About Shomyo Waterfall (Shomyo-daki [称名滝] and Hannoki Waterfall (Hannoki-no-taki [榛の木の滝])
The Shomyo Waterfall (Shomyo-daki [称名滝]; Shomyo Great Falls or just Shomyo Falls) and Hannoki Waterfall (Hannoki-no-taki [榛の木の滝]; Hannoki Falls) comprised the twin towers of waterfalls in the Japan Alps.
Shomyo Daki was said to the tallest permanent waterfall in Japan at a cumulative height of 350m.
In the picture above, the namesake Shomyodaki was on the left, and the thinner Hannoki-no-taki was on the right.
The latter was said to be Japan’s tallest waterfall overall, but it was also said to be seasonal as it would disappear rapidly when the snowpack was mostly depleted.
Experiencing both the Shomyo Waterfall and the Hannoki Waterfall
Our experience with Shomyo Waterfall and Hannoki Waterfall almost resulted in utter disappointment due to nasty weather.
Of course Julie and I have learned over the years of waterfalling that tall waterfalls in general tended to be more exposed to the whims of the fickle mountainous weather where we had to worry about clouds blocking the views.
And in our case, we visited on a day where we started the 30- to 45-minute walk under some pouring rain and low clouds!
Yet despite the drenching that we took and the bleak outlook the moment we started walking from the bus stop, I was glad that we pushed forward.
Indeed, by some minor miracle, the waterfall deities smiled upon us as the nasty weather seemed to relent right at the Shomyo Bridge in front of the waterfalls!
In fact, as we lingered here (trying real hard to do this without missing the next bus departure back to the Tateyama train station), the weather seemed to start clearing up.
When the reality had set in that we had to leave or else wait over another hour for the next bus (and possibly longer given the train schedule we were coordinating this with), we had no choice but to run as fast as we could back to the bus that was about to leave.
As we lingered at the waterfalls, we went beyond the Shomyo Bridge, where there were a couple of flights of steps leading to a shelter and a couple more overlooks.
From this vantage point, we were able to see more of the Shomyo Waterfall, but the Hannoki Waterfall started to hide itself within its grooved watercourse on the facing mountain.
By the way, that shelter was what allowed us to linger for as long as we did to wait out the remainder of the downpour we were experiencing.
Anyways, from looking at how thin the Hannoki-no-taki was, Julie and I could tell that it really depended on snowmelt as well as the brief but dense rainy season of early to mid Summer.
As you get into Autumn (which I thought would be an excellent time to go waterfalling in Japan as well as just about all of Asia for that matter), I believe this waterfall tended to diminish rapidly.
Perhaps that is why it didn’t quite get the same love as Shomyo-daki.
Man Modifications Impacting Shomyo-daki’s Overall Score
However, the amount of man-modifications done immediately downstream of the falls kind of spoiled things a bit.
That said, logging and hydroelectricity along with tourism and fishing drive the economy of the Toyama-ken (“ken” means prefecture).
So, I guess having this waterfall was much better than have it sacrificed altogether!
The Kurobe-Tateyama Transalpine Route
Another thing worth mentioning was the well-publicized Kurobe-Tateyama Transalpine Route through the heart of the Japan Alps spanning both the Nagano and Toyama Prefectures.
While I did have concerns about luggage forwarding, it seemed like a viable way to experience the Japan Alps without a rental car.
Even though we didn’t do it given our logistical concerns, it might be something we’d consider doing on a future trip to this region.
This alpine crossing involved a combination of funiculars, walks, and bus rides while taking in mountains, lakes, a big hydro scheme, and plenty of vistas.
As you can see from the crummy weather that we faced, that further conspired to keep us from forcing this tour to happen (rain or shine).
Nevertheless, had we done it, there was a separate walkway that linked one of the stops higher up the mountain to the Shomyo and Hannoki Waterfalls.
And from there, we could have taken the bus back to Tateyama Station to complete the alpine traverse.
The Shomyo Waterfall and Hannoki Waterfall reside near the town of Tateyama in the Toyama Prefecture, Japan. It is 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 for the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.
Since getting to the Shomyo Waterfall and Hannoki Waterfall combo requires a bit of logistics, we’ll break down the hectic day we had.
Keep in mind that we managed to bypass the Kurobe-Tateyama Transalpine Route and still got to see the waterfalls before ending the day in Toyama.
On the return train ride back to Toyama from the waterfalls, we nearly missed a local train connection, which would’ve stranded us elsewhere, but that’s another story.
Anyways, the timeline of our day involving these waterfalls is shown in the ordered list below:
- Left Matsumoto (松本; or Matsumotooooh Matsumotooooh Matsumotooooh) and caught train for Nagano (長野市; some time not long after 6am)
- Caught Naoetsu line at 8:12
- Caught JR shinkansen train making a stop in Toyama (富山) at 10:10
- Dropped luggage at a Toyama accommodation at 11:35
- Caught non-JR local train for Tateyama (立山; 1190円 each way) at 12:19
- Caught bus to Shomyo-daki (称名滝) at 14:00
- Caught bus back to Tateyama Station at 15:25
- Caught train back to Toyama Station with a connection (that we nearly missed) at 15:50
For some additional geographic context, Matsumoto was around 3.5 hours by train from Tokyo and 149km south of Joetsu (about 2 hours drive by car or 2.5-3 hours by train). Toyama was 129km west of Joetsu (under 2 hours drive or under 90 minutes by train) and 31km northwest of Tateyama (about an hour’s drive or over an hour by train, which was not on the JR system).
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