Monday, October 18, 2010

Autumn in Bandai area

Autumn is the season for watching the changing colours and it is one of the most popular travel seasons in Japan. Infact there is a Japanese word for Autumn viewing- "Momiji Gari".

Our first Autumn viewing trip in Japan was to the Bandai area. Bandai area is the region around the  Mount Bandai in Fukushima prefecture. This is one of the popular ski resort area in winter. The region is called the Ura Bandai plateau. The region has a lot to offer for travellers- Lake Inawashiro, Lake Hibara, Goshikinuma Ponds, Sky Line, Lake Line, Gold Line and much more. We had travelled to Lake Inawashiro and Goshikinuma Ponds before so this time we decided to do the Sky Line, Lake Line and Gold Line. We had heard that the autumn colours in this region are especially spectacular.

Mount Bandai is 1819 mtrs high and is a volcanic mountain. It has erupted twice in the past , the last being in 1888 when it created widespread damage and the entire vicinity was reported to have been reshaped. The volcanic activity in this area has caused the Goshikinuma ponds and the Hibara lake.

Our first route yesterday was the Gold Line, which offers a scenic view of the Ura Bandai mountain ranges and a view of Lake Inawashiro. The road is a toll road and there are some minor waterfalls along the road. There are photo points and parking spots at many places along the road. We did get to see quite a few Autumn colours as we drove along the Gold Line.







The Gold Line ended near Lake Hibara.


After a lunch stop near Lake Hibara , we started driving on the Bandai Azuma Lake Line. This is a 13.1 km long route which connects the Bandai highlands and the Bandai Azuma Sky Line.We took a photo stop at Bishamon Pond.

The water in this pond appears to be turquoise blue coloured due to the colour of the particles in it. This is part of the Goshikinuma ponds. We had visited the Goshikinuma ponds before so we decided to skip it this time. We then drove past Lake Onogawa, Lake Akimoto, Nakatsugawa Keikoku bridge and some scenic views and photostops later we reached the start point of the Bandai Azuma Sky Line. This definitely was the most scenic and colourful of all the roads we travelled in the Bandai area yesterday.





The Bandai Azuma Skyline is a 28.8 km toll road which is one of the 100 scenic roads in Japan. It connects the towns of Inawashiro and Fukushima and offers a lovely view of the entire area from various viewing points along the road. The autumn colours made the view look like a scene out of a picture book. While driving midway we noticed fumes coming from a mountain.



 We did not know that there was an active volcano in the area and it came as a pleasant surprise. Driving ahead we reached Jodo Daira which is the mid poin of the Skyline and is situated 1580 meters above sea level. The Mount Issaikyo ( 1949 mtrs high) and Mt Azuma Kofuji ( 1705 mtrs high) are on both sides. The entire place smells of sulphur and after driving past woods and colourful trees we had suddenly arrived at a barren place with almost no vegetation and an active volcanic eruption.


We saw people taking a short trekking trail upto the crater here . It was almost sunset so we could not do the trail but it is definitely on our to do list.

 Driving a few kilometres ahead ,we were back in the world of trees and vegetation and autumn colours.
 We reached a place with a cluster of onsens. We did not have time to indulge in a hot water bath but we stopped for a 10 minute foot bath at one of the open air foot baths in the vicinity. A scenic day had ended and it was time to start our drive back home to Iwaki.

Unarguably one of the most scenic places to visit especially in autumn.

Few links which are helpful to plan a trip to the Bandai Azuma area :

Information:

 http://www.bandaisan.or.jp/e-bandaisan/English/web-content/04.skyline/skyline.html

 http://www.wa-pedia.com/japan-guide/mount_bandai-san_inawashiro-ko_lake.shtml

 http://fuku-tabi.jp/en/sightseeing/2010/10/000560.html

Map in English :

 http://www.bandaisan.or.jp/e-bandaisan/English/web-content/12.map/azuma.html

For people planning to visit the area and spend a night or two, it would be a good idea to also visit Lake Inawashiro, Goshikinuma ponds and Aizu Wakamatsu town. Apart from Autumn viewing, this region is also a popular skiing area and there are several ski resorts in this area.

