Shoji Waterfall (Shoji-ga-taki [精進ケ滝])

Minami Alps National Park / Hokuto / Kofu, Yamanashi, Japan

About Shoji Waterfall (Shoji-ga-taki [精進ケ滝])


Hiking Distance: 4km round trip
Suggested Time: 80-120 minutes

Date first visited: 2016-10-18
Date last visited: 2016-10-18

Waterfall Latitude: 35.72899
Waterfall Longitude: 138.32519

The Shoji Waterfall (Shoji-ga-taki [精進ケ滝]; also called just Shoji Falls and Kitashoji Falls) was a grand waterfall with a height of 121m.

It’s said to be the tallest waterfall in the Minami Alps National Park.

Shoji_Falls_101_10172016 - Shoji Waterfall
Shoji Waterfall

The moderate hike to reach this waterfall also included a trio of attractive waterfalls on the Ishiutoro River.

Indeed, after my parents and I had to endure a bit of drama to reach the Shoji Falls (which we’ll get to below), their first reaction upon seeing the falls made the reward that much sweeter!

As you can see in the photo above, we can easily see why this was a solid member of the government-backed Japan’s Top 100 Waterfalls List.

Perhaps if we had timed our visit for just two weeks later, the koyo (Autumn colors) would have arrived in greater force, which would have made experiencing the Shoji Waterfall that much more special.

Shoji_Falls_035_10172016 - Mom and Dad approaching some of the intermediate waterfalls on the Ishiutoro River on the hike to the Shoji Waterfall
Mom and Dad approaching some of the intermediate waterfalls on the Ishiutoro River on the hike to the Shoji Waterfall

I did notice that this waterfall was also referred to as the Kitashoji Falls (北精進ケ滝) suggesting that there was a north and south waterfall sharing the name of Shoji Falls.

Apparently, the waterfall described on this page would be the “North” Shoji Falls.

I’m not sure if this is true, but I thought I’d put this in here in case you’re more familiar with the falls being called this way.

In the same literature, I also noticed that they named the lower tier Kudan Falls (九段の滝 or Kudan-no-taki), which was said to comprise 40m of the overall 121m drop.

Difficulties in experiencing the Shoji Waterfall

Shoji_Falls_001_10172016 - It was with great relief when we finally arrived at the car park for the Shoji Waterfall after spending a lot of time on a fruitless detour after being led astray by the Japanese navigation system included with our car rental
It was with great relief when we finally arrived at the car park for the Shoji Waterfall after spending a lot of time on a fruitless detour after being led astray by the Japanese navigation system included with our car rental

The drama that my parents and I had to endure in order to reach the Shoji Waterfall involved some driving difficulties followed by a hike that the signs suggested would take about 40 minutes in each direction.

The driving difficulties mainly involved the Japanese GPS (included in the car rental) taking us on a bit of a “joyride”.

After all, we wound up going on an unsanctioned route that involved dirt roads, unsigned turns, and a turnoff to a non-existent road.

When we finally figured out that the GPS was wrong, then we ultimately had to backtrack and drive to the correct place to begin the hike.

Shoji_Falls_007_10172016 - Mom and Dad on the suspension bridge over the Ishiutoro River at the beginning of the hike to the Shoji Waterfall
Mom and Dad on the suspension bridge over the Ishiutoro River at the beginning of the hike to the Shoji Waterfall

In hindsight, the GPS guiding us on roads with a lack of signage was probably a clue that we should have stayed on the expressway until we saw exits or turnoffs with a bit more infrastructure.

We’ll get into more of these details in the directions below.

The Shoji Waterfall Trail Description – from the trailhead to the intermediate waterfalls

Our hike began from a fairly spacious car park with some porta potties and a wooden building nearby.

We then walked back along the road towards a suspension bridge, which crossed high above the gorge spanning the Ishiutorokawa (or Ishiutoro River; a tributary to the Fujigawa or Fuji River).

Shoji_Falls_129_10172016 - Looking down at the Ishiutorokawa towards a manmade wall with slits as seen from the first suspension bridge
Looking down at the Ishiutorokawa towards a manmade wall with slits as seen from the first suspension bridge

The suspension bridge offered us views of the rocky stream bed as well as some man-made wall upstream with slits to allow the river to continue passing through.

Upon reaching the other side of the bridge, we then saw a series of sign boards and interpretive signs.

