Mie Prefecture in the Kansai region of Japan is famous for being one the birthplaces of the legendary ninja. In Japanese, ninja are also called ‘shinobi’, which means “those who act in stealth”. Ninja did just that as mercenaries, assassins and experts of espionage, doing the dirty jobs that were deemed too dishonourable for the samurai elite.
Iga Province in Mie Prefecture was home to one of the two key schools of ninja, called Iga-ryu. Iga Province no longer exists but is now an area around the modern-day towns of Iga and Ueno. The Iga-ryu ninja trained in ninjutsu (the art of stealth) in the local mountains and pristine forests of this area.
Photo: John Gillespie on FlickrOne of their secret training grounds was Akame 48 Waterfalls in nearby Nabari, which is near the border of Mie and Nara Prefectures. Akame 48 Waterfalls is a collective name for a group of various waterfalls located in Akame-cho.
There is a cool mythical legend surrounding the famous falls. It is believed that more than 1,300 years ago, a holy man name En no Gyoja met the God of Fire (Fudo-myou) riding a red-eyed ox while meditating in front of the waterfalls. The name Akame (red eye) was derived from the meeting and the red-eyed ox and given to the area. The 48 in “Akame 48 Waterfalls” refers to the large amount of waterfalls in the area. In Japanese, 48 (shijuhachi) is an old phrase used to denote a large amount. There is in fact not really 48 falls here, but just over 25 which can be found along the hiking path.
Photo: Mochikun on FlickrThe five largest and most impressive falls are known as “Akame Five Waterfalls” and are a popular destination for tourists in Japan. The five falls are “Fudo”, “Senju”, “Nunobiki”, “Ninai”, and “Biwa”. A 4 km long hiking path follows a waterfall-laden trail up the mountain offering spectacular natural scenery, which can be enjoyed throughout the different seasons in Japan. The path is famous for its distinct views that change from cherry blossoms in spring, vivid green in early summer, red, orange, yellow fall colours in autumn and frozen falls in winter.
Photo: Chi (in Oz) on FlickrTo fully enjoy the stunning waterfalls, lush mountain greenery, crystal clear mountain streams and pristine ancient forests you probably need around three to four hours at a leisurely pace.
Photo: coniferconifer on FlickrAt the entrance to the hiking path is the Salamander Center which features the Japanese giant salamander. These magnificent creatures can be found in the river along the hiking path, and can grow to an impressive size of around one and a half meters in length.
The Akame district used to be part of Iga Province with the area used by the Iga-ryu ninja as a training place due to its natural training environment and strategic location. This natural environment with its tall trees, mountains and streams offered the perfect location to train in the art of stealth and deception. During the golden age of the ninja in the Sengoku Period (1467-1590), future ninja were sent to Akame for their training at a young age. Walking along the hiking path today, you can feel the spirit of ninja and almost get the feeling that a ninja assassin might be waiting for you around the next corner ready to jump out of a tree.
If you want to get into the spirit even further, you can rent a ninja costume and walk around the falls. You can even experience ninja training in the Ninja Training Forest. Here a trainer will instructor you in key ninja skills such as hiding in secrecy, wall climbing techniques, throwing shuriken (ninja throwing stars) and walking on water.
Photo: FullyFunctnlPhil on FlickrAkame 48 Waterfalls is a beautiful part of Japan full of great nature and legendary history.
Photo: coniferconifer on Flickr
Address: Akame-cho Nagasaka, Nabari City, Mie Prefecture
Hours: Open from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm
Closed: December 28-31
Admission: 300 yen
Official Website (Japanese only): http://www.akame48taki.jp/index.html