Four Seasons in Japan

Japan is a country with abundant natural beauty. The beauty of the country and its nature is said to vary from place to place and season to season. In Japan, there are four seasons and the seasonal changes in natural beauty are amazing. The twelve months of a year are divided into four seasons- Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.

Spring is the most spectacular season and is synonymous with Blossoms. Cherry Blossoms in Japan is the peak tourism season too. Every place in the country has designated Cherry Blossom viewing spots. Cherry Blossoms are called "Sakura' and Cherry Blossom viewing is called "Hanami". The spring months are March, April and May . But spring is not famous for just Cherry Blossoms, there are Plum, Peach and Apricot blossoms which are equally beautiful. The weather is pleasant and the colourful flowers and blossoms are a spectacular sight. The Girls festival " Hina Matsuri" and Boy's festival - "Tango no Sekku" along with Golden week are other specialities of spring.

Come June and it is summer in Japan and the weather changes from pleasant and cool days to hot and humid days. Summer months are June, July and August. It is hot and humid and the one word which you just cannot miss hearing is " Atsui" and the most common sight is that of people seeking a slight relief from the handfans which come in all colours and shapes and sizes and varieties. The trees are green with the leaves and everywhere around it looks green. If spring has Hanami , summer has Hanabi. "Hanabi " is Japanese for fireworks and almost all big cities and towns in Japan have their own fireworks. It is the time for "Yakiniku" Japanese for Barbecue. Summer is also the season for "Odori" - the ceremonial dancing festivals. "Tanabata" the star festival, "O-bon" the festival for the dead are some other specialities of Summer. The year 2010 was reportedly the hottest summer in 100 years and also one of the longest summers. The summer this year continued till mid September. In Japan where even the nature follows the season cycle systematically, this was definitely uncommon.

Autumn arrives in early September and continues through October and November. The weather is pleasant again and the hot and humid summer days are soon forgotten. Autumn is the season of "Tsukimi"- full moon viewing and many places have their own events scheduled around the full moon days. It is also the season of "Momiji-gari" or Autumn colour viewing. The leaves start to change colour and the colourful trees are quite a sight. Every where the trees and mountain slopes are covered in hues of reds and yellows . This is the season when people travel the most to view the natural beauty. The childrens festival of "Shichi-Go-San" and Labour Thanksgiving Day " Kinro Kansha no Hi" are special festivals in Autumn.

Winter follows autumn with cool winds and snow in many places. The winter months are December, January and February. Skiing is the most popular activity in winter with most mountain resorts having a fair share of snow and ice. The snow capped Mount Fuji is the most popular sight during winter. Like all other seasonal travel destinations, winter has its own share of winter destinations, popular being the ski resorts. New Years Day "Shogatsu"  and Seasonal Division "Setsubun" are the most popular festivals during winter.

It is amazing to see the transformation in the nature, the food pattern, the weather and customs with the seasonal changes. Every place is said to look different in each of these seasons and each place has its speciality during each of these seasons. So much so that most travel spot tourism brochures carry pictures of the sight during the four seasons.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Indian essence in Japanese culture

I have a Japanese friend here who happens to be my husband's colleague. Most often it is through her that I get to learn a lot about Japan and its culture. Most often she introduces me to newer aspects of Japan and it is because of her that I have discovered so much about Japan in such a short while.

As an Indian in Japan, at times the similarities in a few traditions, beliefs and mannerisms surprise me. My friend is also often amazed to hear about the similarities. Japanese culture has a lot in common with Chinese and Korean cultures and traditions and the main reason for this is the impact of Buddhism in these three cultures. Buddhism by itself has its roots in Hinduism and a lot of customs and beliefs are common between both religions. It would not be wrong to say that Hinduism has made an indirect but important contribution to Japanese culture.

More than any other thing, it is the religious beliefs, practices, rituals and deities in which the similarities are more evident. To begin with while praying, both palms are joined together while bowing down to the deity or at the shrines. Footwear is prohibited inside the shrines and temples like in Hindu temples. Ringing the bell while entering the temple and lighting incense sticks are other similarities. Like the hundreds and thousands of shrines and temples found in India, you can see shrines and temples just about everywhere in Japan. The similarity does not end here. Infact I was surprised to learn that even quiet a few Hindu gods have their Japanese counterparts.