Among the signs was a map board showing some of the intermediate highlights along the way to the Shoji Waterfall.

There was also a directional sign indicating that we still had about 40 minutes of hiking to reach the destination.

Shoji_Falls_021_10172016 - Mom and Dad on the well-forested path leading to the Shoji Waterfall
Mom and Dad on the well-forested path leading to the Shoji Waterfall

Finally, there was a board saying stuff about the Minami Alps National Park (at least from what I can glean from the kanji).

The trail started off as a pretty easy-to-follow dirt path as it eventually started to follow the Ishiutoro River.

After about 15 minutes on the trail (roughly 800m beyond the end of the suspension bridge), we then encountered a trio of waterfalls on the river.

The trail crossed over a bridge above the first waterfall (written as 魚止めの滝, which might be the “fish stopper waterfall”).

Shoji_Falls_049_10172016 - Looking down over the middle tier of the trio of intermediate waterfalls on the way to the Shoji Waterfall
Looking down over the middle tier of the trio of intermediate waterfalls on the way to the Shoji Waterfall

That bridge happened to stand in front of the second waterfall (written as 初見の滝, which might be the “first look waterfall”).

Then, the trail went up a steep series of ladders before crossing another suspension bridge fronting the third waterfall (見返りの滝, which might be translated as “fall of return”).

The Shoji Waterfall Trail Description – beyond the intermediate waterfalls

Beyond this trio of intermediate waterfalls, the trail then pretty much skirted the Ishiutorokawa while weaving between and besides giant boulders.

In some parts the trail, we crossed some bridges that made traversing some of the giant boulders and stream crossings much easier.

Shoji_Falls_061_10172016 - Mom and Dad Negotiating one of the trickier parts to the Shoji Waterfall hike where we had to follow the spray-painted red arrows towards some of the less-obvious obstacles
Mom and Dad Negotiating one of the trickier parts to the Shoji Waterfall hike where we had to follow the spray-painted red arrows towards some of the less-obvious obstacles

However, there were a few sections where we had to exercise care as well as a little route finding.

We especially had to pay close attention to spray-painted red arrows to help us navigate through some of the trickier spots.

The further along the trail we went, the rougher the terrain was.

Moreover, the trail was predominantly uphill throughout the hike though the only steep sections involved short stints on ladders and steps.

Shoji_Falls_070_10172016 - Traversing a series of bridges over the Ishiutoro River as we were getting close to the overlook for the Shoji Waterfall
Traversing a series of bridges over the Ishiutoro River as we were getting close to the overlook for the Shoji Waterfall

One or two of them involved some minor bouldering requiring the use of our hands as well as our feet.

Finally, after a final climb, we reached a signposted overlook where a clearing in the vegetation allowed us a clean look at the impressive multi-tiered drop of the Shoji Waterfall.

Even though the view of the falls seemed distant from here, signs warned us not to proceed further as that would require steep scrambling in dangerous rockfall-prone terrain.

So we were content with our views while enjoying a brief picnic lunch before heading back.

Shoji_Falls_110_10172016 - Mom and Dad elated to have finally arrived at the overlook for the Shoji Waterfall
Mom and Dad elated to have finally arrived at the overlook for the Shoji Waterfall

Overall, we spent about 2 hours on the nearly 4km trail.

That said, we probably spent a good 15 minutes of that time enjoying a picnic lunch along with a few minutes more of taking our time shooting plenty of photos while admiring the scenery.

Thus, I’d say the signage suggesting that the hike was 40 minutes in each direction was pretty accurate.

Authorities

The Shoji Waterfall resides in the Minami Alps National Park near Hokuto of the Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. It is administered by the Japan Ministry of the Environment. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting their website.

