About Sasa Waterfall (sasa-no-taki [笹の滝])
The Sasa Waterfall (Sasa-no-otaki [笹の滝]; Sasa Falls, which can be a Japanese surname meaning “bamboo grass”) is a powerfully gushing 32m waterfall on a tributary of the Taki (Falls) River.
It’s certainly deserving of its status as one of Japan’s Top 100 Waterfalls per the Ministry of the Environment (a list published in 1990), and my experiences have shown that this list has been quite spot on (this waterfall included)!
That said, this waterfall certainly carried a bit of drama, in my mind, mostly because of its remote location combined with a rather dangerously slippery scramble that’s required to get a clean look at it.
A Surprising Bit Of Drama Around The Sasa Falls
Regarding the drive to get here, I had to drive quite a ways from Shingu to the depths of the Kumano Mountains in the Nara Prefecture, including a 10km or so drive on a single-lane road (see directions below).
I believe it was in this stretch of the road that I might have gashed a tire that I would later have to figure out how to change into a spare on my own, then drive 60km back to Shingu where I knew there’s a tire shop and rental car office.
While these things can and do happen when you drive mountain roads, I have to confess that I wasn’t as careful on the single lane road as I might have gotten too close to the cliff wall at one point and clipped the tire.
Regarding the dangerously slippery scramble, I had to climb onto wet and very slippery boulders with chains to hold onto in an attempt to both keep my balance and still move forward towards a cleaner view of the Sasa Falls.
I definitely had my doubts about this scramble, especially considering how the wet and slippery slopes tilted the wrong way towards dropoffs and/or the waterfall’s plunge pool.
In hindsight, if this waterfall has high flow (which seemed to be the case during my April 2023 visit), then maybe it’s not a good idea to pursue that cleaner view (which I’ll delve more into in later on in this write-up).
Perhaps, it’s best to visit this place in the Autumn where the combination of lower flow and the koyo (Fall colors) would make experiencing this waterfall more pleasurable.
What’s Up With The Name “Sasano Falls”?
By the way, I’ve seen this waterfall searched as “Sasano Falls” in Google, which is weird, because the particle “no” (or の) shows possession or modifies an adjective/noun in Japanese.
I’m not sure who propagates and misleads Google into essentially renaming the waterfalls to include the particles, but it’s an awkward English translation, and it really should be just Sasa Falls or Sasa Waterfall.
After all, you don’t see Nachi Falls or Nachi Waterfall being referred to as the Nachino Falls, do you?
It could very well be something that was lost in translation, especially since you don’t get that many English-speaking tourists into this more remote part of Japan.
Experiencing The Sasa Waterfall and Hike
In this section, I’ll briefly go into how the short hike was like, and I’ll punt the driving details to the directions part of this write-up.
So after parking my car near the restroom facility (there are also more parking spaces another 100m or so further down the road), I then walked up towards the start of the waterfall hike, where there’s signage at a torii gate.
The river was quite loud around this trailhead because the tributary stream also had a cascade flowing between the road bridge and the restroom facility.
Beyond the torii gate, the trail pretty much hugged along the base of cliff walls (which were soaring maybe at least 100 meters high) before the trail started to go underneath a jumble of giant boulders.
This part of the trail was set back enough from the stream to stay dry for the most part, but I’d imagine this under-the-rock scramble would be quite dangerous in times of flood or bad weather (even with the chains to hold onto).
Beyond the rockfall traverse, the trail then continued on a degenerating boulder scramble alongside more cliff walls before getting closer to the Sasa Falls (which is partially seen at this point) and its tributary creek itself.
At this point, the path gets rough real fast as I had to contend with pools, slippery rocks, and chains to hold onto to help with some of the dicey ledges.
Eventually, the path goes into the spray zone of the Sasa Falls, which made the continuation of the trail very dangerously slippery (despite the bolts and chains that were set up here).
While I did manage to get up to a cleaner look at the Sasa Falls, I had to crawl in some spots as well as have quite a few doubtful moments trying to figure out how to proceed without a bad accident.
Indeed, practically none of the footing here was certain (even with hiking boots on), and it would have been hopelessly dangerous without the chains.
I wound up taking about 45 minutes to get to the end of the trail (it’s supposed to take no more than 10-20 minutes), and it took me another 40 minutes to get back to the car.
That gives you an idea of just how slow and deliberate I had to be in the dangerous part of the scramble for this falls.
If that last bit is a bit too much for your risk tolerance (it certainly tested mine), then you might be better off not bothering with the scramble and settling for the partial views of the Sasa Falls.
You still actually get to see most of this impressive waterfall, but you just don’t get to see its very bottom and its plunge pool.
The Sasa Waterfall resides near Totsukawa Village in the Yoshino District of the Nara Prefecture. Even though it seems to sit just outside the Yoshino-Kumano National Park, it maybe administered by the Ministry of the Environment. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting the official website.
Sasa Falls sits well within the Kumano Mountains north of Totsukawa Village in the Nara Prefecture.
Since I made the drive from Nachikatsuura to Sasa Falls by way of Shingu and Totsukawa, I’ll describe the route in this manner (knowing full well that there are other approaches, especially from the north around Nara, Asuka, Yoshino, etc.).
From Nachikatsuura, I took the E42 expressway towards Shingu as the freeway ends and I took the 42 to an intersection with the Route 168 at one of the traffic lights.
Then, I drove about 66km to a signed turnoff for the Sasa Falls leaving the Route 168 roughly 7.5km north of Totsukawa.
Next, I followed the mostly single-lane rural road for the final 11km to the limited parking spaces about 100m before the trailhead for the Sasa Falls.
During this last bit of driving, there were signs spaced every kilometer apart to let you know your progress (and keep you oriented in the right direction).
Note that the reverse is also true on the way out.
Overall, this drive took me around 2.5 hours given the winding roads, delays from road work, and slower drivers with limited opportunities to pass.
Finally, it’s worth noting that this rural road actually keeps going beyond the Sasa Falls Trailhead.
Based on what I could glean from my limited Japanese, the road apparently continues along the Takigawa (Falls River) towards its end, but it’s not clear to me if there are more waterfalls (as the river’s name suggests).
I was running short on time during my visit so I couldn’t pursue this issue further (and it was a good thing I didn’t given my flat tire issues).
For geographical context, Shingu was 16km (under 30 minutes drive) north of Nachikatsuura, 23km (over 30 minutes drive) south of Kumano, 117km (over 2.5 hours drive) south of Yoshino, 235km (3.5 hours drive) south of Nara, 228km (3.5 hours drive) southeast of Osaka, and 217km (over 3 hours drive) southwest of Nagoya.
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