The first god which I learnt about was Benten sama or Benzaitensama - the goddess of speech who is the Japanese counterpart of Saraswati, the goddess of learning in Hinduism. There are innumerable shrines and temples dedicated to Benten-sama , most being near the sea coasts and lakes.The next god I learnt about was Daikoku, the god of darkness and who is considered to be the equivalent of Lord Shiva. Japan also has Bishamon( Kubera- the lord of wealth), Shod-en (Lord Ganesha's), Sui-ten ( Varuna), Bishukatsuma ( Vishwakarma, the celestial carpenter) and Taishaku ( Indra, the god of thunder and the king of gods) among others. Infact the  God of death, En-ma, is the Japanese counterpart of Lord Yama, Hindu god of death.

Like Hindus, the Shinto and Buddhist rituals in Japan include offering fruits and food to gods on special occasions and visits to shrines. Some festivals are similar in their nature too. One such instance is the O-bon, the festival for the dead. It is believed that the ancestors spirits visit their earthly home during this festival . Very similar to the beliefs around Hinduism's Mahalaya !

Some other similarities which can be seen in everyday life are taking off the footwear when you enter a home, traditionally sleeping on mattresses on the floor (not common in both countries in current age), etc. Moreover Yoga is very commonly practiced in Japan . Infact after curry, the Japanese know India as the land of the origin of Yoga.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Japanese Honorifics

In a country which lays a strong emphasis on politeness, it is natural that people cannot be addressed simply by their given names or family names. It is very rare that people whom you interact with on a daily basis be it neighbours or colleagues or even friends will ever address you without attaching a honorific


The most commonly used honorific is " San". It is generally a suffix which is usually added to the family name. It is the equivalent of the Indian "ji" and is used to mean "Mr", "Mrs", "Ms" etc.It is not very common to address a person with his given name unless you are a close friend or know each other really well. That is why usually the "-san" is added  to the family name. The "-san" is used for both males and females. Only close friends or family members do not address each other by adding "-san". Foreigners may find it amusing that even telling your Japanese friends or colleagues to drop the "-san" while addressing you is of no use. You will still remain a certain "-san". I have tried before and given up. However addressing one's own family member by adding the "-san" is not acceptable and one should refrain from doing so. Adding the "san" to inanimate objects or animals is also very common. For example " Zhou san" is elephant,  "Usagi san" is Rabbit and " O-Saru san" is monkey. Sometimes storeowners are called "Sakana-ya-San" meaning " Fish store owner" or " Hon-ya-san" meaning Book store owner. Certain professionals are also addressed with the san suffix , for instance a cop is "Omawari san" in Japanese.


The next honorific that is commonly used is "Chan". It is used only for young girls, younger female family members and babies. Infact young girls and preschoolers usually introduce themselves by adding the suffix "-chan". Initially I used to wonder how every girl's name ends with the "-chan", only to be told by my friend that it is a suffix used for girl names. It is considered rude to call a young lady by adding the "-chan". It implies that the person is still childish and hence only small schoolgoing girls should be addressed with the honorific "chan". However it is common for close friends to address each other with the "chan" even if they are in their 30's or 40's. Our daughter loves being addressed with the suffix "chan" and introduces herself in this manner when speaking to the locals. Infact even cartoon characters are addressed with these honorifics- Hello Kitty is "Kitty-chan" and Minnie Mouse is " Minnie-chan" !!


If girls have "Chan", the boys have "Kun". "Kun" is used for male children and male teenagers but I havent seen the use as common as the female "chan". Even young boys do not introduce themselves by adding the suffix "-kun".


There is one more honorific "-sama" which is used to express utmost respect and admiration. It is the more respectful version of "-san" and is used to address customers, patients in a clinic and at times to top level employees in an organisation. Addressing oneself with "-sama" is considered rude and the person is considered to be arrogant. It is not as commonly used as "-san".


One more honorific that can be heard commonly is "Sensei". It is more commonly used for addressing a teacher or a person who is considered a master in his field. Sometimes doctors are also addressed as Sensei.


It may take a while for foreigners to naturally use the honorifics when addressing the locals. Nowadays the younger generation may not raise eyebrows if you fail to add the "-san" while addressing them but the older generation for sure expects to be addressed with more respect.