Shoji_Falls_005_10172016 - Dad and Mom walking back up the road before obeying these signs to get onto the suspension bridge across the Ishiutoro River on the way to the Shoji Falls
Shoji_Falls_008_10172016 - Dad and Mom checking out the views from the long suspension bridge over the Ishiutoro River en route to the Shoji Falls
Shoji_Falls_012_10172016 - Looking downstream over the controlled Ishiutoro River from the suspension bridge on the way to the Shoji Falls
Shoji_Falls_130_10172016 - Looking upstream from the first suspension bridge towards a manmade wall with a pair of slits to allow the Ishiutoro River flow past
Shoji_Falls_014_10172016 - Dad was reading some of the interpretive signs on the other side of the first suspension bridge
Shoji_Falls_015_10172016 - One of the signs on the other side of the suspension bridge showed the context of the hike leading up to the Shoji Falls
Shoji_Falls_016_10172016 - Sign discussing the Minami Alps National Park, which the Shoji Falls was within
Shoji_Falls_017_10172016 - Initially, the Shoji Falls Trail was pretty straightforward to follow as the trail was well-defined and mostly flat
Shoji_Falls_018_10172016 - One of the interpretive signs along the Shoji Falls Trail, which really tested our ability to read the kanji just from recognizing characters that were shared with Chinese
Shoji_Falls_019_10172016 - Another one of the many signs along the Shoji Falls Trail, where I think this one discussed something about being gazetted as one of the Top 100 Waterfalls of Japan on May 18
Shoji_Falls_020_10172016 - Another interpretive sign in kanji along the trail to Shoji Falls
Shoji_Falls_022_10172016 - Dad following along the trail to the Shoji Falls with some signage along the way to keep us on track
Shoji_Falls_025_10172016 - Mom continuing along the well-forested path to Shoji Falls
Shoji_Falls_026_10172016 - Mom about to climb before another one of the signs along the trail helping to keep us on the right track as the trail would start skirting alongside the Ishiutoro River
Shoji_Falls_027_10172016 - Mom continuing ahead alongside the bouldery banks of the Ishiutoro River en route to the Shoji Falls
Shoji_Falls_029_10172016 - About 800m into the hike to Shoji Falls, we reached a trio of intermediate waterfalls where the trail bridged the river between the first and second falls shown here
Shoji_Falls_037_10172016 - Looking directly at the middle intermediate waterfall from the footbridge above the first waterfall en route to the Shoji Falls
Shoji_Falls_038_10172016 - Looking downstream at the Ishiutoro River from the footbridge above the first waterfall en route to the Shoji Falls
Shoji_Falls_039_10172016 - Context of Mom and Dad crossing over the bridge traversing the Ishiutoro River with the second intermediate waterfall in context to our right
Shoji_Falls_040_10172016 - Mom going up a steep series of steps past the bridge between the first two intermediate waterfalls on the Ishiutoro River
Shoji_Falls_044_10172016 - Looking down across the middle tier of the intermediate waterfalls on the Ishiutoro River en route to the Shoji Falls
Shoji_Falls_047_10172016 - Another look back at an angled view of the second intermediate waterfall on the Ishiutoro River while climbing higher above it
Shoji_Falls_050_10172016 - Looking down from even higher up the steps alongside this second intermediate waterfall on the Ishiutoro River on the way to the Shoji Falls
Shoji_Falls_053_10172016 - Mom and Dad traversing a suspension bridge crossing before the third intermediate waterfall on the Ishiutoro River
Shoji_Falls_056_10172016 - After continuing past the last of the intermediate waterfalls on the Ishiutoro River, we then started noticing these giant boulders alongside the Shoji Falls Trail
Shoji_Falls_057_10172016 - Context of Mom and Dad hiking alongside the Ishiutoro River as we continued to pursue the Shoji Falls
Shoji_Falls_058_10172016 - The further we went beyond the third intermediate waterfall on the Ishiutoro River, the trail became a little less defined as it started flanking and weaving between giant rocks like this one
Shoji_Falls_063_10172016 - Dad descending steps as the Shoji Falls Trail weaved between and climbed over large boulders alongside the Ishiutoro River
Shoji_Falls_065_10172016 - The Shoji Falls Trail continued to skirt the Ishiutoro River, which was flanked by more boulders and rocks of all sorts of sizes
Shoji_Falls_066_10172016 - This small cascade was another intermediate 'falls' en route to the Shoji Falls
Shoji_Falls_069_10172016 - This was a spot where the Shoji Falls Trail ascended some steep inclines with steps
Shoji_Falls_071_10172016 - In between the swinging bridges across the Ishiutoro River, there were more of these spray-painted red arrows helping us to identify how to get over some of these tricky obstacles
Shoji_Falls_072_10172016 - These steps led up to a pair of metal bridges that went from one giant boulder to the next to save us the trouble of having to cross the Ishiutoro River while bouldering at the same time en route to the Shoji Falls
Shoji_Falls_073_10172016 - On the series of bridges facilitating the traverse of both the Ishiutoro River as well as giant (and slippery) boulders en route to the Shoji Falls
Shoji_Falls_075_10172016 - The somewhat rugged final ascent to the lookout for the Shoji Waterfall. Notice the red spray-painted arrow on the center left of this picture. Without that arrow, proceeding further from here wouldn't seem as obvious
Shoji_Falls_077_10172016 - Contextual view of the impressive Shoji Falls as well as the dangerously steep and bouldery scramble that would be required to continue past this point
Shoji_Falls_078_10172016 - More centered and focused look at the very impressive Shoji Waterfall
Shoji_Falls_083_10172016 - Broad look at the Shoji Waterfall surrounded by trees and fronted by lots of boulders
Shoji_Falls_097_10172016 - All focused look at the Shoji Waterfall as seen from the sanctioned overlook
Shoji_Falls_100_10172016 - Another contextual look at the Shoji Falls revealing the boulders strewn about in the Ishiutoro River underscoring the rockfall danger of the steep terrain here
Shoji_Falls_114_10172016 - Mom and Dad enjoying a well-deserved picnic lunch at the Shoji Falls overlook. Note that by this time, another guy showed up meaning that we weren't totally alone anymore
Shoji_Falls_115_10172016 - After having our fill of the Shoji Falls, it was time to walk back to the trailhead
Shoji_Falls_116_10172016 - On the return hike from Shoji Falls, we noticed this small cascade that we hadn't noticed before
Shoji_Falls_120_10172016 - Mom and Dad continuing back the way they came on the return hike from Shoji Falls
Shoji_Falls_121_10172016 - Mom approaching the steps leading down amongst the trio of intermediate waterfalls on the way back from Shoji Falls
Shoji_Falls_123_10172016 - Mom and Dad traversing the footbridges and ladders again as we made our way down the intermediate cascades on the Ishiutoro River
Shoji_Falls_125_10172016 - Context of Dad returning from Shoji Falls while skirting the Ishiutoro River
Shoji_Falls_126_10172016 - Another look at Dad on the Shoji Falls Trail on the return hike as we were getting closer to the suspension bridge at the start
Shoji_Falls_127_10172016 - Dad and Mom walking back up the suspension bridge over the Ishiutoro River to end our Shoji Falls hike
Shoji_Falls_128_10172016 - Dad and Mom going back across the suspension bridge on the way to the parking lot for Shoji Falls

