Hirayu Waterfall (Hirayu Otaki [平湯大滝])

Takayama / Hirayu Onsen / Shirahone Onsen, Gifu, Japan

About Hirayu Waterfall (Hirayu Otaki [平湯大滝])


Hiking Distance: 500m one-way shuttle or 1km round trip
Suggested Time: 15-30 minutes

Date first visited: 2016-10-20
Date last visited: 2016-10-20

Waterfall Latitude: 36.17712
Waterfall Longitude: 137.55954

The Hirayu Waterfall (Hirayu Otaki [平湯大滝]; also called Hirayu Great Falls or just Hirayu Falls) was a classic columnar waterfall that was accentuated by the onset of the koyo (Autumn colors) during our visit.

An emphatic member of the Japan’s Top 100 Waterfalls from the Ministry of Japan, we were impressed by its size at 64m tall and 6m in width.

Hirayu_Falls_016_10192016 - Hirayu Great Falls or Hirayu Otaki
Hirayu Great Falls or Hirayu Otaki

Backed by the volume of the Big or Great Falls River (Otakigawa; also written as 大滝川), this was a permanent, year-round waterfall.

In fact, I thought that this was my favorite waterfall of my second trip to Japan given how the falls impressed us as well as the seemingly right set of circumstances with the koyo adding more to its scenic allure.

The Discovery of the Hirayu Onsen

While my parents and I already had our fill of the hot springs experience at the nearby Shirahone Onsen, the Hirayu Waterfall was also near the town of Hirayu Onsen, which itself was its own hot springs resort town.

Speaking of hot springs, there was a story of the discovery of the Hirayu Onsen.

Hirayu_Falls_151_10192016 - Gorgeous scenery near the visitor area by the car park and shuttle stop for the Hirayu Great Falls or Hirayu Otaki
Gorgeous scenery near the visitor area by the car park and shuttle stop for the Hirayu Great Falls or Hirayu Otaki

It involved the Shirozaru or white monkey, where soldiers who had recently attacked Hida managed to find their way to the Hirayu Waterfall.

Apparently, a white monkey happened to be coming from behind the falls and headed to a hot spring further down the mountain (perhaps to bathe in it).

Curious, the soldiers followed the monkey to the spring, and it was said that this was how the town of Hirayu Onsen was discovered some 450 years ago.

Experiencing the Hirayu Waterfall

As for our excursion to visit the Hirayu Waterfall, it turned out that we had a lot of options.

Hirayu_Falls_162_10192016 - Approaching the shuttle bus, which reduced the amount of walking to the Hirayu Great Falls or Hirayu Otaki
Approaching the shuttle bus, which reduced the amount of walking to the Hirayu Great Falls or Hirayu Otaki

All of these options revolved around a shuttle bus that went from the car park (see directions below) to the waterfall and back.

The way we visited the falls was to spend the 100 yen per person to let the van shuttle us uphill on a road closer to the waterfall.

Then, we spent several minutes just enjoying the views and hiking as close to the Hirayu Great Falls before a rope discouraged further scrambling due to the rockfall danger.

We were here in the early afternoon (around 2pm) in mid-October so most of the falls was already in shadow behind the mountains around us.

Hirayu_Falls_102_10192016 - The shuttle van dropped us off almost right by this beautiful lookout for the Hirayu Great Falls (or Hirayu Otaki) fronted by flowers with reddish and orangish colors
The shuttle van dropped us off almost right by this beautiful lookout for the Hirayu Great Falls (or Hirayu Otaki) fronted by flowers with reddish and orangish colors

Perhaps that might have been a good thing since the falls faced north (i.e. towards the southern sun) so we were spared from looking against the sun.

Anyways, after having our fill of the impressive waterfall, we then chose to hike the rest of the way back to the car park (covering a distance of 1km).

The difficulty rating reflected this one-way shuttle approach that we took.

However, we very easily could have chosen to shuttle in both directions (for the minimal amount of walking of probably around 5-10 minutes).

