Sanbon Waterfall (Sanbon-daki [三本滝])

Norikura Highlands / near Matsumoto / near Takayama, Nagano Prefecture, Japan

Rating: 2.5     Difficulty: 2
Two of the three waterfalls making up the Sanbon Waterfall

TABLE OF CONTENTS



[Back to top]

INTRODUCTION

The Sanbon Waterfall (Sanbon-daki [三本滝]; Sanbon Falls) was a three-segmented waterfall that was one of the more unusual waterfalling experiences that we've had in Japan. From reading the kanji signs pertaining to this falls, we had already guessed that the waterfall had something to do with being in three pieces so it could be translated to mean the triple falls or that each of the three segments of the falls came from different sources (and converged in this one spot). Each of the waterfalls was said to have a height of 50-60m but it was hard for us to get a real handle on them as it was very difficult to try to capture the waterfalls in a meaningful photograph without some dicey scrambling and bouldering. Even though we thought we had gotten an early start to visiting this falls, there were actually a handful of photographers with tripods who were already here seeking out a way to compose their photographs before the crowds would arrive.

The rightmost waterfall, which slid down a sloping bed of a former lava flow, was said to be named Kuroisawa Falls. The middle waterfall, which had more of a vertical plunge, was called Honsawa Falls. This waterfall flowed on the Koonogawa or Koono River, which was the main river system that was also responsible for the Zengoro Falls and Bandokoro Falls among others further downstream. The leftmost of the trio of the Sanbon Waterfalls was said to be called Mumei Falls, which ran on a watercourse that was not officially named.

Although we noticed that there was more than one car park for the Sanbon Waterfall, we started from the highest car park (see directions below), which also happened to be the one yielding the shortest walk. This car park also happened to be where shuttle vehicles could take us up (for a fee) to the top of Mt Norikura for a 360-degree panorama. Anyways, our hike ended up being about 1.8km round trip and took us a little over an hour to do. We started off by hiking gently downhill through a clearing to the right of the large wooden building backing the car park. We then reached a junction where it turned out that this was the beginning and end of a loop hike taking in the Sanbondaki.

Keeping right at this junction (so we were hiking counterclockwise), the clearing eventually closed in and we found ourselves hiking through a pleasant forested area as the trail continued to make its gradual descent. Along the way, there was another trail junction where we kept left to continue to the Sanbon Falls, but I did briefly check out the other trail, which provided a view of some smaller cascades on the Koonogawa River. Anyways, the main waterfall trail then started to go up some steps before traversing a suspension bridge right above a pretty tall intermediate cascade. Just on the other side of the bridge, the trail then bent around some giant rocks before finally terminating at the head of the ravine where the three waterfalls of the Sanbondaki converged.

During our visit, we happened to show up when there were deep contrasts between the brightly lit up area towards the top of the falls and the shadowy areas towards their bottoms. Such conditions weren't conducive to taking meaningful photographs due to the high dynamic range that was required so if I had to do this all over again, I'd either visit late in the afternoon when everything would be in shadow or very early in the morning for the same reasons. Either that or I'd show up on an overcast day when the lighting would be even under the clouds.

On the return hike, we kept right at the junctions to complete the loop. This branch of the trail involved going up a lot of steps so I'd imagine that we made the right choice in doing the hike in a counterclockwise manner as I'd generally recommend gradual descents (to save the knees) and shorter but steeper ascents (so the pain of going uphill isn't prolonged).


[Back to top]

PHOTO JOURNAL

Not far from Sanbon Falls in the Norikura-kogen was the lovely Shirahone Onsen, which was the perfect spot to enjoy a hot spring while viewing the koyoNot far from Sanbon Falls in the Norikura-kogen was the lovely Shirahone Onsen, which was the perfect spot to enjoy a hot spring while viewing the koyo
Sanbon-daki was one of our waterfall excuses to come out to Matsumoto, but the big highlight was the wooden Matsumoto Castle, which was a UNESCO siteSanbon-daki was one of our waterfall excuses to come out to Matsumoto, but the big highlight was the wooden Matsumoto Castle, which was a UNESCO site
To the west of the Norikura-kogen was the charming city of Takayama, which featured the Sanmachi District with its charming and atmospheric alleywaysTo the west of the Norikura-kogen was the charming city of Takayama, which featured the Sanmachi District with its charming and atmospheric alleyways
On the outskirts of the city of Takayama was the Hida Folk Village (or Hida-no-Sato), which was where preserved and re-created traditional folk homes were on displayOn the outskirts of the city of Takayama was the Hida Folk Village (or Hida-no-Sato), which was where preserved and re-created traditional folk homes were on display
This was the car park closest to the Sanbon WaterfallThis was the car park closest to the Sanbon Waterfall

Mom and Dad starting on the trail to the Sanbon FallsMom and Dad starting on the trail to the Sanbon Falls

The hiking trail to Sanbon Falls initially passed through this clearing before reaching the looping partThe hiking trail to Sanbon Falls initially passed through this clearing before reaching the looping part

Once we got out of the clearing, we then hiked through a pleasant forested area that kept us out of the sunOnce we got out of the clearing, we then hiked through a pleasant forested area that kept us out of the sun

