Hottai Waterfall (hottai-no-taki [法体の滝])

Yurihonjo / Chokai-san, Akita, Japan

About Hottai Waterfall (hottai-no-taki [法体の滝])

Hiking Distance: about 600m round trip
Suggested Time: 30 minutes

Date first visited: 2023-07-10
Date last visited: 2023-07-10

Waterfall Latitude: 39.10808
Waterfall Longitude: 140.15908

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

The Hottai Waterfall (hottai-no-taki [法体の滝]; “Priest Falls?”) was kind of an out-of-the-way waterfall off the northerneastern slopes of Mt Chokai (鳥海山), which was a famous and active volcano shared between Yamagata and Akita Prefectures.

A rather unusual characteristic of this waterfall was that it actually faces Mt Chokai, which was the very mountain that supplies the Kamitamada River upon which the falls flows over.

Hottai_034_07092023 - The Hottai Waterfall
The Hottai Waterfall

By the way, the Kamitamada River is a tributary of the Koyoshi River (子吉川 or Koyoshigawa), which ultimately flows into the Sea of Japan by the city of Yurihonjo.

Anyways, the waterfall’s unusual flow direction could be attributed to the fact that a single sheet of molten rock coming from Mt Chokai dammed up the Kamitamada River.

This lava dam caused the falls to flow over its top at a twist in its course that happened to face the mountain as the river continued to cut into the lava and make its new course its permanent path.

Eventually, with water trying to find the lowest path through gravity, it ultimately continued to reinforce this path as the Kamitamada River (though I’ve also seen this section called the Akasawa River).

Hottai_013_07092023 - We could already start to see the Hottai Waterfall from its car park so we knew this wouldn't be a long excursion
We could already start to see the Hottai Waterfall from its car park so we knew this wouldn’t be a long excursion

As you can see in the photo above, the trapezoidal shape of its main drop was also unusual, and the name hottai may have come from this shape resembling a monk’s robe.

Another sign at the falls told of the Kobo Daishi (a Japanese Buddhist monk) who visited this place and encountered a white-haired old man, who told him the name of this falls was “Hottai” when asked.

In any case, this is a rather big waterfall with a cumulative height of 57.4m dropping over three tiers (though the bottommost drop is the main one) over a run of about 100m.

I’ve also seen other figures saying that its width (especially that lowermost tier) can spread from 3m at its top to about 30m in width at its base.

Hottai_045_07092023 - Walking on the bridge over the Kamitamada River to see where the trail kept going to
Walking on the bridge over the Kamitamada River to see where the trail kept going to

Heck, this waterfall even caught the attention of the producers of the 2009 movie Tsurikichi Sanpei, who made Hottai Falls its filming location of the movie’s climax.

While I’m aware that Autumn is the best time to see this waterfall surrounded by koyo (or Fall foliage), we visited in the Summer in July 2023 where we contended with monsoonal rains and lots of green.

As far as our visit was concerned, we basically went to one of three large car parks (see directions below) where we could already see the Hottai Falls across a large lawn area.

The lower two car parks had direct access to picnic shelters, toilets, and the lawn area itself while the uppermost car park had a trail pretty much making a beeline right to a bridge besides the Hottai Falls.

Hottai_057_07092023 - Looking back at one of the switchbacks on the way up to the lookout of the Hottai Falls
Looking back at one of the switchbacks on the way up to the lookout of the Hottai Falls

After about 350m from the car park, we were at the bridge where we could photograph the waterfall along with the red bridge together.

We also noticed that the large plunge pool and river were flanked by some man-modifications though it wasn’t clear to me what they were for.

While it was tempting to just be content with viewing the waterfall from before the bridge, it was worth continuing another 250m past the bridge, which climbed up to a lookout.

It was at this lookout that we were able to appreciate all the tiers of the Hottai Falls while also checking out signage.

