About Kirifuri Waterfall (Kirifuri-no-taki [霧降の滝])
The Kirifuri Waterfall (Kirifuri-no-taki [霧降の滝]; Kirifuri Falls) was another one of those seemingly off-the-beaten-path waterfalls as far as Julie and I were concerned.
However, in this instance, we discovered the main reason why this was the case was that the All Nikko Pass didn’t work for the Kirifuri Highlands route (at least when we first visited Japan in 2009).
Therefore, this might have discouraged most foreign tourists from visiting.
In fact, Kirifuri Falls was closer to Nikko than say Kegon-no-taki even though the latter was part of the All Nikko Pass.
Indeed, this paradox in distances was even more apparent when I made another visit by self-driving years later (by the way, this really is the way to go if you’re chasing waterfalls in Japan).
Anyways, this waterfall features essentially three main parts though not all of them can be seen together in one go.
In order to experience the falls from the nearest car park (see directions below), we had to go on a gentle 270m walk to a viewing platform.
The trail pretty much went onto a viewing deck perched atop a ridge with a cross-valley view of the impressive multi-tiered waterfall (said to be 75m in cumulative height).
On our first visit, the weather was benign and the falls seemed so close yet so far away.
It also didn’t help that we were primarily getting around by public transport so we had a bit of a hasty visit in less than an hour total so that we wouldn’t miss one of the infrequent buses on the way back to Nikko.
On my second visit, the weather wasn’t as kind and low clouds (and rain) conspired to make the cross-valley viewing experience very suboptimal as at least half the falls was covered in clouds.
Luckily, I could afford to wait long enough for the clouds to finally start lifting, and that was when I was treated to an impressive Spring flow juxtaposed with some remnant blossoms that still hadn’t fallen from the trees yet.
Indeed, that mid-April follow-up visit happened perhaps at least a week or two after the peak of the sakura (cherry blossoms), but the colder mountains (like in Nikko) tended to hang onto their blooms just a little bit longer.
Anyways, given that the waterfall was nestled in a bush-clad valley or canyon, I’d imagine that the optimal season to visit Kirifuri Falls would be the Autumn when the koyo (Fall colors) would liven up the landscape.
By the way, there was also some kind of restaurant and inn at the Kirifuri Falls, which looked inviting, but in each of my visits, I didn’t linger long enough to give the property a visit… maybe next time.
Since this was one of those look-but-don’t-touch waterfalls, there wasn’t a whole lot more we could do to enjoy the falls from the overlook so we didn’t entertain staying longer.
That said, according to my maps on Gaia GPS, I did see that there were trails apparently getting close to the Kirifuri Falls, but it still remains to be seen whether such markings are outdated or they’re really there.
The Kirifuri Waterfall resides in the Nikko area of the Tochigi Prefecture. It may be administered by the Nikko National Park. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting the Nikko Tourism Association website.
Kirifuri Falls sits within the Kirifuri Highlands (霧降高原) near the World Heritage-rich town of Nikko (日光).
These highlands are technically within the Japan Alps though it’s a little further east of the more familiar mountains closer to the Nagano Prefecture where they held the Winter Olympics.
There are more waterfalls up the Kirifuri Highlands, but we were content to do a quick out-and-back trip to Kirifuri Waterfall on each of our visits to this part of Japan.
Visiting Kirifuri Falls By Public Transportation
If you’re visiting the Kirifuri Waterfall via public transportation, realize that the Kirifuri Highlands weren’t part of the All Nikko Pass (which concentrated more on the western part of the Greater Nikko area).
That’s what we did on our first visit, and instead of walking several kilometers uphill along a highway to get to the falls, we ponied up the 300円 or so per person to ride the Kirifuri Highlands bus to get here.
Keep in mind that this bus only shows up either a half-hour or an hour apart, which might mean quite a bit of waiting time.
On the plus side, this route was definitely much quieter than the Yumoto Onsen route (though the Yumoto Onsen route was part of the All Nikko Pass).
We caught the Kirifuri Highlands bus from the bus terminal area near the Tobu-Nikko Station (東武日光駅).
Visiting Kirifuri Falls By Self-Driving
Having learned from our first visit to Japan, self-driving really is the way to go if you wish to go to less-crowded and more off-the-beaten-path locations such as the Kirifuri Falls.
From Nikko, I drove about 3km along Route 169 to the turnoff for the Kirifuri Falls, where I then followed its spur road all the way to the P1 car park.
Note that there are other ways to go (e.g. you could drive about 2km from Shinkyo Bridge to Route 169 via a combination of the Route 247 and some local roads through Kirifuri Village), and it depends on where in Nikko you’re driving from.
But the most straightforward route is the one described earlier, where you’d drive south along the Route 119 through part of Nikko Town before turning left at the traffic light for the Route 169, and then follow 169 for 3km as described earlier.
Overall, this drive only took about 15-20 minutes.
To give you some geographical context, Nikko was 39km (under an hour drive) northwest of Utsunomiya, 152km (about 2 hours drive) north of Tokyo, 159km (2 hours drive) east of Numata (or 95km over 2 hours drive via Route 120 over the Konsei Toge Pass, which is subject to snow closure), 256km (3 hours drive) southwest of Sendai, 256km (over 3 hours drive) east of Nagano, and 284km (3.5 hours drive) southeast of Niigata.
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