Nachi Waterfall (Nachi-no-taki [那智の滝])

Nachi / Kii-Katsuura / Nachikatsuura, Wakayama, Japan

About Nachi Waterfall (Nachi-no-taki [那智の滝])


Hiking Distance: at least 1.3km shuttle or 2.6km round trip (top and bottom)
Suggested Time: 60-90 minutes

Date first visited: 2009-06-02
Date last visited: 2023-04-10

Waterfall Latitude: 33.67531
Waterfall Longitude: 135.88762

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

The Nachi Waterfall (Nachi-no-taki [那智の滝]; also Nachi Falls) was said to be the highest vertical waterfall in Japan at 133m.

Personally, I think the “vertical” adjective was necessary because we had seen other waterfalls with taller drops like the Shomyo Falls in the Japan Alps.

Nachi_039_06012009 - The Nachi Waterfall and a pagoda
The Nachi Waterfall and a pagoda

In any case, the presence of shrines, pagodas, and temples in the vicinity of the Nachi Waterfall (as you can see in the photo above) really made this waterfall stand out.

It seemed to give Julie and I the sense that Nachi-no-taki was some kind of holy or sacred waterfall in a part of the country that seemed quite different from the rest of Honshu (the main island in Japan).

We thought so highly of the Nachi Waterfall that we considered it to be our favorite waterfall in the country, and thus we included it on our Top 10 Best Japan Waterfalls List as well as our Top 10 Best Asia Waterfalls List.

There were a few different spots to experience the Nachi Falls (one of the reasons why it’s worth taking your time to really take in all that this place has to offer), and we’ll go through them below.

The Lower Viewing Area of the Nachi Waterfall

Nachi_030_06012009 - View of the Nachi Waterfall from the lower viewing area during our first visit here in June 2009
View of the Nachi Waterfall from the lower viewing area during our first visit here in June 2009

Perhaps the most straightforward and direct way to experience the Nachi Waterfall would be to go right to its base and stare right up at the impressive waterfall.

The excursion starts from a car park and bus stop (see directions below).

For public transportation, I recalled on our 2009 visit that we paid about 300 円/person to get from Nachikatsuura Station to the “falls front” stop (at least that’s how I translated the kanji for 前滝).

Anyways, from there, we went through a torii (we definitely saw lots of these archways in Japan), then down several steps towards a tree-shaded area with praying infrastructure as well as a bottoms-up view of the falls.

Nachi_003_iPhone_04102023 - The paid 'praying area' at the base of the Nachi Waterfall
The paid ‘praying area’ at the base of the Nachi Waterfall

The praying infrastructure had like an incense-burning cauldron as well as a shop with some neighboring shrines.

For a modest fee, I was able to get into the “praying” area, where there were steps leading up to a pair of viewing decks for an even closer look at the Nachi Waterfall as well as the rocky cascades at its base.

Depending on the waterfall’s flow, it can get a bit misty at these viewing areas (which was the case on our June 2009 visit though it had considerably less flow on our April 2023 visit).

This praying area also had a small shrine closer to the shop, where the loop walk deposits you back into the shop again.

Nachi_076_04092023 - A small shrine in the paid 'praying area' near the base of the Nachi Waterfall
A small shrine in the paid ‘praying area’ near the base of the Nachi Waterfall

Overall, this part of the visit can be quite brief, and I’d imagine you can wrap things up in 15-30 minutes depending on how long you choose to linger.

The Temples and the upper views of the Nachi Waterfall

After visiting the lower viewing deck, you have options on accessing the remaining ways to experience the Nachi Waterfall.

One option is to go up several flights of steps, which would ultimately lead up to another torii gate fronting the main area for the Seiganto-ji Grand Temple and its neighboring shrines.

Another option is to use the bus (or self-drive) to get right up to the upper car parks fronting the temple area (the kanji for that last stop literally means “temple front”).