Hottai_006_iPhone_07102023 - The view of all of the tiers of Hottai Falls as seen from its upper lookout
The view of all of the tiers of Hottai Falls as seen from its upper lookout

One of the signs here confirmed that the Hottai Waterfall was one of Japan’s Top 100 Waterfalls according to the Japanese Minstry of the Environment (yet another pretty solid call in my mind).

We opted to make this lookout our turnaround point though the trail kept going further towards the top of Hottai Falls and beyond (perhaps to get a closer look at the potholes that the signs were talking about).

Overall, we spent less than an hour away from the car, but according to my GPS logs, only 10-15 minutes of that time was spent moving the 600m total distance to go out and back.


The Hottai Waterfall resides near Yurihonjo City in the Akita Prefecture, Japan. It may be administered by the Yurihonjo City Government. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting the Akita Tourism Federation website for leads.

Hottai_001_07092023 - Already able to see Hottai Falls from the middle car park just as the weather was playing Jekyll-and-Hyde with us during our July 2023 visit
Hottai_004_07092023 - Looking towards a picnic shelter and the extent of the lawn area that we had to traverse to get closer to Hottai Falls
Hottai_005_07092023 - Looking back towards a picnic shelter closer to the car parks at Hottai Falls
Hottai_007_07092023 - Even though Hottai Falls looked so close, we still had to get across this extensive lawn area where the trail to the falls wasn't all that obvious if you didn't descend from the uppermost car park
Hottai_008_07092023 - Looking back towards the middle car park at Hottai Falls from the trail coming down from the upper car park
Hottai_015_07092023 - During our mid-July 2023 visit to Hottai Falls, there were some people doing some yard work at the Hottai Falls
Hottai_017_07092023 - Looking back at one of the picnic shelters along with other picnic tables in the distance while making our way to the Hottai Falls
Hottai_022_07092023 - On the flower-lined path leading closer to the Hottai Falls
Hottai_024_07092023 - Closer look at some of the wildflowers in bloom at Hottai Falls
Hottai_027_07092023 - Approaching the footbridge fronting the Hottai Falls
Hottai_030_07092023 - Looking back at the picnic area and car park for Hottai Falls with an incoming squall while standing before the footbridge
Hottai_036_07092023 - Checking out the Hottai Falls partially reflected in the Kamitamada River
Hottai_038_07092023 - Broad look at the footbridge juxtaposed with the Hottai Falls
Hottai_042_07092023 - Another look at the red bridge over the Kamitamada River before the Hottai Falls
Hottai_046_07092023 - On the footbridge to see where the trail beyond it goes at Hottai Falls
Hottai_050_07092023 - Beyond the bridge, the trail climbs up some steps towards a lookout of the Hottai Falls
Hottai_053_07092023 - Ascending the steps on the way up to the main lookout for the Hottai Falls
Hottai_058_07092023 - Looking back at one of the switchbacks before a partial look at the Hottai Falls
Hottai_059_07092023 - Ascending up to the lookout deck for the Hottai Falls
Hottai_060_07092023 - Making it up to the lookout deck for the Hottai Falls
Hottai_071_07092023 - This was the view of Hottai Falls from the lookout deck
Hottai_092_07092023 - Context of Mom checking out the view of Hottai Falls from the lookout deck
Hottai_087_07092023 - Warning sign about bears in the area should we continue further perhaps to get a closer look at the potholes around Hottai Falls
Hottai_098_07092023 - Last look back at the Hottai Falls before heading back down
Hottai_111_07092023 - Context of Mom heading back down the slippery steps carefully as we made our way back down to rejoin the family
Hottai_115_07092023 - Mom going back across the bridge after having had our fill of the Hottai Falls
Hottai_118_07092023 - The family making their way back across the lawn area to regain the cars at the car parks up ahead
Hottai_121_07092023 - Last look at the combo of the bridge and the Hottai Falls on our July 2023 visit
Hottai_122_07092023 - Looking towards some people working at the far corner of the lawn area before the Hottai Falls
Hottai_127_07092023 - Heading back to the picnic shelters and the toilet facility at the Hottai Falls car park
Hottai_129_07092023 - From before the restroom facility, it looked like there was even a lower car park at Hottai Falls
Hottai_130_07092023 - Looking back across the attractive picnic area before the Hottai Falls bridge in the distance

The Hottai Waterfall sits on the northeastern slopes of Mt Chokai (the dominant volcano shared between the Yamagata and Akita Prefectures) to the east of Yurihonjo City.