Undokai- Health and Sports Day

11th October 2010 was a  national holiday in Japan. This holiday is called " Taiiku no Hi" in Japanese and it stands for Health and Sports Day. This holiday falls on the second Monday of October each year.

This holiday is of a recent origin having begun on 10th October 1966 , two years after the Summer Olympics of 1964 which were held in Tokyo. Till the year 2000, this holiday fell on 10th October each year.

The one thing which I found interesting is that this holiday is celebrated as the Annual school sports day by most schools in Japan. This sports event is called " Undokai" in Japanese.My friend told me that nowadays some schools have preponed the Undokai to end April-early May because of the more pleasant weather and more importantly to avoid the rains. Kindergartens usually have their Undokai in October, whilst the Elementary schools and above have theirs in April end-early May. Usually the Undokai is a mix of sports and some cultural events. Usually the entire family attends the event and it is a sports day cum picnic of sorts. People carry Bento boxes and the staple menu is rice, fish, egg, stewed vegetables, salad, onigiri and fruits and usually around lunchtime the sports take a break and everyone has their picnic lunch and the sports resume.

Our daughter's kindergarten also celebrated its Undokai this weekend. Infact they held it on 9th October, Saturday instead of 11th October,Monday. While most schools start the preparation for the Sports Day a week or fortnight before the Sports Day, the kindergarten started out a month before. Justified in a way considering that they need to organise the programs for 3 to 5 year old kids. Twice on my visits to the kindergarten in the last month, I witnessed the teachers painstakingly and energetically teaching the kids to dance, cheerlead, sing and practice the races on the kindergarten ground. Since the kindergarten ground is not big enough to accomodate a large crowd, the Undokai was held in Iwaki's Kami Arakawa park. The kindergarten staff and the PTA members started the arrangements at the ground at around 6 am in the morning. The students and families were asked to reach the venue by 8.30 am and the event began at 9 am. First was an address by the Principal, followed by the leader of the PTA. After this was a colourful song and dance opening ceremony by the children and teachers of each of the 4 age groups.







After the opening ceremony were some games. Keeping the ages of the participants in mind, the games were more of parent-child participation and not sports in the real sense. The children enjoyed participating with the parents in games themed around popular cartoon characters. The themes varied from  Anpanman to Toy Story-3. The show stealer was however a dance by the oldest class students and teachers and was based on Aladin. In the course of the dance they made a big balloon formation quite a few times and the dance was very well synchronised.

Unfortunately it started raining just after a few hours and the event had to be discontinued. But before the showers began, the teachers ensured that all programs for which the children had practiced such as the dances and parades were held. Only all the races and games could not be held. Though the event was cut short by the rain, the program was big success with the enthusiastic performance by all the children. The teachers definitely had done a great job.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Public Holidays in Japan

Yesterday was a Public Holiday in Japan to mark the Health and Sports Day. On my first blog after this holiday I decided to write about the Public Holidays in Japan.

Japan has a list of Public Holidays which were established under the Public Holidays Law. To begin with there are 15 Public Holidays . Few of these holidays are in quick succession and as such there are weeklong holidays about twice a year. As per the Public Holidays Law, if any public Holiday falls on a Sunday, the next working day shall be a public holiday in that year. This is called "Furikae Kyujitsu" or Transfer Holiday. Also, any day which falls between two other national holidays shall also become a Public Holiday. These kind of holidays are called "Kokumin no Kyujitsu" or Citizens Holiday.

The list of Public Holidays in Japan is given below:


