Spotlight: Fukiware Falls (Gunma)

We’re just back from a weekend in Gunma Prefecture, admittedly my first to that part of Japan. The weather started off a bit rainy but cleared by noon on Saturday and stayed brilliant throughout the rest of the weekend. Thank goodness, as the foliage in some parts of Gunma is already at its peak and if you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time, you know I am an admitted “leaf junkie”. 🙂

Our first stop of the weekend was at Fukiware Falls. The site is touted as the Niagara of Japan. Having been to the real thing, I can safely say that description is a bit – alright a LOT – of a stretch. Apparently, it’s not the size of the falls that matters, but the way in which the water comes together at the apex of the chute. Water swirls in from three separate directions and mixes into a vortex before dropping to the river below.

The Fukiware Falls
The Fukiware Falls

Over the centuries, the water has worn away the rock into spectacular formations. The cliffs look like an accordion in certain sections and in some parts of the riverbed, there are smooth basins weathered over long centuries.

Rock formations along the river
Rock formations along the river

Most of the visitors to the falls take the paved path down to the riverwalk, head upriver for about five to ten minutes and then return to their vehicles the way they came. However, you can make an enjoyable loop out of the trip, and continue on upriver about five more minutes from the main falls to a suspension bridge that crosses the gorge.

The view of the suspension bridge
The view of the suspension bridge

From the bridge, the trail climbs slowly but steadily for about 10 minutes until you are walking along a forested ridge. The trees are too thick to really see down into the gorge but every now and again, you get to a clearing in the trees with impressive views. Bear bells line the trail every few hundred meters but we didn’t see any sign of the forest dwelling creatures on our visit.

The path through the woods
The path through the woods

There is a bus that runs from the nearest town (Numata) but the service isn’t terribly frequent. The best way to reach the falls is by car. There is free parking at the nearby Michi no Eki (roadside station) or you can use one of the pay lots during the high season (mainly autumn).

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