About Nikko Shiraito Waterfall (nikko-shiraito-no-taki [日光・白糸の滝])
The Nikko Shiraito Waterfall (nikko-shiraito-no-taki [日光・白糸の滝]; Nikko Shiraito Falls, not to be confused with the many other Shiraito Falls in Japan) was my waterfalling excuse to explore the area around the Toshogu Shrine.
By the way, the Toshogu Shrine was the most famous of all the World Heritage temples and shrines in Nikko [日光], and it’s what draws the international tourists (i.e. crowds) here.
So it’s in this context that was impressed upon me during my visit to the Shiraito Waterfall despite its rather humble size at the foot of the Takinoo Shrine.
For starters, it was delightfully uncrowded, less commercialized, and more of a tranquil “zen” experience compared to the more commercialized and lemmings-like mentality that prevails further downslope.
Perhaps part of the reason why this waterfall doesn’t get much notoriety is that it’s a diminutive waterfall (maybe between 5-10m tall) fronted by infrastructure supporting the Takinoo Shrine approach to its entrance.
With that context, it makes the waterfall almost feel like an afterthought though I did notice a memorial here for John K. Emmerson, who was an American diplomat (making me wonder if that waterfall had something to do with him).
Anyways, for all intents and purposes, this was essentially a nearly roadside waterfall as I self-drove to the ??? shrine, which has limited car park space right across from bridges fronting the Shiraito Falls.
Now, if I didn’t have my own wheels, I could have also walked around 1.2km from the Toshogu Shrine complex and go up the narrow roads past the car parks for the shrine area just as one gaijin did here, who shared the experience with me momentarily.
After having our fill of the falls, we each then went up the steps to explore the Takinoo Shrine, which did not charge admission.
The complex had a handful of less blinged out shrine buildings and torii gates as well as more man-modified waterfalls on the same stream causing the Shiraito Falls.
I didn’t explore another path that went downstream along the stream so I can’t say where that path went, but I had a pretty satisfying experience though I was mindful of the slippery footing given the moderate rain during my visit.
The Nikko Shiraito Waterfall resides in the Nikko area of the Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. 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.
Because of the somewhat unsigned and hidden nature of the Shiraito Falls and Takino’o Shrine (I was only aware of it after consulting a map on Gaia GPS), they’re surprisingly tricky to find.
How to find Shiraito Falls if you don’t have a car
As mentioned earlier, one option would be to walk from the Toshogu Shrine Complex to the Shiraito Falls and Takino’o Shrine, but the question is where do you walk?
Well, the key is to go to the car parks to the east of the main entrance area, which is a large opening with automated ticket machines and the steps up to the entrance on one end, a five-storied pagoda on one corner, and paths coming in from all directions.
It’s the quieter eastern walkway that leads to (or comes from depending on your direction) the many car parks closest to the Toshogu Shrine, and that’s where you can pick up one of two narrow roads that ultimately converge and lead up to Shiraito Falls.
Mind you, all of this is understated and not all that well signposted (from what I can tell), which might explain why most visitors tend to ignore Shiraito Falls and the Takino’o Shrine.
Self Driving to Shiraito Falls
Anyways, as far as driving to the falls and shrine, using the traffic light at the Shinkyo Bridge as the landmark, I kept going east (not crossing the Daiyagawa River), which became the Route 247.
This road curved to the left and approached a bridge over the Inari River, where there were two turnoffs to the left.
The first one (less than 300m from Shinkyo Bridge) led to a series of car parks, which I’d imagine were the closest car parks for the Toshogu Shrine.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but you’d have to keep driving past the car parks to get onto a narrow road leading further uphill from the busy shrine complex area.
The second turnoff (maybe 40m further from the first turnoff) was closer to the bridge (just before it actually), and it followed another narrow road pretty much along the Inari River.
I followed this road, where in the first 500m or so, the other road converged with the one I was on, and I continued driving further up the mostly single-lane road for another 800m to a car park and small shrine to the right.
It was not all that obvious that the Shiraito Falls was here, but there were a pair of bridges opposite the car park (one for the road and one for pedestrians) that hinted to me that the stream responsible for the falls was here.
Assuming you knew where you were going, this drive would take around 5 minutes, but give or take all the uncertainties and traffic at the Shinkyo Bridge, it would probably take around 15 minutes or so for the stretch described here.
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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