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Friday, September 30, 2011

Kegon Falls in Nikko

華厳滝

Kegon Falls

The Kegon Falls (Kegon no Taki) are a famous natural feature of the historically famous town of Nikko, and one of 98 waterfalls in the Nikko area. With a height of 97 meters, the Kegon Falls are among the three highest waterfalls in Japan, the other two being the Fukuroda Falls in Ibaraki and the Nachi Falls in Wakayama.

The Kegon Falls are fed by Lake Chuzenji, a lake created by the eruption tens of thousands of years ago by the volcano, Mt. Nantai, that sits just north-east of it. The Kegon Falls are formed from lava from that eruption.

Such is their height that the spray produced by the water falling into the precipice below can, depending on the weather conditions, fill the whole area, making the falls themselves all but invisible. At such times, this mist produced does not disperse, but rises into the air forming what is effectively cloud, visible from a long way away.

Kegon Falls Nikko


The Kegon Falls were said to have been first discovered by the priest Shodo Shonin, of the Nara period of Japanese history, and of whom there is a statue in Nikko. He was an advocate of the Huayan school of Chinese Buddhism (known as the Kegon school in Japanese Buddhism), after which he named the falls.

Kegon Falls in Nikko

Since the early 20th century, the falls have been infamous as a place for youth suicides since the young poet, Misao Fujimura, despondent in unrequited love, wrote a poem on the trunk of a tree at the Kegon Falls before jumping to his death from them in 1903.

There is an elevator that for a 550 yen fee, takes sightseers about 100 meters down to the base of the falls where their power and beauty can be truly appreciated.

There are a few souvenir shops, stalls and restaurants around the falls, serving tourists.

Access

The Kegon Falls are about 20 kilometers west of Nikko by road. The falls themselves are hundreds of meters above sea level. Therefore, the way up is a steep one and involves navigating a long series of hairpin curves. Helpfully, both the road up and the road down are one-way, considerably enhancing safety and peace-of-mind.

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