About Akiu Waterfall (Akiu Otaki [秋保大滝])
The Akiu Waterfall (Akiu Otaki [秋保大滝]; also Akiu Great Falls or just Akiu Falls) was a nice 55m waterfall on the outskirts of Sendai towards the northern part of Honshu in the Miyagi-ken (Miyagi Prefecture).
It was said to be one of the three most beautiful waterfalls in Japan though that could be debatable after what we had seen throughout the country over the years.
Still, this one was no slouch and it was the primary reason we visited the Akiu Onsen spa area in the first place during our initial visit to this part of Japan back in late May 2009 and then again in July 2023.
I’m guessing the name of the waterfall had something to do with Autumn since the first kanji character is Chinese for Autumn.
Experiencing the Akiu Great Falls – View from the Top
Fronting the entrance to the waterfall was a temple or shrine (said to be dedicated to Fudomyoo or God of Fire) just beyond the Akiu Otaki bus stop and the torii at its entrance.
From there, we took a short paved walkway that brought us to a small viewing area perched high across the Akiu Great Falls.
It was at this cozy viewing deck that we got ourselves a decent top down look at the waterfall as well as some of the surrounding mountains for context that supported the upper reaches of the Natori River.
For all intents and purposes, this is all there is to a visit to the Akiu Waterfall if you’re just content to be around the Fudoson Shrine and the waterfall’s lookout.
However, beyond the viewing deck, there was a forested trail that also linked this main viewing area complex to a local road leading to a bridge spanning the impressive gorge carved out by the Natori River.
On the other side of the bridge was the start of a steep walk down to the base of the Akiu Waterfall.
We managed to do that aspect of the Akiu Great Falls experience as an extended walk, but we realized after the fact that it could have been much easier to just drive to the parking area across the road from its trailhead.
Experiencing the Akiu Great Falls – View from the Bottom
When we first visited Akiu Otaki in late May 2009, the path to the base was closed off due to damage on the trail resulting from landslides (this seemed to be a common issue at just about all Japanese Waterfalls).
It took 14 years before we finally had a chance to experience this aspect of the Akiu Waterfall (in July 2023).
Although you could drive right to the far side of the bridge over the Natori River to get started, we managed to do a 400m up-and-down hike plus 300m roadside walk to extend our visit from the Akiu Fudoson Shrine.
Once at the north end of the bridge over the Natori River, we then descended some steps before following a ledge that provided some teasing and unusual views of the Akiu Great Falls.
Eventually, we reached some steps that initially ascended before making a steep descent over steps alongside a rock wall that seemed to have lots of netting to control the inevitable rock fall here.
The descent went before a mostly-concealed side waterfall before requiring a slippery scramble on boulders to get a cleaner look at the base of the Akiu Great Falls throwing up a lot of spray.
We had to be very careful given the turbulence of the Natori River, but we were content with our views from the river’s banks (though there was a disturbing amount of litter left behind during our visit, which was quite unusual in Japan).
Overall, the out-and-back upside down walk to the base of the falls and back took us around 45 minutes total while the 700m linking trail took us another 20-30 minutes or so (in each direction).
Experiencing the Akiu Great Falls – Mass Transit vs. Self-Driving
Our first visit to the Akiu Onsen and Akiu Otaki Waterfall took place via public transportation.
In that situation, we caught a shinkansen or bullet train from Tokyo to Sendai, and then we took a bus to the Akiu Onsen Resort before catching another local bus to the Akiu Otaki Waterfall.
Unfortunately, the bus service for this area (while possible) wasn’t all that frequent (think once every couple of hours or longer), and that didn’t exactly make for a peaceful visit (so as to not miss the next bus).
However, when we came back 14 years later, we were wiser and self-drove to this location, where we were able to come and go at will.
Of course, freedom isn’t free in Japan, especially when you consider the pretty hefty road tolls involved in using their extensive expressway system.
Nevertheless, just even having the public transportation option just tells you how well-connected the Akiu Otaki Waterfall is as well as how close it was to the Sendai City Center (roughly 20-30 minutes drive).
See the directions below to get an idea of how we were able to pull off our visit via public transporation (as well as by self-driving).
It’s also worth noting that while we based ourselves at the Akiu Onsen, we were within walking distance of the Rairaikyo Gorge, which was a relaxing nature walk within a forested gorge area interspersed with interesting rocks and mini-cliffs.
Inside the gorge itself, we encountered at least two small named waterfalls – Shigure-taki Falls (時雨滝) and Misuji-taki Falls (三筋滝).
The Akiu Waterfall resides in the Sendai area of the Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. It is administered by the Miyagi Prefectural Government. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) website.
Since we visited the Akiu Waterfall both by public transportation as well as self-driving, we’ll describe how we managed to accomplish each way in this section of the write-up.
Driving to the Akiu Otaki Waterfall
From Sendai city center, we drove west on the Route 48 for roughly 16km as the expressway gave way to local streets.
We then drove on the Route 457 for around 3.7km to its junction with the Route 62.
Next, we continued west on the Route 62 for about 7km before reaching the fairly big car park on the right.
Note that in order to drive to the car park across from the trailhead to the Akiu Great Falls’ base, there was an easy-to-miss turnoff 400m east of the big car park for Akiu Otaki and its neighboring Fudoson Shrine.
Once on this narrow, local (but paved) road, we then drove nearly 400m to the car park on the right just past the big bridge over the Natori River.
Overall, this drive took us around 20 minutes.
Taking Public Transportation to the Akiu Otaki Waterfall
The buses from the Akiu Onsen to/from Akiu Waterfall only leaves about 3 times a day on weekdays as well as on Sundays and holidays, and 4 times a day on Saturdays.
Just to give you an idea of the logistics behind our visit to the waterfall, it was as follows:
- Caught shinkansen from Tokyo Station (東京駅) to Sendai Station (仙台駅) on Tohoku Line at 7:36 arriving at 9:12
- Caught local bus from Sendai Station (仙台駅前) to Akiu Onsen (秋保温泉湯元) leaving at 10:39
- Dropped luggage at reception of accommodation in Akiu Onsen area before noon
- Caught local bus from Akiu Sato Center (秋保文化の里センター; walked from hotel) to Akiu Otaki (秋保大滝) at 13:16
- Caught local bus from Akiu Otaki (秋保大滝) to Akiu Sato Center (秋保文化の里センター) at 15:32
To give you some additional geographical context, Sendai was about 18km west of Akiu Onsen (over 30 minutes by car or a little over an hour by bus) and 368km north of Tokyo (over 4 hours by car or 1 hour 45 minutes by train). The Akiu Waterfall was about 14km west of Akiu Onsen (about 20 minutes by car or over 30 minutes by bus).
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