The Akiu area has several attractions, most notably is perhaps its onsen and the delectable Nikka Whisky Distillery in nearby Sakunami. However, if you are on the prowl for some more natural beauty, why don’t you try the Akiu Otaki Falls? Hyped as one of the top 100 waterfalls in Japan.
From the parking lot and bus stop, there is a rest area and small market. Make sure to pick up any souvenirs or snacks here. From there pass through a torii gate into a new world. Tall trees and a rustic temple provide an environment worlds away from the busy trains or congested streets of the city. A twenty minute hike up and down some steep stairs carved into the mountain then through the woods and you arrive at a bridge. The bridge spans a gorge that is full of green. Look down and you will see the crystal clear water of the Natori River. Although I visited in late spring with the beautiful greenery, the area is also great for its fall foliage. Cross the bridge and there is another parking lot, a nice alternative if you came by car and are not up for excessive hiking. Take a left and enter the path to the waterfall.
After a 10-15 minute hike up and down those pesky stairs and slopes, you will reach the base of the waterfall. Watch your step while scrambling over some boulders to get to the water’s edge. Then there it is. The air is full of refreshing waterfall mist and crisp mountain air. As with most waterfalls, the longer you stare at the plummeting water the more spiritual energy you tend to feel. You can climb up a slope across a small stream to get very close to the fall and see the deep pool at its immediate base. Just don’t fall, it’s a bit of a drop!
Although the waterfall is nice, I would not say it is impressive. On the other hand, the area is peaceful and I felt very relaxed after viewing it for nearly twenty minutes. It is a waterfall and one of Japan’s top hundred but not worth a trip in its own right. There are surely other waterfalls more spectacular than this. However, this does not mean I would discourage a trip. As I mentioned, there are many other tourist stops in the area and it’s a great escape to enjoy nature in the mountains. Combine this with a picturesque temple and the botanical garden on the other side of the parking lot (it was closed because I arrived late in the afternoon) and you have something worth the hike. It’s not just the main attraction, it’s the entire experience you must consider when traveling.
For most travelers, you’ll be taking a bus for Akiu Otaki. Board a bus at the number 8 stop at JR Sendai Station East Exit Bus Terminal. You’ll get off at the last stop. If possible, however, I highly recommend traveling by car. It allows easy access to nearby attractions and best of all you can enjoy the scenic drive through the mountains and forests. You are going for the nature after all, right?
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Justin Velgus (ジャスティン ベルガス) is a long-term resident and promoter in the Tohoku region. He has been a content producer for JapanTravel.com since 2012 and was the Miyagi Prefecture Regional Partner 2013-2015. Justin’s over 300 published travel and culture articles come from a background of studying in Akita, teaching English in Miyagi through the JET Program, and working for the government in Fukushima. He lives in the gyutan capital of the world, Sendai. Justin is an expert in local culture and history. He was the first foreign volunteer at Sendai City Museum and regularly advises the local volunteer guide group GOZAIN , which he is a veteran member, on guiding techniques and hidden locations in the city even locals don't know about. In his free time he enjoys delivering original walking tours, such as his Dark Sendai Tour (ghost tour) or Kokubuncho Mystery Tour (redlight district tour). Justin is also a Certified Sake Professional.