No
Holiday
Japanese name
Date
Details
1
New Year Day
Ganjitsu
1st January
Usually the period from Dec 29 to Jan-1 is New Year Holiday Season ( Shogatsu)
2
Coming of Age Day
Seijin No Hi
Second Monday of January
Celebrating the age of attaining majority – 20. Was celebrated on 15th January till 2000 .
3
National Foundation Day
Kenkoku Kinen No Hi
February 11
Commemorating the establishment of the nation
4
Vernal Equinox
Shunbun No Hi
Around March 20
Day for admiring nature and love of living things
5
Showa Day
Showa No Hi
April 29
This day was celebrated as the Emperor Hirohito’s birthday till his death in 1989.  Was celebrated as Greenery Day from 1990 to 2007. From 2007 it is celebrated as day of reflecting on the events of the Showa period
6
Constitution Memorial Day
Kenpo Kinenbi
May 3
Commemorating the day on which Japan’s post-war constitution came into effect. Is Part of Golden Week
7
Greenery Day
Midori No Hi
May 4
For expressing gratefulness to nature. Is part of Golden Week
8
Children’s Day
Kodomo No Hi
May 5
Special significance for Boys . Marks the end of Golden Week
9
Marine Day
Umi No Hi
Third Monday of July
Day of gratitude for the blessings of the oceans
10
Respect for the Aged Day
Keiro No Hi
Third Monday of September
Day to respect the elderly and to celebrate long life.
11
Autumnal Equinox
Shubun No Hi
Around September 23
Day of Honoring the ancestors and remembering the dead
12
Health and Sports Day
Taiiku No Hi
Second Monday of October
Day to enjoy sports and cultivate healthy mind and body
13
Culture Day
Bunka No Hi
November 3
Commemorates the announcement of the Constitution and is celebrated as a day to celebrating peace and freedom and promoting culture
14
Labour Thanksgiving Day
Kinro Kansha No Hi
November 23
Originally an Harvest festival, it is now celebrated as an occasion for praising labour and celebrating a good harvest. International labour day ( May 1) is not a public holiday in Japan and Labour day is celebrated along with Thanksgiving on Nov 23.
15
Emperor’s Birthday
Tenno Tanjobi
December 23
Birthday of reigning Emperor Akihito


Though not included in the list above, December 25th is a widely celebrated holiday for Christmas Day
Apart from these holidays, companies these days also have week long summer vacations in August. These are usually during the peak summer and around the time of the Fireworks Festival and O-bon Festival.

A lot of thinking is involved in just about anything in Japan. This holds true even in case of Public Holidays. A good example of this is the "Happy Monday System". This was a decision taken by the Japanese government towards the beginning of the new millenium. Under this system about five public holidays were moved to Mondays. The Holidays which were moved from their traditional date to a certain monday are: Coming of Age Day, Marine Day, Respect for the Aged Day, Health and Sports Day.

Holidays are peak travel times in Japan. The Golden Week ( April 29th to May 5th)  and O-Bon Holidays are especially popular travel seasons and driving on the expressways can be a pain. Planning for train or air travel needs to be done months in advance. International Airfares to and from Japan around these holidays are expensive and at times airfares can be double the normal fares. Hotel bookings at popular tourist destinations can be difficult to find and expensive too.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Japanese Era

It is a common tradition in most east Asian countries to follow an era system for telling the years. Japan is no exception. The Gregorian calendar is in common use alongwith the traditional era system.

The Japanese era name is called "Nengo" or "Gengo" and owes its origin to the Chinese custom.
However the Japanese Nengo system is based on the reign of its emperors. The first year of any era begins immediately upon the emperor's ascension of the throne and the year ends on 31st December of the corresponding calendar year. The subsequent years follow the Gregorian calendar until the end of the era.The era continues as long as the emperor continues to reign. Usually the reigning emperor is not referred to with his given name and is called " Tenno Heika" which translates to " His Majesty , The Emperor". After the death of the emperor, he is referred to by the name of the era which he reigned. For instance Emperor Hirohito who reigned from 26th December 1926 till his death on 7th January, 1989 is referred to as Emperor Showa and the period of his reign is called the "Showa Era". The current Era corresponds to the reign of Emperor Akihito and the era is called "Heisei". "Heisei" means Acheiving Peace. Emperor Akihito ascended the throne on 8th January 1989 and the Heisei era began at midnight of 8th January 1989. In this case the first 7 days of 1989 are considered as part of Showa era and the rest of the year is part of the Heisei era. The current year ie 2010 is the 22nd year of the Heisei era and is mentioned as H22 when writing the date in Japanese and in most legal and government documents. For instance 1st October 2010 would be written as H22-10-01 in Japan.

As per the current Nengo system which was adopted in 1868, there have been 4 eras, Meiji, Taisho, Showa and Heisei. The Showa era which lasted for 64 years has been the longest era as per the Nengo system.

