Yamabiko Waterfall (yamabiko-no-taki [山彦の滝])

Engaru / Maruseppu, Hokkaido, Japan

About Yamabiko Waterfall (yamabiko-no-taki [山彦の滝])


Hiking Distance: 400m round-trip (Yamabiko Falls only); 2km round-trip (incl. Rokumei Falls)
Suggested Time: 30-45 minutes

Date first visited: 2023-07-16
Date last visited: 2023-07-16

Waterfall Latitude: 43.88248
Waterfall Longitude: 143.30308

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

The Yamabiko Waterfall (yamabiko-no-taki [山彦の滝]; “Yamabiko Falls”) was a 28m tall waterfall that lets you go behind it and is sometimes lit up and night.

This waterfall is typically subject to Winter closure, but they make an exception for specific dates between January and March for the “Yamabiko Falls Night Tour” where the ice column would be lit up.

Yamabiko_026_07152023 - The Yamabiko Waterfall
The Yamabiko Waterfall

Access to this waterfall was pretty straightforward 200m (though my GPS logs suggested 300m) hike from its car park (see directions below).

The hike itself may be short (400-600m round-trip), but it was narrow and can be a bit overgrown and uneven in spots, which attests to how off-the-beaten-path this spot can feel.

Once we were at the waterfall, we had a choice of directly crosing its stream to the other side over slippery rocks or doing the more interesting backside approach.

The latter option was what we followed as was a more obvious path that went around the plunge pool and then underneath its overhang, which went behind the falls.

Yamabiko_036_07152023 - Context of Mom going behind the Yamabiko Falls
Context of Mom going behind the Yamabiko Falls

This was where we were able to get the so-called “backwards” view, and sometimes this waterfall is called “Urami-no-taki” (裏見の滝; “Backview Falls”) for that reason.

You definitely have to watch your head as you go underneath (Mom managed to bump hers when she did this) as well as the slippery footing.

As we emerged on the other side of the falls, there were offerings as well as a small shrine dedicated to the Narita Fudoson since the falls faced east, which was said to bring luck.

The Rokumei Waterfall

It was possible to continue hiking another 500m (or 1km round-trip) to reach the Rokumei Waterfall (鹿鳴の滝 or “Crying Deer?”), which was a smaller “sister” waterfall that tumbles over a rocky slope.

Yamabiko_039_07152023 - Sign fronting the continuation of the trail leading to the Rokumei Waterfall
Sign fronting the continuation of the trail leading to the Rokumei Waterfall

That waterfall is said to be so-named because it was a spot where deer would frequently drink the water.

We could have extended our Yamabiko Falls visit to include the Rokumei Falls either as an out-and-back extension or as a full loop hike both requiring a total distance of 2.4km.

However, we opted not to do it as we didn’t feel like extending this hike at the time given that bears can frequently come here.

Thus, I can’t say much more about that waterfall and what that experience was like.

The Naming of Yamabiko Waterfall

Yamabiko_048_07152023 - A small shrine perhaps dedicated to the Narita Fudoson situated on the other side of the alcove backing the Yamabiko Falls
A small shrine perhaps dedicated to the Narita Fudoson situated on the other side of the alcove backing the Yamabiko Falls

It’s unclear to me how the Yamabiko Falls got its name, but maybe the following may shed some light into it.

Yamabiko could be translated to mean “echo” perhaps acknowledging the weird acoustics you get when you’re in that overhang behind the falls.

However, it could be a particular mountain god or spirit in the Japanese folklore (sometimes said to resemble something between a dog and a monkey).

There’s yet another story associated with this falls documented in the Maruseppu Town history volume from May 1, 1994.

Yamabiko_010_iPhone_07162023 - Context of the backside of Yamabiko Falls with some offerings set up in the alcove behind the falls
Context of the backside of Yamabiko Falls with some offerings set up in the alcove behind the falls

It concerned a day in February 1897 when Kaikauk Murayama went hunting and got caught in a snowstorm.

Disoriented, he wound up falling about 30m over a cliff and was knocked out, but when he came around, he looked up and saw an icicle and realized it was from a waterfall.

Miraculously, he wasn’t injured and so his fellow villagers worshipped him as a kamuiso (カムイノミ) or waterfall of divine spirits (神霊の滝), where people would offer wooden coins when out hunting.

Authorities

The Yamabiko Waterfall resides near the town of Maruseppu in the expanded town of Engaru, Hokkaido, Japan. It may be administered by the local authorities of Engaru. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting the Engaru Town website.