Hirayu_Falls_084_10192016 - Mom checking out the Hirayu Great Falls (or Hirayu Otaki) from as far as we could go before the safety barricades
Mom checking out the Hirayu Great Falls (or Hirayu Otaki) from as far as we could go before the safety barricades

Moreover, we could have hiked in both directions (for the maximal amount of walking covering about 2km round trip).

The hike back from the waterfall followed along the Otakigawa sloping gently downhill before veering into a valley with beautiful foliage flanked by mountains.

Towards the end of the walk was a developed area with a reflective pond, some buildings, and nice views towards the Hirayu Onsen in its mountainous context.

Most of the services were closed during our visit as we were here on a weekday or the off season or something.

Hirayu_Falls_132_10192016 - After having our fill of the Hirayu Great Falls or Hirayu Otaki, we chose to walk back to the car park on a gentle downhill stroll which also went through this nice nature walk after leaving the road
After having our fill of the Hirayu Great Falls or Hirayu Otaki, we chose to walk back to the car park on a gentle downhill stroll which also went through this nice nature walk after leaving the road

Overall, we had spent about an hour away from the car, but we really took our time both around the waterfall itself as well as on the walk back.

Authorities

The Hirayu Waterfall resides in the Hirayu Onsen near Takayama of the Gifu Prefecture, Japan. It is administered by the Gifu Prefectural Government. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting their website.

Hirayu_Falls_010_10192016 - Dad approaching a developed area near the car park for Hirayu Falls, where we managed to catch that shuttle van before it left
Hirayu_Falls_011_10192016 - This was where the shuttle van dropped us off, which was practically adjacent to the lookout for the impressive Hirayu Waterfall
Hirayu_Falls_013_10192016 - Looking back at the shuttle's drop off area by the Hirayu Waterfall when the van was taking off
Hirayu_Falls_019_10192016 - Focused look at the impressive Hirayu Great Falls from the lookout by the shuttle van dropoff area
Hirayu_Falls_023_10192016 - Another look at the Hirayu Great Falls fronted by some smaller intermediate cascades as seen from the lookout by the shuttle van dropoff area
Hirayu_Falls_033_10192016 - Context of the Hirayu Waterfall backed by mountains and fronted by colorful foliage
Hirayu_Falls_035_10192016 - Another look at the Hirayu Waterfall fronted by some reddish plants
Hirayu_Falls_038_10192016 - Passing by some signage and fences as we continued to walk as close to the Hirayu Waterfall as we could
Hirayu_Falls_042_10192016 - Looking downstream towards the shuttle dropoff area and the lookout over there as the Otakigawa flowed towards them
Hirayu_Falls_095_10192016 - Checking out the context of the walkway with some small cascades on the Otakigawa en route to the Hirayu Falls
Hirayu_Falls_050_10192016 - Partial look at the Hirayu Great Falls while the Otakigawa flowed over more attractive cascades as we continued our walk to get closer to the main waterfall
Hirayu_Falls_064_10192016 - Portrait view of the Hirayu Waterfall from the safety barricade with cascades and rapids tumbling further downstream
Hirayu_Falls_072_10192016 - Looking towards the Hirayu Great Falls juxtaposed with some orangish foliage to its right as seen from the safety barricade
Hirayu_Falls_089_10192016 - After having our fill of the Hirayu Great Falls, this was the view of the trail as we headed back
Hirayu_Falls_097_10192016 - Looking downstream along the Otakigawa towards the lookout and shuttle dropoff area as we walked closer to the waterfall
Hirayu_Falls_104_10192016 - Back at the main lookout by the shuttle van dropoff area with another chance to really enjoy the Hirayu Waterfall
Hirayu_Falls_128_10192016 - When we made it back to the shuttle dropoff area by the Hirayu Falls lookout, we decided that we should walk all the way back to the car park
Hirayu_Falls_129_10192016 - Mom and Dad walking along the access road as the shuttle van to the Hirayu Great Falls was approaching
Hirayu_Falls_133_10192016 - Looking towards some house in the attractive valley that we walked through on the way back to the car park from the Hirayu Falls
Hirayu_Falls_134_10192016 - Another look at this house, which was one of the things we noticed along the pleasant hike through the valley on the return from Hirayu Great Falls
Hirayu_Falls_138_10192016 - Mom about to pass a shelter and get right back to the developed part near the car park for Hirayu Great Falls
Hirayu_Falls_140_10192016 - Looking ahead at Dad about to enter the developed part of the car park area for the Hirayu Great Falls
Hirayu_Falls_148_10192016 - Looking across a reflective pond by the developed area near the car park for the Hirayu Waterfall
Hirayu_Falls_157_10192016 - Looking back towards some of the buildings in the developed area by the car park for the Hirayu Waterfall
Hirayu_Falls_161_10192016 - Descending towards the nearest car park for the Hirayu Waterfall to end this pleasant excursion