Most legal and government documents require that the dates must be mentioned with the era names and years. Moreover it is in common use in day to day life and most application forms etc require the date to be mentioned using the Japanese era. As such it would be beneficial for most foreigners to know their year of birth and the current year as per the Nengo system. 

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Age Special

Certain ages have special importance in Japan. It is believed that certain ages are favourable for males and certain for females. It begins with Age 3 and goes upto Age 88.

To begin with comes Shichi-Go-San. This literally translates to 7-5-3 in Japanese. It stands for the ages 7, 5 and 3 as is evident. Ages 3 and 7 are supposedly favourable for girls and Age 3 and 5 for boys. The 15th of November each year is traditionally celebrated as the Shichi-Go-San festival day. This festival has its origin in the warrior Samurai  tradition during the Heian period and it signifies the rites of passage into middle childhood.  Even now , on this day parents and children of Ages 3,5 and 7, dress up in traditional costumes  visit the Shinto shrines and pray for good health and growth.

The next special age is 20. This is the age at which  the Japanese consider that a person attains maturity.This is also the legal age at which the Japanese can vote, drink and smoke. The second Monday of January is a national holiday and it is called "Seijin No Hi" meaning Coming of Age Day.On this day, women who will attain Age 20 during the year dress up in long sleeved kimonos and men in suits visit shrines and temples to pray for an excellent adulthood . Infact some organisations even hold a Coming of Age party for their employees who turn 20 during the year.

Further, the ages 60,70,77 and 88 are believed to be favourable ages for both men and women and mark successful aging.

There are certain unfavourable ages too . The term " Yakudoshi" meaning danger years explains this. These ages are supposed to bring calamity into the people of these ages and they are supposed to have their share of misfortunes. Again here the danger years differ for both genders. For the men , the danger years are 25, 42 and 61 whereas for women the danger years are 19,33 and 37. Even among these the age 33 for women and age 42 for men are supposed to be the worst ages . There is a reason for this. The age 42 is pronounced as Shi-Ni in Japanese and it is supposed to be phonetically similar to the Japanese word for death. The age 33 is pronounced San-zan in Japanese and it is synonymous with hard and terrible. More than the favourable adulthood ages, I have heard people speaking about their beliefs in the yakudoshi and sharing instances of what bad patches they went through at those ages. People perform certain Shinto rituals , wear protective amulets etc to sail them through these "bad" ages. Some people even put off important ventures till these bad ages are crossed as they dont want to take risk.

This shows that even in today's modernized society, traditions and customs are still ruling day to day life. In countries like India, China,Japan and South Korea these traditions and beliefs have in a way preserved the culture.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Iwaki, Fukushima : Map (The Full Wiki)

Nakoso No Seki and Shidokigawa Dam

On a warm and shiny morning in August we decided to visit Nakoso. My husband’s Japanese colleague and his family joined us on this little trip and so we planned a barbecue lunch .

Nakoso is less than a hour’s drive from Iwaki . Nakoso is at the border of Ibaraki and Fukushima prefectures. This place was once the much guarded highway checkpoint and the ruins can be still seen. There is a museum and a walking trail around the ruins.




After spending about an hour at Nakoso we decided to explore the area a little more. Instead of going to the nearest beach, we decided to go to the nearby Shidoki dam. There were not many visitors near the dam and at one point of time we were the only people around.

It was lunch time and we still hadn’t found a place for the barbecue, so we decided to look for a camping site. The maps said that there was a camping site around but we couldn’t find it.

Finally after driving around for about an hour in the woods and on narrow gorgeside ways, we thought of giving up the place hunt and were thinking of looking for a restaurant when we saw a group of  construction workers . Our Japanese friends asked them for a camping place, but they didn’t seem to know of one. One of the men suggested that we go to a place by a stream  place under the Shidoki bridge. We decided to try our luck and set out in the direction . We did find the stream and it turned out to be a wonderful place for a barbecue and the kids had found the perfect shallow stream to wade in and we had a lovely time .

