About Ginga Waterfall (Ginga-no-taki [銀河の滝]) and Ryusei Waterfall (Ryusei-no-taki [流星の滝])
The Ginga Waterfall (Ginga-no-taki [銀河の滝]; Ginga Falls) and Ryusei Waterfall (Ryusei-no-taki [流星の滝]; Ryusei Falls) comprised yet another set of twin Japanese waterfalls that we noticed during our Japan 2009 trip. The other two twin sets were Shomyo-daki and Hannoki-no-taki and Shiraito-no-taki and Otodome-no-taki.
What really made the Ginga and Ryusei Waterfalls stand out for Julie and I was the huge rock cliff protruding between the two falls with hints of a snowy mountainous backcountry right behind the scene. It wasn’t often that giant waterfall pairs like this could be seen so close together. And we thought highly enough of this pairing to give it a spot on our Top 10 Asia Waterfalls List.
Being in Hokkaido (North Sea Island as the Chinese would refer to it as reflected in the kanji), it was also a pretty peaceful experience visiting this waterfall pairing. It very much reminded Julie and I of how waterfalling should be, which was easily lost when we were waterfalling throughout much of Asia (given the crowds, the concrete paths in forest, the commercialism, etc.).
Nearby these falls was the Sounkyo Gorge where there was also a popular onsen complex. Had we been really healthy and knew how to survive in bear country, then we could’ve also taken a 7-hour long trek through nearly pristine alpine scenery that hooked up with the Tenninkyo Gorge on the other side of Daisetsuzan National Parki (Big Snow Mountain if I read the kanji correctly). Needless to say, we didn’t do that (especially with Julie’s phobia of bears, which were bigger than the California black bears that we were more familiar with). But overall, we spent a little over an hour to experience the upper viewpoints plus all the short hiking involved.
Right behind the shops at the large car park (see directions below), we walked up a series of stairs with wood chips in them (probably to keep the path from getting too muddy). These stairs led us to a pair of viewing decks. The middle viewing deck was about half-way up and provided a view much better than the one we got at the car park. However, the upper viewing deck was even better as we were further above the tree line that would’ve otherwise blocked parts of the falls in the distance from our line-of-sight.
It was interesting to note that local signs here had also referred to this waterfall pairing as the “husband and wife” falls. Which one was the hubby and which one was the wife? We’ll leave it up to you to decide though we can probably guess in a mostly male-dominated society which one’s which.
Driving here took us around 75- to 90 minutes or so (roughly 70km) from Asahikawa though the speed limits of 50km/h were painfully sloooow. The route we took was the Hwy 40 out of the city of Asahikawa and eventually onto Hwy 39 to the signposted turnoff for the Ginga Waterfall and Ryusei Waterfall.
And speaking of which, we thought it was a good idea to hire a car in Hokkaido instead of catching the buses which seemed to come here quite infrequently. I’d say Hokkaido was generally the exception to the rule of trusting the excellent Japanese public transport system (though there were more remote parts of Honshu as well that might have been better served by rental car as well).
For geographical context, Asahikawa was 137km (2 hours by car or 2 hours by train) northeast of Sapporo. Sapporo was about 9.5 hours by train or 90 minutes by flight from Tokyo. It was also possible to fly to Sapporo from Osaka (under 2 hours) or Kobe (2 hours; this was how we did it on our trip).
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