join-booking-970x240-1.jpg


To get to Hirayu Great Falls from Takayama, we would drive east to the turnoff for the Hirayu Great Falls was about 34km along the Route 158.

Along the way was the Chosi Falls, which might be a worthwhile excursion if time permits, but we didn’t have the time to do it when we were in the area.

This drive took us about a little under an hour.

Coming from the other direction in Matsumoto, the drive west to the turnoff for the Hirayu Great Falls was about 51km along the Route 158.

This drive would take nearly 90 minutes.

We actually came here from the Shirahone Onsen, which involved us driving nearly 4km along the Route 300 to join up with the Route 158.

Hirayu_Falls_002_10192016 - Looking in the distance towards Hwy 158 and some of the surrounding mountains in the direction of the far end of the car park at the Hirayu Waterfall
Looking in the distance towards Hwy 158 and some of the surrounding mountains in the direction of the far end of the car park at the Hirayu Waterfall

Then, we went west on the 158 for nearly 12km.

Turning left at the next light just after paying the toll fee, we then drove about 200m before making another left to go right up to the well-signed Hirayu Falls.

Overall, this drive took us about 30 minutes.

Note that turning right at the light (instead of a left) would have taken us further down the mountain to the Hirayu Onsen.

It was about 1.5km between this resort town and the nearest car park for the waterfall.

Hirayu_Falls_005_10192016 - At the sparsely populated nearest car park to the Hirayu Great Falls
At the sparsely populated nearest car park to the Hirayu Great Falls

For geographical context, Matsumoto was about 220km (roughly 3 hours drive) northwest of Tokyo. Meanwhile, Takayama was about 157km (over 2 hours drive) north of Nagoya. Matsumoto and Takayama were about 85km from each other.

Finally, we should note that we paid 500 円 (yen) to park at the nearest lot for the Hirayu Waterfall.

However, we noticed quite a few people who managed to park further down the hill closer to the Route 158 and walk up to the main car park to avoid having to pay that kind of money for parking.

Paying for parking at the nearest lot apparently would have saved around 400-500m in each direction (or up to 1km round trip), which might have been close enough to justify not needing to pay the extra amount.

Perhaps that might have explained why the car park was so sparsely populated during our visit in October 2016.

Sweep showing distant view of the falls fronted by nice fall colors


Checking out the falls from some alternate viewing spots to the left of the stream


Sweep showing the falls as seen from the other side of the suspension bridge

Tagged with: hirayu, onsen, takayama, shirahone, kogen, norikura, gifu, japan, waterfall, koyo, fall colors, top 100



Visitor Comments:

No users have replied to the content on this page


Share your thoughts about what you've read on this page

You must be logged in to submit content. Refresh this page after you have logged in.

Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

No users have submitted a write-up/review of this waterfall


Have you been to a waterfall? Submit a write-up/review and share your experiences or impressions

Review A Waterfall

Nearest Waterfalls

Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.