About Yudaki Waterfall (Yu-daki [湯滝])
The Yudaki Waterfall (Yu-daki [湯滝]; also seen it spelled Yutaki and just Yu Falls or Yu Waterfall) was a pretty unique-looking waterfall draining the lake Yu-no-ko by the Yumoto Onsen.
The word yu was familiar to Julie and I because we had visited a few restaurants in Japan (especially ramen or udon joints) and realized from the menus that the word meant something like “hot water” or “soup”.
This probably had to do with the lake Yu-no-ko having a bit of a sulphur smell as some of its expanse was geothermally heated from beneath as well as added to by other hot spring tributary waters.
For that reason, the Yumoto Onsen (湯元温泉), which was further upstream from the lake, was a pretty popular destination for those looking for a warm soak and wanting to get a little further away from both Nikko and Chuzenji Onsen (中禅寺温泉).
From the quantity of tourists riding in the bus with us all the way to the Yumoto Onsen (as of our first visit here in late May 2009), that seemed to support the notion that it was popular.
That said, we didn’t take the time to soak in the public onsens here (on neither of our visits) so we can’t say more about them.
Anyways, aside from a sign at the car park saying this waterfall was 70m in cumulative height, what really cracked me up about that sign was it saying something about appreciating its “feminine qualities.”
Even Julie got a real good crack up out of it.
From looking at the photo below (and at the top of this page), we’ll leave it up to you to figure out what they meant by it.
By the way, when we came back on a self-driving visit 14 years later in April 2023, it appeared that the verbiage from the sign concerning Yudaki’s “feminine qualities” still remained.
I don’t think our daughter quite understood what was meant by that, but I’ll let her come of age to eventually figure that out!
Experiencing the Yudaki Falls
The way we experienced this 70m waterfall on our first time was part of a fairly long but pretty one-way walk starting from Yumoto Onsen and rejoining the bus just downstream near the car park for the Yu Waterfall.
The intent was to build up the waterfall experience by absorbing the picturesque nature here before culminating in the waterfall itself.
However, I must admit that we probably didn’t have to go all the way to the Yumoto Onsen to start the walk.
In any case, the benefit of doing this pleasurable hour-long walk around the Yu-no-ko lake was that it was all downhill, including experiencing the top of Yu-daki before going down to its base and eventually its bus stop.
It was also during this excursion that it was very obvious how Yudaki drained the thermally-heated Lake Yunoko so it’s pretty much a year-round waterfall.
After going down some steps and a couple of switchbacks, we ultimately made it to the viewing platform right in front of the Yu Waterfall, which happened to be crowded with Japanese students when we arrived the first time.
Overall, the experience was very relaxing, very peaceful, and very scenic. What more could you ask for?
But if you were so inclined to reduce the length of this 2-3km excursion, there’s really nothing to stop you from doing it since they do have a bus stop as well as a car park right in front of the Yu Waterfall.
This was precisely what we did on our second time visiting the Yu Waterfall (in April 2023), where we self-drove straight to the car park (see directions below).
During that visit, we saw monkeys (saru or zaru in Japanese) near the entrance to the car park area though they seemed more timid and less aggressive compared to say the ones in Bali.
Anyways, the shorter route taken to experience the Yudaki Waterfall’s viewing platform afforded me the ability to extend the excursion to do a 2km loop walk encompassing the Kotaki Waterfall, which has a separate write-up.
In fact, if I wasn’t as time-constrained nor as affected by trail closures, there was the option to keep hiking further downstream towards the Ryuzu Falls.
The Yudaki Waterfall resides in the Nikko area of the Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. It is administered by the Nikko National Park. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting the Nikko Tourism Association website.
As for logistics, we managed to visit the Yudaki Waterfall both by public transportation as well as by self-driving.
Yudaki By Public Transportation
Regarding public transportation, the buses from Nikko (日光) to Yumoto Onsen (湯元温泉) leave less frequently than the Chuzenji Onsen (中禅寺温泉) route.
That said, it’s roughly on the order of once every half-hour to an hour, which is still very reasonable.
I think it was something like another 30- to 45 minutes to go from the Chuzenji Onsen stop all the way to Yumoto Onsen (though my notes were a little unclear about this).
As for cost, this route is part of the two-day All Nikko Pass, which turned out to be a good value during our time spent in the general area.
Yudaki By Self-Driving
The way we self-drove was from the town of Nikko, where we took a twisty one-way drive up past the Akechidaira Ropeway eventually to Chuzenji Onsen.
Then, we continued driving on the 120 Road beyond Lake Chuzenji towards the Yudaki turnoff and car park in 11km from Chuzenji Onsen Town.
Overall, this drive would take about an hour (or less if you’re not caught behind slow vehicles and are a confident driver on the twisty mountain roads).
By the way, we did try to drive to Yudaki and eventually Nikko by way of Konsei Toge Pass and the Fukiware Waterfall (further to the west), but that road was closed during our April 2023 visit.
Whether that was a seasonal closure due to snow still present on the roads or if there was some other road work going on was unknown to me (it resulted in us making a nearly 2-hour detour to the south to overcome this setback).
Finally, for some geographical context, Nikko was 39km (under an hour drive) northwest of Utsunomiya, 152km (about 2 hours drive) north of Tokyo, 159km (2 hours drive) east of Numata (or 95km over 2 hours drive via Route 120 over the Konsei Toge Pass, which is subject to snow closure), 256km (3 hours drive) southwest of Sendai, 256km (over 3 hours drive) east of Nagano, and 284km (3.5 hours drive) southeast of Niigata.
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