Nachi_035_06012009 - Going up the flights of steps to reach the temple and the upper views of the Nachi Waterfall. In hindsight after our first visit in June 2009, we should have taken the bus up there and take these stairs down to the lower viewpoints
Going up the flights of steps to reach the temple and the upper views of the Nachi Waterfall. In hindsight after our first visit in June 2009, we should have taken the bus up there and take these stairs down to the lower viewpoints

In fact, you could start a visit to the upper viewing areas and the temples, and then go down to the lower viewing area so you don’t have to walk back up to where you started (supposing you took a bus to get here).

Anyways, the temple grounds consisted of a handful of praying areas, rest benches, and a few shops (I didn’t recall seeing those shops on our first visit back in June 2009).

At the main viewing area from the temple grounds, you get perhaps the most satisfying view of the Nachi Falls juxtaposed with an attractive red pagoda.

Taking the walkways down the steps or the switchbacking road, we were also able to pay to enter the pagoda itself (the same pagoda pictured at the top of this page).

Nachi_003_jx_06012009 - The entrance to one of the temples (the Seiganto-ji Temple) with a nice view of the Nachi Waterfall
The entrance to one of the temples (the Seiganto-ji Temple) with a nice view of the Nachi Waterfall

Once we got to the pagoda, we paid 200 円/person (as of June 2009) to enter it, where we could go up the multi-storied building and even get views of the Nachi Waterfall above the trees in the immediate area.

At the very top floor, the openings of the pagoda was surrounded by netting with a hole cut into one part of it to allow for photos without the netting getting in the way.

After having our fill of the pagoda as well as the temple views, we could then walk back down the steps to get back to the lower viewing area and “falls front” bus stop, or we could wait for the bus to pick us up at the “temple front” bus stop.

Of course, if you’re self-driving, you aren’t slaved to transportation schedules so you could easily take your time (though both the pagoda, the temple, and the praying area at the bottom all have opening/closing hours).

Nachi_040_06012009 - Approaching the red pagoda that offered us an even closer and elevated view of the Nachi Waterfall
Approaching the red pagoda that offered us an even closer and elevated view of the Nachi Waterfall

Overall, you could easily spend at least an hour to take it all in, and I definitely wouldn’t rush a visit like we did the first time around…

Experiencing the Nachi Waterfall for the First Time (Public Transportation)

Just to give you an idea of what our experience was like using public transportation to visit the Nachi Waterfall, here’s a brief breakdown of how it went.

Our first visit to Nachi Falls happened in June 2009, and on that trip, we primarily used public transportation to get around most of the country (including this waterfall as well as many others).

The one thing about that visit that was kind of a shame was that Julie and I were quite rushed thanks to an utterly inconvenient boat shuttle schedule that linked the Hotel Urashima (where we stayed) to the rest of Nachikatsuura.

Nachi_062_06012009 - Looking right at the Nachi Waterfall from high up in the red pagoda
Looking right at the Nachi Waterfall from high up in the red pagoda

Apparently, the shuttle wouldn’t run between 14:50 and 19:00 as well as between 7:35 and 10:00, and we weren’t aware of alternatives to get in and out of the hotel (due to a combination of our ignorance and the language barrier).

So that forced our hand into trying to squeeze in a visit in barely an hour so as to not be stranded away from our hotel in the four hours between 3pm and 7pm.

I thought to myself, “What an utterly useless schedule!”, but as you’ll see later in this write-up, there were indeed alternatives to the boat shuttle, but we needed a way to communicate with the hotel for that to happen.

In any case, we started with the Lower Viewing Area before going (more like running) up to the upper viewing areas by the Seiganto-ji Temple.

Nachi_066_06012009 - Returning to the bus stop before the lower viewpoint of the Nachi Waterfall (i.e. the 'falls front' bus stop according to the kanji)
Returning to the bus stop before the lower viewpoint of the Nachi Waterfall (i.e. the ‘falls front’ bus stop according to the kanji)

Another thing worth noting on that initial trip was that we seemed to be the only gaijin (foreigner) during the visit, and there were hardly any signs in English let alone people speaking it.

