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