About Fudo Waterfall (fudo-no-taki [不動の滝])
The Hachimantai Fudo Waterfall (fudo-no-taki [不動の滝]; “Motionless Falls”) was basically a stopover waterfall for us roughly midway on our long drive between Hakodate and Sendai.
In Japan, there are many waterfalls waterfalls that are “motionless” or “unmoving”, which is what fudo means, but this particular one resides in Sakuramatsu Park near Hachimantai in the Iwate Prefecture.
Apparently, the name is given to those waterfalls that tend to have seen little erosion in their underlying bedrock compared to the “moving” ones.
So you know there’s that familiar combination of hard lava rock layer (typically basalt) with a watercourse going over it.
Nevertheless, this was quite the serene place to recharge our batteries, so to speak, especially since this happened to be a “power spot” that served as a training ground for practioners of Shugendo.
We knew something was up when we took the narrow access road leading to the Fudo Falls because we were greeted with a huge torii gate just past a railroad crossing (see directions below).
Anyways, Shugendo was a particular type of religion that pre-dated written history in Japan.
Since the Nara period in the 7th century, it evolved into its more current form incorporating aspects of local folk practices, Shinto, and Buddhism.
The end result of all this holiness was a waterfalling experience with shrines (including the Sakuramatsu Shrine where miracles are said to have occurred), religious symbols, and inscriptions.
All of these things added a sense of mysticism around this 15m tall waterfall fronted by a red-railed bridge over the Kunitarusawa Stream (国樽沢).
Indeed, taken together, all these characteristics were probably what compelled the Japan Ministry of the Environment to declare the Fudo Falls as one of Japan’s Top 100 Waterfalls in a 1990 publication.
Experiencing the Fudo Falls
My GPS logs suggest that it’s roughly a 600-800m loop walk from the car park to the Fudo Falls and back.
It doesn’t matter which way you go though we happened to do this in a counterclockwise direction, and that’s how I’ll describe our experience.
After getting through the initial plaza where there were vending machines, a restroom facility, and some kind of rest house, we then kept to the right at an intersection by a pillar with Japanese inscriptions on it.
We then proceeded through a series of torii gates (both gray and red) along a path lined with tall trees before reaching steps leading up to a worshipping area after about 250-300m or so from the car park.
That worshipping area was the Sakuramatsu Shrine, and I’ve seen quite a few people go through the ritual involving bowing and clapping before its opening.
Continuing past the Sakuramatsu Shrine spur, in another 100m or so, the trail made another split, but this time the short spur on the right went to some kind of shrine built into a cave at the bottom of a cliff.
This “cliff cave shrine” (called the Fudodo) was closed during our visit in July 2023, but it was fronted by pillars and some trio of small statues in a shelter facing the building.
In any case, just going left at the trail split for another 50m, we then reached the Fudo Falls with a small shrine and closeup viewing area with lots of swirling mist keeping things cool.
The trail then descended towards a bridge with red railings over the Kunitarusawa where we could get another frontal view of the Fudo Falls.
However, continuing even further to the other side of the bridge a short ways and then looking back, that was where we got the signature view of the Fudo Falls fronted by the red bridge.
At this point, we were around 300-400m away from the car park, and the remaining 300-400m of the walk pretty much followed the Kunitarusawa downstream in a serene streamside setting.
Overall, we spent about an hour away from the car, which gave us the re-charge that we needed to finish the long drive south towards Sendai.
The Fudo Waterfall resides within the boundaries of Hachimantai City in Northwestern Iwate Prefecture, Japan. It may be administered by the local authorities of Hachimantai City. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting the Hachimantai City website.
The Fudo Waterfall resides in the boundaries of Hachimantai City in Iwate Prefecture.
There are many ways to get here, but I’ll just describe the driving directions from the perspective of road tripping along the E4 Tohoku Expressway starting from the Ashiro IC exit.
From the Ashiro IC exit, we then drove south on the Route 282 through the town for about 2.6km before turning left onto a well-signed turnoff for the Fudo Falls.
Immediately after turning left and crossing a railroad (Hanawa Line), we then passed through a large torii gate before driving the remaining 2.2km to the Sakuramatsu Park car park at the end of the road.
This last stretch can be narrow in spots, but generally wasn’t too stressful of a drive as it never became a true single-lane road.
Overall, this last stretch on local roads would take between 15-30 minutes.
For some geographical context, Hachimantai was about 38km (over 30 minutes drive) north of Morioka, 100km (about 90 minutes drive) southwest of Hachinohe, 151km (about 2 hours drive) southeast of Aomori, 139km (about 2.5 hours drive) east of Akita, 208km (over 2.5 hours drive) north of Sendai, and 574km (over 6.5 hours drive) north of Tokyo.
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