Experiencing the Nachi Waterfall for the Second Time (Self-Driving)

Having learned how inconvenient forcing public transportation in more remote and rural areas of Japan can be, we came back nearly 14 years later (April 2023) on a self-driving tour.

On that visit, we were able to park right up near the Seiganto-ji Temple (there was also a hotel or building around there with its own car park) and tour the top before going to the bottom.

The road is narrow (single-lane) and steep beyond the shops and small village around the “falls front” bus stop so we also noticed there were other car parks available before the road continues to climb and narrow out.

Nachi_008_04092023 - One of the shrines or temples in the Seiganto-ji area, which amped up the holiness of the Nachi Waterfall experience
One of the shrines or temples in the Seiganto-ji area, which amped up the holiness of the Nachi Waterfall experience

Unfortunately, we showed up just before 4pm, but by the time we made it to the pagoda, the lady had just stopped accepting visitors as it closed at 4pm.

Anyways, I did notice on this visit that there were more people (including more gaijin) visiting both the Seiganto-ji and the Nachi Waterfall compared to our first visit.

There were also more tourist-friendly amenities like the shops as well as a few signs in English though I was still amused to see quizzical looks from foreigners trying to make sense of the signs and maps that were all in Japanese.

That was us on our first visit in June 2009, so I could definitely empathize with what these intrepid visitors were going through.

Nachi_037_04092023 - It's not often that you see cherry blossoms with a waterfall, but our April 2023 visit of Nachi Falls yielded just that juxtaposition, which was quite unexpected considering how most of the sakura had passed in the busier spots like Tokyo, Kyoto, Yoshino, etc.
It’s not often that you see cherry blossoms with a waterfall, but our April 2023 visit of Nachi Falls yielded just that juxtaposition, which was quite unexpected considering how most of the sakura had passed in the busier spots like Tokyo, Kyoto, Yoshino, etc.

Nevertheless, we were way more efficient self-driving this area as opposed to struggling with the public transportation (and its scheduling).

Moreover, regarding the Hotel Urashima (where we were staying), they had a separate car park area.

That allowed us to take their complementary shuttle to the back entrance of the hotel (though there was also the option of being dropped off at the boat dock), but that meant we wouldn’t be tied to a particular inconvenient schedule.

Funny how as we get older and wiser, we slow things down and become more aware of these options as well as the sights and sounds that we would have otherwise missed in our younger days.

Katsuura_002_06012009 - The Hotel Urashima was where we stayed overnight during our visit to the Nachi Waterfall, and as you can see, it was a beautiful establishment requiring a boat ride to get to it from the mainland
The Hotel Urashima was where we stayed overnight during our visit to the Nachi Waterfall, and as you can see, it was a beautiful establishment requiring a boat ride to get to it from the mainland

Indeed, the Nachi Falls (and the neighboring Kumano Mountains for that matter) reward those who don’t rush, and our second visit kind of proved that point.

Authorities

The Nachi Waterfall resides in the Katsuura Peninsula near Nachikatsuura of the Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. It is administered by the Wakayama Prefectural Government. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) website.

