Nachi Falls, which also called Nachi-no-Otaki, is a 133 meters high and 13 meters wide waterfall. It is the tallest and largest vertical drop waterfall in Japan, which can been seen from far out on the Pacific Ocean. The falls also form part of the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range—a registered UNESCO World Heritage site.
Nachi Falls’s water source is the surrounding broad-leaf evergreen primeval forest. It is a sanctuary of Kumano Nachi Taisha and thus has been protected since ancient times and is used for ascetic training by mountain monks who practice Shugendo, a mixed religion of foreign and indigenous beliefs.
Much more than a simple scene of natural beauty, the falls are worshipped as the home of a Shinto deity. The thundering sound of a ton of water barreling down every second will give believers and non-believers alike a spiritual experience.
Address: Nachisan, Nachikatsuura, Higashimuro District, Wakayama 649-5301, Japan
Opening Hours: 07:00 – 16:30
Ease of Access
From Wakayama’s Kii-Katsuura station, take the 30-minute bus ride to Nachi-no-Taki-mae. It’s a further five minutes on foot.
Located in Nachikatsuura, Wakayama, Nachi Falls is considered one of the premier waterfalls to visit, alongside Kegon Falls in the Tochigi region, and Fukuroda falls in the Ibaraki region.
Nachi falls and Seigantoji temple sit within the same site as the Kumano Nachi Taisha, a popular shrine and one of the main destinations for those who are on the long pilgrimage routes of Kumano Kodo.
God of the falls
Long before the organization of religious doctrine, locals would worship the falls as the home of a spiritual deity. Later a shrine was built here, and the shrine priests serve the deity daily. The zig-zag paper hangings, known as shide, hanging at the site of the waterfall mark the sacred presence of a Shinto deity.
A visit to the falls should also include a short trip to Hiro Shrine, located at the foot of the falls and surrounded by old cedar trees. Built in honor of the waterfall god, it is free to enter the shrine, but you need to pay 300 yen to venture onto the viewing platform.
Nachi-no-Hi Matsuri Fire Festival
Nachi-no-Hi Matsuri is the major festival of Kumano Nachi Taisha. It is a fire festival in which 6-meter-high portable shrines symbolically representing the waterfall are purified with the fires from oversized torches laboriously carried by men dressed in white.