Having traveled extensively around Niigata Prefecture — where I have called home for close to two years now — I still go back to Naena Waterfall time and again for its year-round beauty.
Located in the mountains of Myoko City, southern Niigata Prefecture, Naena Waterfall provides a more-than-average waterfall experience. The drive to the waterfall is especially spectacular: you will be surrounded by dense trees and boundless rice paddies along the way. The scenery turns magical when autumn rolls around; patches of red, orange and yellow fill your horizon. I almost had to pinch my face to make sure it was real!
There is plenty of parking space for visitors to the waterfall. Though, you will need to walk about 400 meters before reaching the waterfall. Some parts of the path are paved, some are a little rocky. I’d really recommend wearing sturdy shoes (or at least sneakers) for this walk as it can get quite slippery after rainfall. You will also be going up and down a staircase as you cross a big dam in the beginning. The entire walk should take around 15 minutes.
As you get closer to the 55-meter high waterfall, you will hear a loud crashing sound that echoes in the surroundings — hence the nickname “earthquake waterfall.” When you reach a long bridge that offers you a complete view of the waterfall down a basalt cliff, know that you’ve finished the trail! After you cross the bridge, feel free to rest at the pavilion or take a seat on one of the big rocks near the stream. In summer, many people like to picnic or even take a dip in the water. If you choose to do the latter, do give extra attention to the rapid currents.
Naena Falls in Summer. Breathtaking! (Photo by author)
The waterfall offers very different vibes in different seasons. I first visited in late November 2016; while snow hadn’t started blanketing the area, I saw patches of it here and there. Needless to say, the trees had all withered by that time of the year, giving the area a very somber, lonely aura. However, when I visited in July 2017, everything was popping in lush green! The place couldn’t have been more lively. My last visit to Naena Waterfall was late October 2017, and it marked the most beautiful visit of all… I couldn’t afford to blink — the colorful fall foliage stole my heart.
The opposite side of the waterfall is just as spectacular. Photo by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) via Flickr
A note, though: the waterfall area is a little bit chillier than other areas in the city so remember to bring an extra layer or two, even in summer.
Naena Waterfall is popular not only for its nature, but also for nagashi somen
— a type of thin noodle that flows down a long bamboo gutter. Be ready to hold your chopsticks right and catch these noodles while they’re flowing! The restaurant that offers nagashi somen is right next to the parking lot for the waterfall. Though, they’re only open in summer and early autumn.
Are you ready to catch these noodles with chopsticks? Photo by jmurawski [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
There is also a cafe, some vending machines, bathrooms, and benches at the waterfall entrance. It is a well-equipped spot suitable for visitors of all ages.
- Open all year-round, free-of-charge.
- Suginosawa, Myoko, Niigata Prefecture 949-2113
- By train: Take the Echigo Tokimeki rail on Myoko Haneuma Line and get off at Myokokogen Station. From there, another 15-minute drive is needed.
- By car: Get off at Myokokogen Interchange on Joshin-etsu Expressway and enter the Niigata Myokokogen Park Line 39 (新潟県道39号妙高高原公園線 in Japanese) for Sasagamine. Keep going for 4km, turn left at the Naena-taki (苗名滝 in Japanese) entrance and continue driving for another 2km.