This waterfall was a bit out of the way from our itinerary (even though we had been staying in Sakata, Ginzan Onsen, and Morioka on consecutive nights) largely because we had to go on mountain roads around Mt Chokai.

Drive_to_Hottai_005_iPhone_07102023 - Making our way up the E13 expressway from Obanazawa to the end of the expressway
Making our way up the E13 expressway from Obanazawa to the end of the expressway

While we could describe the driving directions coming from Yurihonjo, which would be a more straightforward drive to Hottai Falls, you’d still have to get to that city in the first place, which can be a bit out-of-the-way.

Therefore, I’ll just describe how we did it coming from the east (from say Ginzan Onsen or Morioka).

Driving Route from Ginzan Onsen

From Ginzan Onsen, we drove roughly 20 minutes back towards the Obanazawa IC (along the 168 and 347) to get onto the E13 expressway.

Heading north on the E13 towards Showa, we then drove about 31km towards its end at Showa.

Drive_to_Hottai_068_iPhone_07102023 - Following signs to the Hottainotaki Waterfall just as the weather was starting to improve
Following signs to the Hottainotaki Waterfall just as the weather was starting to improve

Then, we continued on the Route 13/344 north for another 28km before turning right onto a ramp to head west on the Route 108 near Shimoinnai.

Heading west on the 108, we then took it about 13km towards the Route 70 at Shimono, where we’d then follow this local road for another 13km towards a signed turnoff for Hottai Falls at the village of Yamasaki.

Once on this narrower local road, we then followed it for the remaining 10km towards the car park for the Hottai Falls.

Overall, this drive took us about 2 hours.

Driving Route from Morioka

Hottai_011_07092023 - Looking back across the uppermost of the car parks at the Hottai Waterfall
Looking back across the uppermost of the car parks at the Hottai Waterfall

Note that had we come south from Morioka, we would have taken the E4 expressway, which was about 8km from the city center to the Morioka-minami IC, where we’d get on.

Then, we drove the E4 expressway towards the E46 at Kitakami for about 42km towards, where we’d then follow the E46 west for about 50km towards the Route 13 national route at Yokote.

Heading south on the Route 13, we then drove about 27km towards Ogachikomachi IC, where we’d then take the National Route 13 west towards the Route 108 junction just west of Shimoinnai.

Once on the Route 108, the rest of the driving directions were as directed earlier, where we’d follow the Route 108, the 70, and then finally arrived at the Hottai Falls.

Drive_to_Kamabuchi_048_iPhone_07102023 - Driving on the E46 Expressway, which was between Hottai Falls and Morioka
Driving on the E46 Expressway, which was between Hottai Falls and Morioka

According to GoogleMaps, this drive would have taken us nearly 3 hours.

For some geographical context, Yurihonjo was about 87km (2 hours drive) north of Sakata, 120km (over 2 hours drive) northwest of Obanazawa, 168km (about 2.5 hours drive) southwest of Morioka, 184km (nearly 3 hours drive) south of Sendai, and 530km (about 7 hours drive) north of Tokyo.

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360 degree sweep from before the footbridge showcasing both the falls and the bridge together as well as their surroundings

Brief video showing the falls and its upper tier from the upper lookout deck after having crossed the bridge and going up a bunch of steps

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Tagged with: hottai falls, hottainotaki, yurihonjo, koyoshi river, akasawa river, chokai-san, mt chokai, japan top 100, tohoku

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning 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.
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