Nachi_005_04092023 - It felt like deja vu when we went up these steps to get to the Seiganto-ji Temple area on our second visit to Nachi Waterfall (in April 2023), but at least we weren't rushed this time around.  By the way, this photo and the next several shots in this gallery came from that second visit
Nachi_007_04092023 - Checking out one of the shrines or temples of the Seiganto-ji during our April 2023 visit to the Nachi Falls
Nachi_009_04092023 - A gate guarding the main shrine of the Seiganto-ji during our April 2023 visit to the Nachi Falls
Nachi_010_04092023 - Looking at the entrance to the main shrine of the Seiganto-ji during our April 2023 visit to the Nachi Falls
Nachi_002_jx_04102023.jpeg - A cherry blossom fronting one of the buildings of the Seiganto-ji during our second time going to the Nachi Falls, which took place in April 2023
Nachi_016_04092023 - Full contextual look at the Nachi Falls and accompanying pagoda as seen from the lookout at the Seiganto-ji in April 2023
Nachi_017_04092023 - More constrained look at the Nachi Falls and accompanying pagoda in April 2023
Nachi_021_04092023 - Looking down another series of steps before another part of the Seiganto-ji complex during our April 2023 visit to the Nachi Falls
Nachi_024_04092023 - Following some gaijin down the upper car park towards the pagoda fronting the Nachi Falls in April 2023. It's amazing to see just how many foreigners we saw on this trip compared to our June 2009 visit when we were the only gaijin around!
Nachi_028_04092023 - Approaching the pagoda fronting the Nachi Falls during our April 2023 visit though we didn't make it in time to go in the pagoda before closing
Nachi_032_04092023 - Another look at the pagoda, where you can see that one door was already closed by the time we made it down to its steps during our April 2023 visit
Nachi_033_04092023 - Checking out a cherry blossom on the way down to the bottom of the Nachi Falls during our April 2023 visit
Nachi_039_04092023 - Looking up the steps that went to the Seiganto-ji area while I descended to the bottom of the falls during our April 2023 visit
Nachi_044_04092023 - Continuing down the bouldery steps towards the bus stop and entrance area to the bottom of the Nachi Falls in April 2023
Nachi_046_04092023 - The familiar view of the bus stop and car park for the lower entranceway to the bottom of the Nachi Falls during our April 2023 visit
Nachi_008_iPhone_04102023 - Approaching the entrance to the lower lookout of the Nachi Falls during our second time here in April 2023
Nachi_047_04092023 - It looked like during our April 2023 visit to Nachi Falls, there was some fresh new signage that I didn't recall seeing before from our June 2009 visit
Nachi_050_04092023 - Descending stone steps towards the lookout area at the bottom of the Nachi Falls
Nachi_051_04092023 - Final descent to the lookout area at the bottom of the Nachi Falls
Nachi_052_04092023 - Context of the seemingly busier and more developed lookout area at the bottom of the Nachi Falls during our April 2023 visit
Nachi_055_04092023 - Context of the lookout area at the bottom of the Nachi Waterfall as seen in April 2023. The entrance to the paid 'praying area' was towards the left adjacent to that shop
Nachi_056_04092023 - Looking back at the steps taken to descend to the lower lookout in front of the base of the Nachi Falls with an incense cauldron spewing out some smoke
Nachi_057_04092023 - After paying a modest fee, I then checked out the paid 'praying area' for different perspectives of the Nachi Falls
Nachi_058_04092023 - Looking up at the Nachi Falls on the way up to the 'praying area' within the paid admission part of my visit in April 2023
Nachi_060_04092023 - Ascending to the lookout platforms at the end of the trail within the paid part of the Nachi Falls bottom as seen in April 2023
Nachi_065_04092023 - One fellow visitor was bowing and doing some kind of ritual before the Nachi Falls during my visit in April 2023
Nachi_069_04092023 - Context of the red railings at the viewing deck within the 'praying area' of the Nachi Falls as seen in April 2023
Nachi_074_04092023 - Looking back at the viewing areas within the paid admission part of the lower viewing area for of the Nachi Falls as seen in April 2023
Nachi_079_04092023 - Looking back down towards the entrance of the paid admission area as I was heading down towards the exit of the shop at the base of Nachi Falls in April 2023
Nachi_080_04092023 - I didn't remember having to do this on my first visit to Nachi Falls in June 2009, but on my April 2023 visit, they pulled a Disneyland model and routed you through their shop before you get to leave
Nachi_084_04092023 - Last look back at the Nachi Falls before going back up the steps to the car park
Nachi_086_04092023 - Going back up the stone steps on the way back to the car park and bus stop where Julie was to pick me up so I wouldn't have to walk all the way back up to the Seiganto-ji
Nachi_099_04092023 - Looking up at the steps rising above the bus stop, which brought back all sorts of memories of our first visit in June 2009
Nachi_001_06012009 - Julie running through the torii to get to the lower viewing deck of the Nachi Waterfall as we were rushing to get our visit in before the next bus during our June 2009 visit. By the way, this photo and the rest of the photos in this gallery were taken from that first visit
Nachi_004_06012009 - Direct view of Nachi Waterfall from the shrine area below the lower viewing deck as seen in June 2009
Nachi_010_06012009 - Direct view of the Nachi Waterfall after going up some steps from the lower viewing deck for a more open view during our June 2009 visit
Nachi_032_06012009 - As we were leaving the lower viewing deck for Nachi-no-taki, we passed by this charming little shrine area during our June 2009 visit
Nachi_034_06012009 - Running up the steps to the temple and upper views of the Nachi Waterfall during our June 2009 visit
Nachi_005_jx_06012009 - An entrance to the Seiganto-ji Temple near the Nachi Waterfall during our first visit here in June 2009
Nachi_037_06012009 - Distant look at a pagoda and the Nachi-no-taki. The viewing experience could be better, but the building to our right of where this picture was taken was closed (that would have promised perhaps an even better view)
Nachi_047_06012009 - Looking back in the direction of Seiganto-ji Temple where we were just at as we made our way back down to the pagoda and the ultimately the bus stop at the lower viewpoint of the Nachi Waterfall in June 2009
Nachi_049_06012009 - Context view of Nachi-no-taki from within the red pagoda as seen in June 2009
Nachi_052_06012009 - Zoomed in view of the Nachi Waterfall from the pagoda as seen in June 2009
Nachi_063_06012009 - Running to the 'falls front' bus stop after having visited Nachi-no-taki from its main viewing areas by the Seiganto-ji Temple during our first visit in June 2009
Katsuura_006_06022009 - Imagine our relief when we finally made it to the boat that returned us to the Hotel Urashima so we could enjoy the hotel itself on our June 2009 visit
Katsuura_015_06022009 - Julie going beneath a torii and entering an attractive garden area atop Hotel Urashima during our first time here in June 2009
Katsuura_018_06022009 - A shrine in the garden area atop Hotel Urashima in June 2009
Katsuura_062_06022009 - A surprise sea arch that we noticed while strolling around the top of the Hotel Urashima complex during our June 2009 stay


