About Joren Waterfall (Joren-no-taki [浄蓮の滝])
The Joren Waterfall (Joren-no-taki [浄蓮の滝]; also just called Joren Falls) was a gushing waterfall backed by some pretty pronounced basalt columns at its base.
According to the signage, the Joren Waterfall was the largest waterfall on Mt Amagi at 25m tall with a plunge pool that was said to be a pretty deep 15m.
The mountain (more accurately a mountain range) was responsible for the formation of the Izu-hanto (Izu Peninsula).
The basalt that we noticed underneath the waterfall was said to have come from a lava flow sourced by the eruption of a “parasitic volcano” neighboring Amagi-san called Mt Hachikubo.
The signage here also said that the Joren Waterfall was one of the Top 100 Waterfalls in Japan, which was a list backed by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment in 1990.
The waterfall was on the Kano River (狩野川), which happened to be a major river draining into the Surugawan (or Suruga Bay) by Numazu northwest of the Izu Peninsula so it was a permanent waterfall.
Numazu was a city where my Dad spent some time working in his younger days so he had a little personal connection to this area.
Experiencing the Joren Waterfall
We happened to visit the Joren Waterfall on a day where it was raining pretty hard so the river took on a more swollen, turbulent, and muddy appearance.
Although the falls itself was naturesque, the developed footpath was flanked by a bit of infrastructure in the form of little cafes and farm shops both at the trailhead as well as at the viewing area at the base of the falls.
Given the developed nature of the walk, the rain waters seemed to be well channeled, and we surprisingly didn’t encounter big puddles or as much slick footing as I would have expected.
Unlike most of the signage we encountered around waterfalls like this (which were almost exclusively in Japanese), the interpretive signs here were multi-lingual including not only English but Korean, Chinese, and Portugese.
This led me to believe that this waterfall wasn’t as far off the beaten path as I would have expected.
Detailed Description of our Joren Waterfall Visit
Our visit to the Joren Waterfall was pretty straightforward.
We started by descending from a well-signed and pretty spacious car park (see directions below) along some steps past some shops and a restroom facility.
Even from the elevated vantage point near the top of this trail, we were able to catch a partial glimpse of the Joren Waterfall down below.
Encouraged that the view would be better at the bottom, we kept going down the path to get a closer look.
The descent continued past one switchback before terminating just past a few more buildings where the Joren Falls could easily be seen.
Apparently, this area was also known for growing fresh wasabi, and the buildings here actually sold some freshly-grown wasabi, which we learned was actually a plant where you grind its stem.
It definitely was not that green paste you might see in Japanese restaurants that maybe wouldn’t have access to the fresh stuff.
We really came to appreciate this fact later on in our Japan trip when we mixed some of the fresh stuff into a shoyu mix as a very potent soba noodle dip.
Anyways, we wound up spending under an hour here encompassing the walking, the picture taking, and some extra preparation time to handle the fairly heavy rain during our visit.
Yet even with the bad weather and our visit being on a Monday, we were surprised to see that the falls was still pretty popular.
Joren Waterfall and the Legend of the Joro-gumo
While the swollen state of the Joren Waterfall kind of instilled a sense that it was forbidden to get near it, fittingly we had read a sign talking about the Legend of the Joro-gumo or Wasp Spider.
To make a long story short, a farmer took a web wound around his leg (thinking the spider who wound this had mistaken it for a tree branch) and placed it on a tree stump.
But soon thereafter, the stump was dragged into the basin of the waterfall and the local farmer warned the rest of the villagers about the wasp spider.
Years later, a lumberjack from a different village was felling a tree near the falls before he dropped his hatchet into the waterfall’s plunge pool.
Thinking he had lost his tool, he eventually got his hatchet back only after some beautiful woman returned it to him.
However, she only did so under the condition that not a word about her existence be uttered lest he would lose his life.
Sure enough, after drinking with friends and letting out word of his experience with the beautiful woman (who happened to be a shapeshifted wasp spider), he never woke up again after passing out.
The Joren Waterfall resides in the Yugashima District near Izu of the Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. It is administered by the Izu Peninsula Geopark. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting their website.
When we visited the Joren Waterfall, it was right after we picked up the car rental from the town of Odawara.
So we’ll describe the directions to the Joren-no-taki from Odawara since that was how we did this drive.
So once we collected the car from one of a handful of rental car agencies near the JR Odawara Station, we then drove south onto the Road 73 towards its junction with the Hakone-Shindo Highway (Hwy 1).
Turning right onto Hwy 1 to head west eventually merging onto the high speed expressway.
We’d follow this expressway for nearly 30km towards Mishima before turning left at a traffic light onto the Izu-Chuo-do Toll Road following this expressway for the next 5.5km or so then remaining on the Route 136.
We then followed the Route 136 for the next 20km (note that the tolls on this road didn’t take credit cards on our visit), then we left the Route 136 to continue south along the Route 414 (by this time, we were off the expressway).
We continued on the Route 414 for just under the next 8km to the well-signed car park for the Joren Waterfall on the right side of the road.
Overall, this drive took us a little over 90 minutes.
The Logistics of Rental Car Pick-up in Odawara
Finally, to give you some logistical context, we took a local JR line west line to go from Tokyo Shinagawa Station to the Odawara Station.
The local train was covered by the Tokyo Wide Pass (the direct 30-minute Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen trains were NOT covered by this pass), and it took us about 75 minutes.
It was a little tough to bring luggage on this crowded commuter line, but we managed to make it work and save money in the process.
By the way, we chose to pick up the rental car from Odawara because it was far enough from the Greater Tokyo area to not have to deal with the headaches of traffic congestion, mazes of traffic restrictions, and parking.
Odawara was also close enough to the tourist town of Hakone to have such options of renting a car with a one-way drop-off (though the drop-off fee did cost nearly 50% of the base rental cost).
If you’re renting a car, I’d highly recommend taking the public transport to collect the car outside of the city so it’s easier to get acclimated to driving on the left.
It was also easier to get used to the road rules in Japan while also being far less stressful due to the lesser volume of traffic.
From a geographical standpoint, Odawara was 83km southwest of central Tokyo. Odawara was also less than 7km east of the tourist town of Hakone, 36km east of Mishima (about an hour’s drive or 40 minutes by Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen train), 32km southeast of Gotenba or Gotemba (about an hour’s drive or at least 90 minutes by a combination of train and bus), and about 70km southeast of Kawaguchiko or Fujikawaguchiko (about 90 minutes drive or 3 hours by train by a combination of bus and train).
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