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Kanabiki Waterfall

One of the top 100 waterfalls in Japan

A man takes off his shirt and stands under the cascading waterfall, clapping his hands together like a possessed seal while shouting what may be an ancient Shinto prayer, or the incoherent ramblings of a sunburnt drunk.

This is the Kanabiki waterfall in the hilly outskirts of Miyazu, a small town in the northern part of Kyoto Prefecture, around the corner from Amanohashidate, one of the top three sights in Japan.

The only waterfall in Kyoto Prefecture to make the list of the 100 best waterfalls in Japan, Kanabiki waterfall is beautiful and refreshing and plays host to a bi-annual fire festival in the last weekend of July when the waterfall is spectacularly set on fire to the sounds of pounding drums and dancing priestesses. It also happens to be ten minutes from my house and yet for some reason, after three years of living here, I’ve only been there once.

Faced with the prospect of having my Golden Week travel plans wrecked by Abenomics and the current ruinous exchange rate, I resolved myself to holidaying in my own back yard. And so one day, I decided to take a late-afternoon stroll to the waterfall.

My memory of the waterfall was hazy at best – partly because when I went there before it was dark, and partly because I ‘d had more than a few cups of complimentary sake from the local festival that night.

After a ten minute wander along a curved mountain road past several traditional-style houses (dating back to the 17th century so people tell me), there is a flight of stone steps with a small wooden signpost pointing to the waterfall which is at the top.

At the top of the steps, you’ll find a scene straight out of a Ghibli movie. Moss-covered rocks are dotted haphazardly on the ground and the sound of the water gushing down is almost deafening. A shallow pool of water lies at the foot of the waterfall which is where the man will stand later bellowing at the heavens. To the right, up a steep flight of steps, is a small shrine to the gods of the waterfall.

I walk up there and look down at the scene below. A coach-load of day trippers in anoraks are taking photos approximately every ten seconds while a young couple are sitting on one of the picnic benches eating onigiri. The water is a constant rumble in the background. I get out my camera thinking I have the perfect shot of the waterfall. And then the man whips off his shirt, walks right into the middle of my shot and starts to chant.

I stand there for a while. The day trippers have left and the man is soaked, his hair limp and wet. His girlfriend is sat on a bench, staring at her phone. The water never stops pouring and the sun starts to fall through the trees.

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James Forest 9 years ago
Looks to be a beautiful place to visit.
Bonson Lam 9 years ago
Wouter, I hope you can visit Amanohashidate and Kanabiki Waterfall, especially for the festivals in summer! White sandy beaches and the energy of the festivals make a fantastic vacation!
Robert Van Egghen Author 9 years ago
Thank you very much. You can find my other articles on my profile, or follow me on Twitter @RobertVanEgghen
Wouter Thielen 9 years ago
I have enjoyed your writing style since your Amanohashidate article, and am glad to see more of it! Keep them coming!

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