Since we managed to visit the Nachi Waterfall both by public transportation as well as by self-driving, I’ll delve into both methods in this section.

Using Public Transportation To Visit Nachi Waterfall

A major logistical issue regarding the Nachi Waterfall involved getting all the way to the Kii-Katsuura town (紀伊勝浦) or to Shingu (新宮).

Katsuura_001_06012009 - Hotel Urashima boat dock, which was the source of our issues during our first visit to Nachi Waterfall in June 2009
Hotel Urashima boat dock, which was the source of our issues during our first visit to Nachi Waterfall in June 2009

They’re all the way on the southeastern side of Kii-hanto (Kii Peninsula) which was directly opposite the peninsula from the major cities in Kansai like Osaka (大阪), Kyoto (京都), and Nara (奈良).

Julie and I did a 4-hour train ride from Shin Osaka Station (新大阪駅) on an express JR shinkansen line that stopped at a station by Kii-Katsuura (we really had to pay attention to the train schedule to know what we could and couldn’t do without a car).

Just to give you an idea of our adventurous day to get to this waterfall, our logistics broke down as follows:

  1. Catch earliest train from Kyoto Station (京都駅) to Shin Osaka Station (新大阪駅) at 6:09
  2. Catch long ride from Shin Osaka to Kii-Katsuura (紀伊勝浦駅) at 7:35
  3. Arrive at Kii-Katsuura (11:35) and catch boat with luggage and all to Hotel Urashima (11:55)
  4. After leaving luggage at reception, caught next boat back to town at 12:45
  5. Catch 13:00 bus from Kii-Katsuura Station (紀伊勝浦駅) to the falls (Taki-mae or 滝前)
  6. Catch 14:16 bus from the falls front back to Kii-Katsuura Station
  7. Catch the critical 14:50 boat from Kii-Katsuura dock to Hotel Urashima; if we missed that one, we would be stranded in town until 19:00!

