Kamuiwakka Waterfall (Kamuiwakka-no-taki [カムイワッカの滝])

Shiretoko National Park, Hokkaido, Japan

About Kamuiwakka Waterfall (Kamuiwakka-no-taki [カムイワッカの滝])


Hiking Distance: tour
Suggested Time:

Date first visited: 2009-06-08
Date last visited: 2009-06-08

Waterfall Latitude: 44.15863
Waterfall Longitude: 145.12236

The Kamuiwakka Waterfall (Kamuiwakka-no-taki [カムイワッカの滝]; Kamuiwakka Falls) was a pretty well-known rotemburo (hot springs waterfall) deep in the wild Shiretoko National Park.

The fact that it was a thermal springs-fed waterfall made it stand out from the rest of the waterfalls we had seen in Japan so far.

Shiretoko_tour_091_06072009 - The Kamuiwakka Waterfall
The Kamuiwakka Waterfall

Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t experience the onsen aspect of this rotemburo because the shuttle bus that would have taken us there on an unsealed road through bear country only ran from July 15 to August 15.

Our visit was a month too soon so the only way we were able to experience this waterfall was by boat.

Had we been able to do this waterfall both ways, we would’ve bumped up the rating score of this waterfall for sure.

From our trip research, we could have been able to visit on of this waterfall’s upper tiers where there was a geothermally heated plunge pool that would’ve allowed us to soak in its sulphur-rich hot water right beneath the Kamuiwakka Waterfall itself.

However, the road that would have taken us there was strictly regulated, which we speculated was to protect the bears or for maintenance of the area during our June 2009 visit.

Experiencing the Kamuiwakka Waterfall by boat

Shiretoko_tour_081_06072009 - Context of the Kamuiwakka Waterfall's lowest tier as seen from the boat tour
Context of the Kamuiwakka Waterfall’s lowest tier as seen from the boat tour

As for the boat ride, we took a pricey four-hour tour from the town of Utoro.

That said, the price of this tour might be on par with some of the boat rides we had been on in the States (especially when we thought of it in terms of price per hour).

The sea-facing tiers of this waterfall was not visible had we done the land method as we would’ve been above these tiers.

So that was one perspective that we otherwise wouldn’t have if we didn’t seeing this waterfall by boat.

In any case, the boat tour took us along the western coast of the Shiretoko-hanto (Shiretoko Peninsula) up towards the peninsula’s tip where there was a lighthouse that we witnessed from a distance.

Shiretoko_tour_136_06072009 - A bear sighting during our boat tour encompassing the Kamuiwakka Waterfall and the rest of the Shiretoko Peninsula's west side
A bear sighting during our boat tour encompassing the Kamuiwakka Waterfall and the rest of the Shiretoko Peninsula’s west side

This tour featured wildlife sightings, including eagles and bears as well as small sea arches, and many other waterfalls.

In fact, since this was the only way we experienced the Kamuiwakka Waterfall our June 2009 visit, we could’ve lumped this in together with the many other Shiretoko Waterfalls we’re featuring on a separate page.

However, we left this waterfall on its own page because of its unique geothermal characteristics, how it stood out against those other Shiretoko Waterfalls on its own, and how it was possible to easily access it by land had it been open.

During the boat ride, something that really caught our eye about the Kamuiwakka Waterfall was the evidence of sulphur in its waters.

From the boat, we could clearly see yellow-stained rocks lining the outflow of the falls, which was strong evidence of the presence of sulphur in the stream.

Shiretoko_tour_097_06072009 - Another look at the Kamuiwakka Waterfall revealing some hidden tiers further upstream. Also notice the yellow rocks fronting the waterfall, which was strong evidence of the presence of sulfur in its stream
Another look at the Kamuiwakka Waterfall revealing some hidden tiers further upstream. Also notice the yellow rocks fronting the waterfall, which was strong evidence of the presence of sulfur in its stream

Moreover, we could see how the light green waters coming from the Kamuiwakka Stream mixed with the darker green waters of the Sea of Okhotsk.

