 90 minutes.
Finally, coming from Himeji, it was recommended to drive north (either on Route 67 or the Bantan-Renraku Toll Road) towards the Chugoku Expressway. Heading west on the Chugoku Expressway, you would then exit at the Yamazaki IC before taking the 29 north all the way to the signposted turnoff for the Harafudo Waterfall. This drive was also said to take over 90 minutes.
And for some geographical context, Himeji was about 95km west of Osaka (about 90 minutes by car or by train), 62km west of Kobe (over an hour's drive or a little over an hour's train ride), and 119km south of Tottori (about 2 hours by car or train).
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