Naena Waterfall

I went camping during Golden Week in Nagano Prefecture, and I nearly froze to death because I mistakenly chose a campsite up in the mountains. The campsite I picked, at least, inspired me to write a short story, so the nearly sleepless nights shivering in my sleeping bag were worth it for me.

I’m a sucker for waterfalls, which seem like they’re a dime a dozen in Japan. Since they do seem to be just about anywhere you can find a mountain, I’ve decided to be both extremely picky and lazy about what waterfalls I choose to visit.

First, they have to be a relatively short hike from the parking lot.

Second, they have to be spectacular.

Naena falls fit both of my criteria, and the parking lot area even boasted a nice restaurant and a little place to get some ice cream.

There was even a place where you could go fishing.

I know the entire place was highly commercialized to the point it was clearly a tourist trap, but I have to say the hike to the waterfall was pleasant.

You start off crossing a suspension bridge in front of the first set of waterfalls, which I believe many might mistake as the actual waterfall in question. While they’re pretty to look at, and they spray a nice mist across the bridge to help you cool off on a hot day, it was a relief to me to discover these are not the main attraction.

The first set of waterfalls. If you look to the left in the picture, you can see the tower of stairs.

You continue alone the suspension bridge until you come across a tower of stairs. After a few flights, you find yourself on a dirt path in the middle of some woods, and the path grows steadily higher until you come across yet another tower of stairs.

A walk in the woods

After clambering over some rocks and just generally enjoying the cooling effects of there being a river nearby and some shade from the trees, you come across another suspension bridge that gives you a lovely view of the sharp rocks below, the rapids, and in the distance, the waterfall you’ve been waiting for.

The waterfall, rocks and some rapids

Crossing the suspension bridge, you come across the pile of boulders and rocks you can see in the picture above on the right, which allows you an even closer look of the waterfall. I mainly was busy having a heart attack watching people stretch out on some boulders just in front of the rapids. Maybe I just missed them, but there weren’t any signs warning that these types of rapids could probably kill even the best of swimmers, and nothing was roped off.

I think maybe the area was simply a test of your intelligence to see if you could discern for yourself whether sitting on boulders dangling you out into rapids is a good idea or not. It’s also entirely possible that maybe I, who knows little about anything, was overreacting, and the rapids weren’t that dangerous at all. Maybe the water was so shallow you could just stand up in it rather than get swept away. I have no idea. All I know is I was practically biting through my lip to stop from yelling at people to stay away from the white water.

Overall, though, it was a really nice hike. It was long enough that it felt like you deserved to eat a lot at the restaurant near the parking lot, but not so long that the entire day is spent going to see a waterfall. I’m just glad I brought my camera and some good walking shoes.