Mom and Dad continuing down the forested trail towards the Sanbon FallsMom and Dad continuing down the forested trail towards the Sanbon Falls

My parents could read most of the kanji (since it shares some of the same traditional characters as that of Chinese) so they knew which way to go at these junctionsMy parents could read most of the kanji (since it shares some of the same traditional characters as that of Chinese) so they knew which way to go at these junctions

I took a brief look at where a side trail went and managed to get this view of one of the intermediate cascades further downstream of the Sanbon FallsI took a brief look at where a side trail went and managed to get this view of one of the intermediate cascades further downstream of the Sanbon Falls

On a suspension bridge, this was the view downstream over a couple of drops of an intermediate waterfall closer to the Sanbon FallsOn a suspension bridge, this was the view downstream over a couple of drops of an intermediate waterfall closer to the Sanbon Falls

Direct look at one of the other intermediate cascades en route to the Sanbon FallsDirect look at one of the other intermediate cascades en route to the Sanbon Falls

This was a look up at the rightmost Sanbon Waterfalls called Kuroisawa FallsThis was a look up at the rightmost of the Sanbon Waterfalls called Kuroisawa Falls

This was Honsawa Falls - the middle falls of the Sanbon Falls series, which I believe was the main waterfall as it was directly on the KoonogawaThis was Honsawa Falls - the middle falls of the Sanbon Falls series, which I believe was the main waterfall as it was directly on the Koonogawa

Here's a different look up at the rightmost waterfallHere's a different look up at the rightmost waterfall

One of the photographers scrambled to get a closer look at Honsawa FallsOne of the photographers scrambled to get a closer look at Honsawa Falls

Checking out the rightmost pair of Sanbon Waterfalls though as you can see the lighting wasn't idealChecking out the rightmost pair of Sanbon Waterfalls though as you can see the lighting wasn't ideal

Looking back at the suspension bridge right at the brink of one of the intermediate cascades on the Koonogawa as we were hiking back to the trailheadLooking back at the suspension bridge right at the brink of one of the intermediate cascades on the Koonogawa as we were hiking back to the trailhead

Crossing over the suspension bridge with an intermediate waterfall tumbling to the leftCrossing over the suspension bridge with an intermediate waterfall tumbling to the left

It was a cool and crisp morning when we did the Sanbon Falls hikeIt was a cool and crisp morning when we did the Sanbon Falls hike

The last section of the loop hike involved going up a bunch of steps. The people coming down were doing the loop hike in the opposite direction than how we did itThe last section of the loop hike involved going up a bunch of steps. The people coming down were doing the loop hike in the opposite direction than how we did it

Dad going up the steps while Mom was way aheadDad going up the steps while Mom was way ahead

Finally back at the car park for the Sanbon WaterfallFinally back at the car park for the Sanbon Waterfall


[Back to top]

VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Examining all three segments of the Sanbon Falls from the end of the official trail


Checking out some more intermediate cascades downstream of the main falls as seen from some suspension bridge


360 degree sweep from a footbridge on an alternate trail examining some cascades just downstream of the main falls


[Back to top]

DRIVING DIRECTIONS

We drove to the Sanbon Waterfall from Matsumoto so this is how we'll describe the driving directions. We first drove west on the Route 158 from the JR Station at the city center for around 32km. As we were deep into the scenic mountains skirting the Azusako (Lake Azusa), the 158 passed through a series of tunnels, but in one of the openings between tunnels was the turnoff going to our left onto the Road 84 into the Norikura Highlands (or Norikura-kogen or 乗鞍高原). We then followed the Road 84 for about 17km (going past the National Park Vacation Center en route) to the end of the public access part of the road. This was where there was the car park for the Sanbon Falls, which had a fairly big lot next to a large wooden building. The hiking trail began to the right side of the building. Overall, this drive would take us a little over an hour. It was roughly 15-20 minutes drive past the Bandokoro Falls.

To give you some geographical context, Matsumoto was around 3.5 hours by train from Tokyo. As for the context by self-driving, the direct route passing through Kofu en route was said to be 221km or about 2.5-3 hours. Going in the opposite direction, Matsumoto would be 85km or under 2 hours drive east of the charming city of Takayama.




[Back to top]

ITINERARIES

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




[Back to top]

MAP OF THE FALLS



Click here for the full World of Waterfalls map





[Back to top]

TRIP REPORTS

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




[Back to top]

TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




[Back to top]

NEARBY WATERFALLS




[Back to top]

RELATED PAGES



Have You Been To This Waterfall?

Share your experience!

Click here to see visitor comments for this waterfall

Click here to see visitor comments for other waterfalls that we've visited in this region

Click here to go to the Comments Main Page

You can use the form below, but if you find our host's interface too troublesome to use (especially if you're trying to upload photos), then just send a text submission anyways using the form, but also let us know that you'd like to attach photos. If you've provided an email address via the form, then we can reply back acknowledging your request, and you can then reply to that email with your photo attachments. We're very sorry about this, but there's not much we can do about SBI's terrible interface.



[Go to the Japan Waterfalls Page]

[Go to the Asia Page]


[Return from Sanbon Waterfall to the World of Waterfalls Home Page]