PS: Had we waited until the next day to do this excursion, the boat shuttle didn’t run between 7:35 and 10:00, which meant that we would’ve had to get a real early start or else we would’ve had to wait until almost midday to visit the Nachi Waterfall.

Katsuura_071_06022009 - Looking back from the top of the Hotel Urashima towards the boat dock and the rest of the mainland at the Kii-Katsuura town. Despite the bad boat schedule, the hotel was very nice
Looking back from the top of the Hotel Urashima towards the boat dock and the rest of the mainland at the Kii-Katsuura town. Despite the bad boat schedule, the hotel was very nice

This boat schedule caused us quite a bit of bother as we were trying to return to Osaka that day anyways so we quickly had to rush to eat breakfast, get our stuff together, check out, and then leave for the boat to return to the Kii-Katsuura mainland.

We needed to not miss the train bound for Osaka so we couldn’t afford to miss the boat and have to wait several more hours to catch the next one!

Maybe in hindsight, we would’ve been better off driving this section as the boat schedule just seemed utterly inconvenient (almost useless) to us!?!

Self-Driving to Nachi Waterfall

Well, we proved out our suspicions about how much more efficient self-driving the Wakayama Prefecture was on our second visit to the Nachi Waterfall.

Nachi_009_iPhone_04102023 - Context of the Road 46 switchbacking before the bus stop and car park nearest to the bottom of the Nachi Waterfall
Context of the Road 46 switchbacking before the bus stop and car park nearest to the bottom of the Nachi Waterfall

The nearest city is Shingu, which is one of the larger cities of the Wakayama Prefecture.

So whether you take the coastal route or the mountain route, all routes seem to lead to Shingu.

Regarding the mountain paths, you could take the Route 168 from Gojo to Shingu via Totsukawa, or you could take the Route 169 from Yoshino (of sakura or cherry blossom fame) to Shingu (this was the route we took on our April 2023 visit).

Once in Shingu, it’s a 15-minute drive on the E42 expressway to get to the Nachikatsuura IC exit, where we’d then keep left at the off-ramp light to take the road up the Nachi Valley to the Nachi Falls and Seiganto-ji in another 15-20 minutes.

Nachi_001_04092023 - During our second visit to the Nachi Waterfall (in April 2023), we somehow ended up at this car park next to the Seiganto-ji Shrine before some accommodation (and we actually somehow missed the car park right in front of the shrine area itself)
During our second visit to the Nachi Waterfall (in April 2023), we somehow ended up at this car park next to the Seiganto-ji Shrine before some accommodation (and we actually somehow missed the car park right in front of the shrine area itself)

To give you some further geographical context, Kii-Katsuura (sometimes also called Nachi-Katsuura) was 16km (under 30 minutes drive) south of Shingu, 133km (about 3 hours drive) south of Yoshino, 241km (about 3.5 hours drive or 4.5 hours by train) south of Osaka, and 228km (under 3.5 hours drive or under 4 hours by train on the Nanki line) south of Nagoya.

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180 degree late afternoon sweep from the lookout before the grand shrine area peering towards the pagoda and the falls


Checking out the view from the base of the falls at the lookout surrounded by shops and shrines


Checking out the base of the falls from a pair of lookout areas at the paid praying area


Deliberate bottom up sweep of the falls from the lower viewing deck


Quick still movie of the falls with pagoda


Quick bottom up sweep of the waterfall as seen from the pagoda

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Tagged with: nachi, katsuura, nachikatsuura, seiganto, seigantoji, wakayama, osaka, japan, waterfall, peninsula, temple, urashima, honshu, kansai, world heritage



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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.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.