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Even though we drove to this waterfall from Kawaguchiko, I’ll simplify the driving directions by picking up the description from the Sudama (or Sutama) IC exit from the Chuo Expressway not far north of Kofu.

This exit was about 82km north of Kawaguchiko (taking us under 90 minutes).

Shoji_Falls_004_10172016 - Looking back at the car park for the Shoji Waterfall
Looking back at the car park for the Shoji Waterfall

I’ll spare you the joyride that the Japanese GPS took us on and instead just describe the way we should have driven in the first place.

So from the Sutama IC exit off the Chuo Expressway, we would then drive north on the Route 141 for about 1.8km before turning left to go west on the route 611.

We’d follow the Route 611 which then merged with the route 612.

Then, we followed this route for about the next 6km before turning left onto a local road where a sign for Shoji Falls (in kanji) told us to turn.

Shoji_Falls_002_10172016 - Closer look at a faded sign seen at the car park for the Shoji Waterfall
Closer look at a faded sign seen at the car park for the Shoji Waterfall

From there, we’d follow the local road for the next 7.5km before another sign would indicate that we turn right to go on the final 800m spur leading to the car park for the Shoji Falls.

For geographical context in addition to Kofu being about some 75km north of Kawaguchiko, Kofu was also about 104km or 90 minutes drive southeast of Matsumoto. For further context, Kofu was about 126km or 3 hours drive northwest of Tokyo. The distance between the Kofushowa IC exit (in western Kofu) and the Sutama IC exit was about 18km along the Chuo Expressway.

360 degree sweep of the main falls with my parents reacting to their first look at the falls


Very long video starting from the top down showing all the tiers of an intermediate waterfall well downstream of Shoji Falls.

Tagged with: minami alps national park, hokuto, kofu, kitashoji, waterfall, yamanashi, ishiutoro river, fuji river, kudan, japan, sutama, sudama, top 100



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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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