This resulted in an interesting juxtaposition of mineral-rich freshwater and salt water.

And if the visual evidence wasn’t enough, the strong sulphur smell around the Kamuiwakka Waterfall also dominated over the sea spray smell that we would otherwise be used to whenever we were near an ocean or sea.

Finally, we’re not sure what the word “kamuiwakka” means, but we do know it’s Ainu (the indigenous peoples of Hokkaido and surrounding islands as well as Northern Honshu).

We say this because of the many Japanese sound characters in its name spelled out, which hinted to us that the word was not Japanese to begin with.

Authorities

The Kamuiwakka Waterfall resides near Shari in the Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan. It is administered by the Shiretoko National Park. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting the Ministry of the Environment website.

Utoro_010_06072009 - A pair of dogs who loved being petted while we waited for our Shiretoko boat tour in Utoro
Shiretoko_tour_001_06072009 - Looking back at the town of Utoro as the Shiretoko boat tour started along the western side of the peninsula
Shiretoko_tour_030_06072009 - View along the Shiretoko coastline as we embarked on our boat tour
Shiretoko_tour_066_06072009 - The Kamuiwakka Waterfall starting to come into view just as a flock of birds darted before it
Shiretoko_tour_086_06072009 - Angled closeup look at the last tier of Kamuiwakka-no-taki (note the yellow rocks right on the coastline attesting to the sulphurous nature of the water)
Shiretoko_tour_102_06072009 - Slightly angled direct look back at the Kamuiwakka Waterfall. Look again at the presence of the yellow rocks fronting the waterfall
Shiretoko_tour_318_06072009 - A more distant direct look at the Kamuiwakka Waterfall revealing more hidden tiers further upstream
Shiretoko_tour_108_06072009 - Looking back at the Kamuiwakka Waterfall along some interestingly-shaped coastal rocks along the shore
Shiretoko_tour_034_jx_06072009 - Looking back at the Kamuiwakka Waterfall and a tiny ephemeral companion to its left.  Note the mix of sulphur-infused freshwater and the darker green saltwater
Shiretoko_tour_304_06072009 - Some volcanic peak we noticed during the boat ride providing further evidence of volcanism in these parts so the presence of onsens and rotemburos shouldn't be surprising
Shiretoko_tour_275_06072009 - An interesting small sea arch somewhere near the turnaround point of our boat tour of the Shiretoko Peninsula
Utoro_009_jx_06072009 - When we were done with our boat tour, we had lunch at a very good place in Utoro where we got this seafood sashimi rice bowl that could very well have been the freshest we had ever eaten
Utoro_012_06072009 - Looking back at the town of Utoro as we headed towards Shiretoko National Park
Utoro_015_jx_06072009 - The road to Shiretoko National Park was what we had to take to get to the Shiretoko Goko (5 Lakes), but the turnoff for the Kamuiwakka Waterfall was on the way
Shiretoko_Goko_016_06072009 - The boardwalk that provided us with beautiful vistas as well as letting us get close to the five lakes making up the Shiretoko Goko
Utoro_040_06072009 - We saw these deer grazing in a scenic meadow as we headed back towards Utoro

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The boat excursion we went on was right within the Utoro township.

I believe all the tour operators on these types of tours are based on the docks here, which can be accessed on a fairly obvious road leaving Hwy 334 towards the sea.

Even though we didn’t do the land-based option, we did see the unsealed turnoff (which was gated) deep into the 40-minute drive from Utoro to the Five Lakes part of Shiretoko National Park.

We can’t say more about it since we didn’t do it.

For geographical context, it took us a pretty brutally long and slow 5 hours of driving to get from Asahikawa to Utoro by way of Abashiri and Shari. 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).

Short bottom up sweep of the falls with loud speakers blaring in the background

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Tagged with: utoro, shiretoko, national park, hokkaido, kamuiwakka, onsen, okhotsk, ainu, restricted, bears, hot springs, geothermal, japan, waterfall



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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.
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