Yamabiko_003_07152023 - This building was the restroom facility by the Yamabiko Falls car park
Yamabiko_010_07152023 - Looking ahead at the ascending trail going past a picnic shelter as we started heading to Yamabiko Falls
Yamabiko_012_07152023 - Mom ascending the initial set of steps leading up to the Yamabiko Falls
Yamabiko_014_07152023 - The trail to Yamabiko Falls was well-forested and quite a nice, tranquil experience though this is also the perfect habitat for surprising bears
Yamabiko_015_07152023 - Mom going past some kind of shrine on the way to the Yamabiko Falls
Yamabiko_017_07152023 - More focused look at the attractive small shrine fronted by a torii gate, which I think might be dedicated to the Narita Fudoson
Yamabiko_020_07152023 - The further we went on the Yamabiko Falls Trail, the more the footing became a little more uneven so we had to be more careful about how we were walking
Yamabiko_024_07152023 - Mom approaching the Yamabiko Falls now that we could see it
Yamabiko_027_07152023 - Closer look at the Yamabiko Falls with the darkness of the deep alcove behind it
Yamabiko_034_07152023 - Context of Mom going around the backside of the Yamabiko Falls though I think it was around this moment that she bumped her head pretty hard
Yamabiko_040_07152023 - If there's any doubt about the height of Yamabiko Falls, this sign tries to remove all doubt about that
Yamabiko_042_07152023 - On the other side of the stream looking back at the Yamabiko Falls
Yamabiko_045_07152023 - After Mom had her fill of the Yamabiko Falls, she headed back the other way going behind the falls again
Yamabiko_047_07152023 - Context of Mom going back to the other side of the Yamabiko Falls
Yamabiko_050_07152023 - Mom looking across at the profile of the Yamabiko Falls
Yamabiko_053_07152023 - Context of some offerings made behind the Yamabiko Falls
Yamabiko_058_07152023 - Another visitor showed up as we were leaving and she also decided to go this way to get behind the Yamabiko Falls and closer to the small shrine and offerings
Yamabiko_062_07152023 - Looking back across the front side of the Yamabiko Falls in long-exposure in profile
Yamabiko_063_07152023 - Looking across the base of the Yamabiko Falls showing the signage and the other stuff in context
Yamabiko_012_iPhone_07162023 - Stitched photo of the profile of Yamabiko Falls showing the entire cliff context and the plunge pool fronting the waterfall
Yamabiko_071_07152023 - Direct look in long exposure at the Yamabiko Falls
Yamabiko_005_iPhone_07162023 - Stitched photo of the direct view of Yamabiko Falls showing the entire cliff context and the plunge pool fronting the waterfall
Yamabiko_082_07152023 - Last clean look at the Yamabiko Falls before heading out
Yamabiko_091_07152023 - Partial look back at the Yamabiko Falls showing some smaller cascade fronting it
Yamabiko_094_07152023 - Going back down the steps to return to the Yamabiko Falls Trailhead


The Yamabiko Waterfall is situated near the village of Maruseppu within the expanded town of Engaru in Hokkaido.

In order to access the waterfall (closed in Winter except for specific occasions in January through March when you can see the ice column at night), we had to first drive the E39 expressway between Pippu-kita IC and its end in Engaru.

Drive_to_Yamabiko_036_MingSung_07162023 - The route to Yamabiko Falls was well-signed when we got to Maruseppu
The route to Yamabiko Falls was well-signed when we got to Maruseppu

At about 92km east of the Pippu-kita IC, we took the Maruseppu IC exit (note this was also 24km west of the start of the expressway in Engaru).

We then turned right onto the National Route 333 into the town of Maruseppu for about 350m before turning right again onto the Route 1070, which we then followed for the remaining 15km to the car park for Yamabiko Falls on the right.

Note that for some reason, GoogleMaps doesn’t recognize the proper car park for the Yamabiko Falls, and it could leave you at least 1km short at some unsigned turnoff for an unpaved road by a bridge.

This was yet another case where either someone was trolling by putting incorrect info on GoogleMaps or it could just be a case of someone not properly updating the waypoints on that platform.

Yamabiko_002_07152023 - The car park for the Yamabiko Falls
The car park for the Yamabiko Falls

Either way, as long as you keep following the signs (because the falls is quite well-signed from the town of Maruseppu), you’ll get here just fine.

Overall, this drive took us around 2 hours to traverse the distance between Asahikawa and the Yamabiko Falls.

For some geographical context, Engaru was about 119km (about 2 hours drive) northeast of Asahikawa, 127km (about 2.5 hours drive) west of Shari, 168km (about 3 hours drive) north of Obihiro, and 255km (about 3.5 hours drive) northeast of Sapporo.

Find A Place To Stay

Long video pretty much showing the complete experience both in front of, to the side of, and in back of the falls


Angled brief sweep of the falls showing a hiker starting to go to the other waterfall as well as showing some small shrines around its base

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Tagged with: yamabiko falls, yamabikonotaki, yamabikono falls, yamabikono waterfall, engaru-cho, engaru, maruseppu, japan, behind, rokumei waterfall, rokumei falls



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning 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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