Nakoso :
Address: 6-1 Sekitanagasawa, Nakoso-machi, Iwaki Shi, Fukushima

Phone: 0246-65-6166

Access: Approximately 45 minutes from Iwaki city by car

Saturday, October 02, 2010

A day trip to Fukuroda No Taki and Ryujin Otsuribashi

Japan has plenty of waterfalls. As per one source there are more than 500 waterfalls. Infact the Japanese Ministry of Environment has its own list of 100 waterfalls known in Japanese as “ Nihon no Taki hyakusen”. Most of these waterfalls are in remote locations and access to most of these is difficult and may require long hikes. However few of the major waterfalls are easily accessible.

There is also a list of 3 best waterfalls in Japan
  1. Kegon Waterfalls in Tochigi Prefecture
  2. Nachi Falls in Wakayama Prefecture
  3. Fukuroda No Taki in Ibaraki Prefecture

In early July this year, we visited Fukuroda No Taki. O-Taki in Japanese means Waterfalls. The name Fukuroda No Taki translates to Fukuroda Waterfalls. The Fukuroda Waterfalls is actually a series of waterfalls and is categorized as a multistep falls. The width of the falls is 73 mtrs and the height reaches 120 m. The Taki river source spring is just above the falls. This waterfall is also called Yo-Do No Taki since the water cascades down in 4 steps.  

To reach the waterfalls one has to first reach the town of Daigo in Ibaraki prefecture. There is limited parking place at the beginning of the walking trail. From the parking lot we walked over a small bridge and then uphill. There are many shops selling food stuffs and Omiyage ( Japanese for souvenirs) along the road. There is a small shrine too. It is not a very long trek and is only a few hundred meters. We then reached a admission ticket counter. The 300 yen ticket is not essentially for viewing the falls, but rather a toll for the walk through 276 metres long tunnel and for taking the elevator to the upper observation deck. We walked through the tunnel which is illuminated and reached the first observation deck directly facing the falls at the lower level.Thanks to the sound of the water and the water drops hitting us, we felt that we were under the waterfalls!




From here we walked past a small shrine inside the tunnel towards the elevator. The elevator took us several meters to reach the two tiered observation deck. The view of the falls from the observation deck is totally different from the view we had seen from the first observation point.



We then took the elevator down and started walking crossing a suspension bridge across the river. This led to the beginning of a walking trail. Our friends who had been there before told us that it was a pretty difficult trail with many stairs-some metallic, some stone and at times slippery and it could be even more difficult with a kid in tow. So we decided to skip the walking trail and started our walk towards the car. Since it was early summer ,we saw lots of Hydrangea blooms and lot of greenery around.

 I am told that the view of the falls is different in all four seasons. We saw a poster at one shop which had pictures of the falls during the different seasons and I must say that what I heard is true. I am also told that in some winters, the falls also freeze. What a sight that might be!

We had lunch at one of the nearby restaurants and were lucky to find some English speaking staff who helped us order. After lunch, we decided to explore the surroundings and our friends suggested visiting the Ryujin Otsuribashi.

At 375 metres , Ryujin Otsuribashi is the second longest pedestrian bridge in Japan and at one point of time was also the longest bridge in Japan till the Kokonoe Yume Otsuribashi overtook it at 390 metres.



The Ryujin Bridge is located at a height of 100 meters above the Ryujin dam. To view the dam one needs to walk on the Ryujin bridge. The view below is amazing.

Ryujin means God Dragon  and at each end of the bridge there is a large dragon painting.

A trip to Fukuroda No Taki followed by a visit to the Ryujin Otsuribashi is definitely not to be missed.

Access information:

Fukuroda No Taki:

Open:  8.00 am to 6. 00 pm

Admission Fees: 300 yen for Adults and    Children under 6: Free

Address: Fukuroda Daigo machi, Kuji gun, Ibaraki Prefecture

Phone: 0295-72-1111

Access: 50 minutes by car from the Naka I.C on the Joban Expressway via Highway 118.

Parking: Limited Car parking.

Wheel chair services available.

Ryujin Otsuribashi:

Open:  8.30 am to 5.00 pm

Admission Fees:  Adult : 300 yen and Child :200 yen.
                           (Children below Age 6: Not charged)

Address: 2133-6, Keganocho, Hitachi Ota, Ibaraki Pref: 313-0351

Phone: 294-87-0375

Parking: Free parking available for approximately 250 cars.