Otome Keikoku

Stairway to the sky

By Justin Dart    - 3 min read

I had been out to Otome Keikoku or Maiden’s Ravine many times but this was my first time to climb the relatively new stairway that replaced the old narrow, rocky and quite dangerous path along the mountain stream.

Accessible only by car, Otome Keikoku is not just a hiking trail but also a camp ground open for only part of the year with cabins for rent and facilities for parties. It is also the gateway to Mt. Kohide, the highest point in Kashimo. The stairway path is one way to the top of Mt. Kohide and also connects with a series of trails that go the length of the mountain ridge as well as Otaki village in Nagano Prefecture.

The first check-point on the hike is Wago (Harmony) Waterfall a simple 700 meters from the base. We started up the stairs step by step. Each set of stairs is broken up by some flat deck-like areas which we used to relax, take photos and absorb all of the pure natural energy around us. I was intrigued by the geology; how the rocks shot straight up out of the ground telling the story of not just how this valley was formed but the entire mountain range’s ancient tale. The ravine is strewn by immense boulders adding even more detail to the geological story of upheaval, destruction and reshaping.

Within 20 minutes we arrived at Wago Waterfall. Recent rains had caused a small landslide which had taken out part of the stairs. Slowly and carefully we climbed over the rocks and onto the bridge and deck surrounding the pool at the base of the falls. After a few minutes at the Wago Waterfall it was off to Nejire (Twisted) Waterfall.

The base of the stairs to Nejire Waterfall reminded me of the scene in Lord of the Rings where Golum takes Frodo and Sam up the secret cliff-side stairs leading into Mordor. Like in the book this stairs was more like a ladder. But at least it had hand-railings and was wood. Each step was only about 30 cm wide and the entire case was at about 60% grade. I kept my eyes straight at the next step and held my son’s hand tight. After about 5 minutes of straight stairs, we reached Nejire Waterfall.

The sun shone through the trees and glistened off the leaves. The waterfall is a long smooth stream twisting back and forth like a snake through a well smoothed path it had created over centuries. We stood there and wondered if we should go any further but with light not on our side, we knew we had to go back. Only a few meters from where we stopped, the path goes on through the mountains and up to the top of Mt. Kohide.

We relaxed for a few minutes, turned, and ventured down the 670 steps stopping from time to time to through in a stick and watch it go tumbling down the series of small falls and drops. When we reached the bottom, we walked around the cabins and then back to the car. We were only mildly tired but very excited by our adventure and the pleasure of hiking a stairway to the sky.

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Justin Dart

Justin Dart @justin.dart

I am a country boy transplanted from Wisconsin in the USA to central Gifu Prefecture.The main focus of my life in Japan has been to introduce people to the world and the world to local communities and culture through international exchanges and educational programs. My hope is that people will hang a right at Nagoya, get off the beaten path and explore Gifu...what I call The Jewel of Discoveries.アメリカの田舎で育った男、岐阜県の田舎に引っ越しました。ジャスティン・ダートです。僕の日本での生活は「世界を紹介し、世界の地域における文化と生活を、国際交流や教育プログラムを通して紹介する」という目標です。観光客が名古屋で右を曲がって、岐阜県の旅を試してみたいという希望を持っています。岐阜県:発見の宝。多年前,我从美国的乡村搬到日本岐阜県的中部。現在我最大的志向是向本地人介绍世界各地的文化及把当地文化介绍给世界各地的人。通过国际交流和教育方案,我希望會有更多的人开始去探索岐阜県的美丽与文化。

Join the discussion

aya 9 years ago
A road to Mt.Kohide is very harsh to me.
I think I cannot go to top of Mt.Kohide.
But I want to see Nejire Waterfall.
sacchan 9 years ago
I read to "Otome Keikoku" for the first time.
I want to see Wago Waterfall and I want be healed my heart here.
I'm afraid of stairs like a ladder.
But I'm interested in this stairs.
I think the sun through the trees and glistened off the leaves is very beautiful.
I think that this beauty is felt since it climbed "Stairway to the Sky" enduringly.
simura 9 years ago
Maybe I cannot go to this place because I lack physical strength. but, reading this story brought me to imagine "Stairway to the Sky" and its a great scene.