About Sotaki Waterfall (Sotaki [惣滝])
The Sotaki Waterfall (sotaki [惣滝]; “So Falls”) was a towering 80m waterfall near the secluded Tsubame Onsen, which itself is a tiny onsen town at the end of the Route 39 uphill from Myoko.
I’ve also seen this waterfall spelled as Soutaki or Sou Falls since it could be argued that you’d pronounce it like そうたき as opposed to そたき.
Nevertheless, this waterfall allowed us to combine a brief waterfalling excursion with a chance to bathe in an outdoor onsen (or rotemburo) to really soak (pun intended) in the back-to-nature experience.
The way we experienced this waterfall was from a distant lookout showing its main drop, but the rest of its drop (making it seem way taller than the 80m figure) was concealed from this vantage point.
We saw that there was actually a trail that was supposed to go closer to the base of the main drop of the Sotaki Falls, but that path was closed due to landslides.
As much as I wanted to see what was behind the barricade, it was also raining on and off, which wouldn’t be wise to tempt fate given the slippery footing and the increased potential for more landslides.
In any case, after parking the car at the Tsubame Onsen (see directions below), we then walked up to the quaint town of Tsubame Onsen, which had a handful of buildings each with indoor hot springs, I’m sure.
After walking up the steep road to the end of town, that’s where the path split.
The path on the right went to the closed off trail that went to the bottom of the Sotaki Waterfall’s main drop.
Meanwhile, the path on the left went up a bunch of steps leading up to a small shrine (called Yakushido according to Google Maps).
Beyond the shrine, the path continued to go up a combination of steps and ascending asphalt ramps before going past an outdoor gender-separated onsen called Kogane no Yu.
There’s no charge to dip in this onsen (though donations are appreciated), which has hot, milky water, but there’s no shower facility to rinse before going in.
A short distance uphill from the rotemburo was another small shrine-looking thing at another split in the path.
I only went to the right, which terminated at an overlook of the Sotaki Waterfall, which admittedly left a lot to be desired (especially with a lot of the foreground foliage obstructions).
Even though Sotaki was included as one of Japan’s Top 100 Waterfalls, I think that would be true had we been able to safely take the other trail to get closer.
As such this became our waterfalling excuse to check out the outdoor onsens here, which is something you don’t often get to combine in a waterfall-based excursion.
In any case, I can’t say anything about the path going left since I didn’t explore it, but I understand that there’s an even more secluded rotemburo called Kawara no Yu to check out over there.
According to my GPS logs, walking to the Sotaki Lookout was only about 600-700m in each direction.
Overall, I spent around 75 minutes away from the car, but this also included around 15 minutes of soaking in the outdoor onsen as welll as spending a good deal of time taking pictures.
The Sotaki Waterfall resides by the Tsubame Onsen near Myoko in the Niigata Prefecture, Japan. It may be administered by the local authorities from Myoko. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting the Myoko Tourism website.
The Sotaki Waterfall resides behind the Tsubame Onsen village near Myoko in the Niigata Prefecture.
We actually trusted Google Maps a bit too much when we visited this place and wound up going to a dead-end at a closed tunnel so I’m going to describe how we should have done this drive from Nagano.
From Nagano, we’d drive towards the E18 expressway at the Suzaka-Naganohigashi IC, and then go north on the E18 for about 38km to the Myokokogen IC exit.
We’d then take the exit towards the Route 187, where we’d turn left to continue on this road towards Myoko and the Route 399 in another 1.8km.
Next, we’d follow the Route 399 north for about 2.7km (going through Akakura Onsen) before turning left onto the Route 396.
Then, we’d follow the Route 396 for a little over 3km before turning left onto Route 39.
Finally, we’d follow the Route 39 towards the car park for Tsubame Onsen for about 2.8km.
This car park seemed pretty big when we visited though the foul weather may have impacted visitation, but I can see this place filling up at busier times of the year (e.g. the Autumn).
Thus, an early start would definitely be a good idea if you wish to spend time here.
By the way, if you blindly follow GoogleMaps, it’s going to try to take you up the other side of Route 39 from Akakura Onsen.
Unfortunately, after driving 4km up the narrow and steep winding road, we were thwarted by a closed off tunnel and had to go back to Akakura Onsen.
This was a classic example of why you can’t always trust GoogleMaps for routing because every so often you go on joy rides like this.
While the software thinks it’s doing you a favor taking you the shortest distance route, I’ve found that we’ve often wasted time and piece of mind unnecessarily on narrow roads or dead-ends!
Indeed, we wound up driving for more than 1.5 hours from Nagano to Tsubame Onsen following GoogleMaps, but if we had gone the way suggested above, then the drive would have only been a little over an hour.
For some geographical context, Myoko was about 50km (an hour drive) north of Nagano, 128km (under 2 hours drive) northeast of Matsumoto, 137km (about 2 hours drive) east of Toyama, 142km (over 90 minutes drive) south of Niigata, and 283km (about 4 hours drive) northwest of Tokyo.
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