Naena Waterfall (Naena-no-taki [苗名滝])

Suginosawa / Myoko / near Nagano, Niigata Prefecture, Japan

Rating: 3.5     Difficulty: 2
Naena Waterfall surrounded by the koyo

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

The Naena Waterfall (Naena-no-taki [苗名滝]; or Naena Falls) was one of our more pleasant waterfalling experiences in Japan. As you can see from the photo at the top of this page, we happened to have timed our visit for the near peak of the koyo (or Autumn colors), and it complemented quite well this classically-shaped rectangular 55m tall waterfall flanked by pronounced basalt columns. The Naena Falls was not only one of Japan's Top 100 Waterfalls according to the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, but it was also very popular as we shared this falls with dozens (maybe well over a hundred) people mostly from tour buses. Yet even with the busy visit, there were plenty of ways to experience the falls that it never really felt like it was overwhelming nor stifling. We've been made aware that this waterfall was also referred to as the "Earthquake Falls" because of how loud its thundering roar can be and we can confirm that indeed it was pretty loud around this gushing waterfall.

Our visit to the Naena Waterfall was quite straightforward as we followed a well maintained 500m path from the cafes and shops flanking the car park to a suspension bridge crossing the Sekigawa (関川 or Seki River). Backing the bridge were some terraced dams, which I'm guessing was there for flood control. On the other side of the bridge, we had to get over this dam infrastructure by going up several flights of steps spiralling up past the top of the dam walls and then continuing on a more conventional riverside trail.

We started to get our first views of the beautiful Naena Falls fronted by a suspension bridge crossing the Sekigawa after about 400m from the trailhead. Continuing another 100m, we then reached a trail junction where we could go right to view the falls from the bouncy suspension bridge over the Sekigawa or continue straight for some more informal views of the falls from an angle. That trail keeping left of the bridge was more overgrown and muddy (therefore slippery) due to the spray coming from the falls. We didn't pursue going all the way on that trail so we don't know where the trail ultimately went. However, we did cross the suspension bridge and had the opportunity to do some boulder scrambles to get as close to the Naena Waterfall as was safely possible. There was a shelter here as well as some interpretive signposts (in kanji) talking about the Japan's Top 100 List.

Overall, we spent a little over an hour away from the car. We easily could have spent less time here, but we were so captivated by the koyo as well as the waterfall itself that we really took our time. It has been said that the peak koyo of this area would be in mid-November so we can only imagine just how much more colorful this place would be if we thought our early arrival was pretty already!




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PHOTO JOURNAL

Prior to our visit to the Naena Waterfall, we had driven the Hwy 292 from Kusatsu Onsen, which was where we got our first taste of the koyo on the tripPrior to our visit to the Naena Waterfall, we had driven the Hwy 292 from Kusatsu Onsen, which was where we got our first taste of the koyo on the trip
We drove towards the Naena Falls from the city of Matsumoto (where we were staying), which was famous for its castleWe drove towards the Naena Falls from the city of Matsumoto (where we were staying), which was famous for its castle
In addition to the Matsumoto Castle, the alleyways of the Nakamachi-dori District of the city was also an atmospheric strollIn addition to the Matsumoto Castle, the alleyways of the Nakamachi-dori District of the city was also an atmospheric stroll
The nearest car park to Naena Falls was flanked by cafes and shops, which even included this fountain and pond amongst themThe nearest car park to Naena Falls was flanked by cafes and shops, which even included this fountain and pond amongst them

The start of the 500m Naena Waterfall Trail began at the far side of the nearest car parkThe start of the 500m Naena Waterfall Trail began at the far side of the nearest car park

Crossing the first suspension bridge traversing the Sekigawa River en route to the Naena FallsCrossing the first suspension bridge traversing the Sekigawa River en route to the Naena Falls

Looking upstream from the suspension bridge towards a series of terraced dams that I believe were there for flood controlLooking upstream from the suspension bridge towards a series of terraced dams that I believe were there for flood control

Looking downstream from the first suspension bridgeLooking downstream from the first suspension bridge

Looking across one of the tiers of the terraced dam towards the mountains surrounding the areaLooking across one of the tiers of the terraced dam towards the mountains surrounding the area

In order to get past the dam walls, we had to go up these spiral stepsIn order to get past the dam walls, we had to go up these spiral steps

After getting past the dam walls, we then continued walking upstream along the Seki River while being treated to these views as the koyo was just starting to work its way down to lower elevationsAfter getting past the dam walls, we then continued walking upstream along the Seki River while being treated to these views as the koyo was just starting to work its way down to lower elevations

We were sharing the Naena Falls Trail with many people that were in tour groupsWe were sharing the Naena Falls Trail with many people that were in tour groups

This was our first look at the Naena WaterfallThis was our first look at the Naena Waterfall

Zoomed in look at the suspension bridge fronting the Naena WaterfallZoomed in look at the suspension bridge fronting the Naena Waterfall

Once we were on the suspension bridge, we then got cleaner looks at the Naena WaterfallOnce we were on the suspension bridge, we then got cleaner looks at the Naena Waterfall

This was the view of Naena Falls from the other side of the suspension bridgeThis was the view of Naena Falls from the other side of the suspension bridge

To the left of the suspension bridge, we explored a little more to see where the trail wentTo the left of the suspension bridge, we explored a little more to see where the trail went

The further up the trail we went, the more slippery and muddy the trail became so we chose not to go too farThe further up the trail we went, the more slippery and muddy the trail became so we chose not to go too far

This view of the Naena Waterfall with its pronounced basalt columns was our reward for exploring the track to the left of the bridgeThis view of the Naena WAterfall with its pronounced basalt columns was our reward for exploring the track to the left of the bridge

This was our last glimpse of the Naena Falls before we continued further down the trailThis was our last glimpse of the Naena Falls before we continued further down the trail

Mom going back across the first suspension bridge as we were getting close to the car parkMom going back across the first suspension bridge as we were getting close to the car park


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Long movie starting from a distant lookout before approaching the swinging bridge for more footage from there


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

The Naena Waterfall was north of the city of Nagano and south of the northern coastal city of Joetsu. Given its relative close proximity to Nagano, we're aware that this waterfall can be visited using public transport. However, since we drove to this waterfall, this is how we'll discuss the directions since we can only talk about how we've managed to make our visit.

Starting from Matsumoto, enter the Nagano Expressway heading north at the Matsumoto IC entrance. Then drive north towards the city of Nagano, keeping left to stay on the northbound lanes of the Joshinnetsu Expressway. Remain on this expressway until the Myokokogen IC exit (roughly 104km north of the Matsumoto IC).

After exiting at the Myokokogen IC, head south on the Route 18, we then followed the signs which directed us to turn right onto the Route 39. We took this road for over 6km following the signs as it passed through the town of Suginosawa before arriving at the well-developed car park. There were plenty of parking spaces considering how popular this place can get. Overall, the drive from Matsumoto took us a little over 90 minutes.

For some geographical context, the city of Nagano was about 30km south of Suginosawa (via a combination of the Route 37, Route 119, and Route 280 before hitting the Route 39). Nagano was about 70km (75 minutes drive or 90 minutes by train) from Matsumoto and 242km (3 hours drive or about 2.5 hours by train) from Tokyo. Joetsu was about 64km north of Nagano (about 90 minutes drive or by train).




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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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