There are several waterfalls in Japan that bear the name of Shiraito (which means white thread). This summer I visited Shiraito Falls in Fujinomiya. Otodome Falls is nearby, so you can easily visit both at the same time, and also there is a small pool of pure water like the ones at Oshino Hakko.
Car parking for visitors
We arrived fairly early in the morning, about 8:30 am, which was probably a good thing judging by the number of large car parks near the falls. Most of them had signs saying the parking fee was 300 yen. However they were mostly empty, and when we pulled into one, there was nobody to take our money. We locked up the car and started along the trail to the falls.
Magical valley of waterfalls
I was traveling with a Japanese friend who had been to Niagra Falls, and when I asked him whether Shiraito Falls was good, he said it was "so-so". I was therefore not expecting too much, but the first glimpse of the falls took my breath away. Framed by the trees beside the trail hundreds of narrow falls like white ropes tumbled down a rocky cliff running the length of the valley. At the head of the valley a wider fall with a greater volume of water fell into a small pool. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen!
As we descended the trail, a fine spray from the falls cooled the summer air, and scores of butterflies flitted over the slope, adding to the magical atmosphere. There were big black swallowtail butterflies, white sulphur butterflies, and a few iridescent blue butterflies. I wonder if the butterflies are attracted by food sources or the cool, moist atmosphere?
The river flows from the pool at the head of the valley along a shallow rocky bed, gathering water from the many narrow falls as it goes. Swimming in the pool or playing in the river here is not allowed because this place is considered sacred by the Shinto sect that worships Mount Fuji. A bridge crosses the river below the falls and is an ideal spot to take a photo.
Mount Fuji View
I would like to return to Shiraito Falls in Autumn, because when the air is clear you can see Mount Fuji behind the falls. There is a photo in the car park of the scene, all the maple trees aflame with autumn colors, and the sacred mountain towering in the background. Unfortunately the sky and the mountain were hidden by a grey haze, as often happens in summer.
On our way back to the car park we turned of the trail followed a path down to a small pool surrounded by rocks. although not easy to climb down to, the water is pure and delicious, and you can safely drink it. The water in the pond comes from snow melt on Mount Fuji, welling up from the ground after filtering through porous lava layers over many years.
Beautiful Shiraito Falls is well worth visiting. If you can't drive there, you can take a bus from Shin-Fuji Station, Fujinomiya Station, or Kawaguchiko. Maybe I'll see you there in autumn!