Kirifuri Falls is a stunning 75-meter-high waterfall in the Nikko district that is easily reached by bus from the Nikko Station area. This waterfall is particularly beautiful during the autumn season when the rushing waters fall through the rich colours of the surrounding forest foliage. However, Kirifuri Falls is located in an untouched natural landscape which presents fine scenery in any season: brilliant snowscapes in winter, bright azaleas in the spring, and lush greenery in the summer.
Kirifuri means “mist fall” which perfectly describes the fine scatter of spray sent up by the falling waters. The Kirifuri Falls is recognized as one of the three most famous waterfalls in Nikko, the other two being the Kegon Falls and the Urami Falls, and it is also listed among the best 100 waterfalls of Japan. One of the most famous images of the Kirifuri Falls was made by the ukiyo-e woodblock printmaker Katsushika Hokusai in 1832.
There used to be a trail that led directly to the base of the waterfall. However, landslides made this route unsafe, and it has been closed to the public since 2008. The falls are now viewed from a wooden observation deck which is located at some distance from the falls. However, the view from this deck is very clear.
In order to reach the observation deck you must first take a short stroll along a well-maintained woodland trail. This should only take around ten minutes, but the route itself is quite scenic and pleasant, so you may find yourself stopping on multiple occasions to take photographs.
You will probably first glimpse the Kirifuri Falls through the trees before you arrive at the wooden deck.
But from the deck you can enjoy this waterfall’s full magnificence.
Kirifuri Falls are divided into two tiers. The upper falls are 25 meters long and the lower falls stretch for a further 26 meters. At the top the falls are 3 meters wide, but this broadens to 15 meters at its base.
Facilities at the Kirifuri-no-Taki Bus Stop
The easiest way to reach the Kirifuri Falls is by taking a bus to the Kirifuri-no-Taki bus stop and then taking the ten-minute walk through the woods to the observation deck. There are some facilities at the bus stop which include restaurants, a cake shop, and a shop selling souvenirs, drinks, snacks, and ice creams. These facilities are worth checking on your way back, if you have some time before taking a bus back into town.
The Misty Mountain Restaurant stands at the top of the trail to the observation deck. If you have time for a meal, this restaurant serves sirloin steaks, seafood grills, and has a fine dessert menu. The restaurant is open from 10.00 with last orders at 19.00.
An alternative view of the falls can also be enjoyed from the second floor of this restaurant.
If you don’t wish to use the restaurant, there are some steps at the side of the restaurant building which are open to the public and from which you can enjoy the same view for free.
To get to Kirifuri Falls take a bus headed to Ozasa Bokujo or Kirifuri Kogen from JR Nikko Station or Tobu Nikko Station. At JR Nikko Station this bus departs from bus stop 1C and at Tobu Nikko Station it departs from stop 2D. The bus takes around 10 minutes to reach the Kirifuri-no-Taki bus stop where you should get off. From there it is another ten-minute walk through the woods to the observation point.
The trail to the observation deck is clearly signposted. However, before you head off into the woods, it is a good idea to check the bus timetable for the next bus back to the Nikko Station area. As there is only one bus service each hour, you might have a long wait if you miss the next bus back. Hiking back is possible, but it will probably take around one hour.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.