Akame 48 Waterfalls is a beautiful hiking path featuring waterfalls in Akameguchi, Mie Prefecture. The hiking path is 4 kilometers (2.49 miles) long and features five main waterfalls along with many smaller waterfalls. The hiking path is within a steep ravine, and so it is cool and refreshing in summer. The foliage changes seasonally and attracts many camera enthusiasts, even in winter because photographers try to capture the beauty of the frozen falls. There are numerous special events, such as religious rituals and a summer illumination, which occur throughout the year. The area has ninja history and is said to be the training and meditation area of many ninjas, including the famous Momochi Sandayu (more information below). En no Ozuno, a famous mountain mystic (yamabushi) and founder of Shugendo (more information below) also frequented this area. The area is also home to giant salamanders.
Take the Kintetsu-Osaka line to Akameguchi station, then take a bus to the entrance of the falls. The bus costs 360 yen one way (180 yen for children).
It is *possible* to walk from the station, however it is a 4km hike, so please choose wisely.
Taxis from the station are also available; it is not too expensive, and if you have a party of four the cost is usually pretty close to a bus ticket.
Buses From Akame Guchi Station to the Falls (April through November):
|Weekdays||Saturdays||Sundays and Holidays|
|10:00 AM||9:00 AM||9:00 AM|
|10:25 AM||9:30 AM||9:30 AM|
|10:55 AM||9:55 AM||9:55 AM|
|1:15 PM||10:25 AM||10:25 AM|
|2:15 PM||10:55 AM||10:55 AM|
|3:00 PM||11:55 AM||11:55 AM|
|3:30 PM||1:15 PM||1:15 PM|
|2:15 PM||2:15 PM|
|3:00 PM||3:00 PM|
|3:30 PM||3:15 PM|
|4:00 PM||3:30 PM|
|4:30 PM||4:00 PM|
Buses From Akame Guchi Station to the Falls (December through March):
|Weekdays||Weekends and Holidays|
|10:00 AM||9:55 AM|
|1:15 PM||10:25 AM|
|2:15 PM||10:55 AM|
|3:15 PM||1:15 PM|
- Why is it called Akame 48 Waterfalls?
- The Five Main Falls
- Who was En no Ozuno?
- Who was Momochi Sandayu?
- What is Shugendo?
- More about Giant Salamanders
Why is it called Akame 48 Waterfalls?
“Akame” literally means “red eye.” The origin of this name has conflicting explanations.
One explanation is that a long time ago, a mystic named En no Ozuno came to this area to train, meditate and discipline his mind and body (during the Nara period, 710-794). During his meditation, the guardian god of such discipline came out of a waterfall riding on a red-eyed ox.
Another explanation is that En no Ozuno was served by two demons wishing to change their ways. (How the demons met En no Ozuno, and how they decided to enter servitude to him, varies with different legends.) One of the demons, Sekigan (sometimes called Shakugan), the demon husband, had red eyes. (The other demon, the demon wife, Koko, had yellow eyes.) The name “Akame” may be referencing sightings of Sekigan.
The number 48 was chosen not because there are literally 48 falls, but because the number represents “many.” How many falls do you count?
The Five Main Falls
- Fudo Fall. 230m, 6 minutes from the start. 15m high, 7m wide, 10m deep. Fudo Fall is named after Fudo Myoo who is the god of fire. Until the middle of the Meiji era (the end of the 19th century), this fall marked the beginning of a primeval forest. Please get a magnificent view of this fall from the bridge over the ravine.
- Senjyu Fall. 800m, 20 minutes from the start. 15m high, 4m wide, 20m deep. The fall, rocks and trees make beautiful artistic harmony. “Senjyu” means “a thousand hands” and the fall looks like a thousand hands. Another theory of the name is that it was named after “Senjyu-kan-non,” a god in Buddhism.
- Nunobiki Fall. 900m, 23 minutes from the start. 30m high, 30m deep. This fall looks like a strip of cloth. The depth of the water from such a narrow fall demonstrates the power of the fall to slowly cut rock over time.
- Ninai Fall. 2,600m, 70 minutes from the start. 8m high. This fall sandwiches a big rock, giving it the appearance of carrying the rock on its shoulder. Viewed from a higher place, you can see a slightly smaller fall just above the split-fall; this is commonly regarded to be the most beautiful spot in Akame 48 Waterfalls.
- Biwa Fall. 2,870m, 80 minutes from the start. 15m high, 10m deep. This indigo blue basin looks like a bathtub made of rocks. It is named Biwa because of its shape, which resembles an oriental stringed instrument called a biwa.
Who was En no Ozuno?
En no Ozuno (also often called En no Gyoja; born 634, died sometime 700-707) was a legendary yamabushi or “mountain priest” (literally, “one who lives in the mountains”). Historical record from this time is often mixed with legend, and so it is difficult to tell them apart. He is generally regarded as the founder of Shugendo, a Japanese mystic religion which has features from Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, as well as aspects of sorcery. Akame 48 Waterfalls is fabled to be one of the many places he traveled to.
Who was Momochi Sandayu?
Momochi Sandayu is a famous ninja, head of the Momochi clan. He was born in 1525 and lived most of his life in the Iga area. During this time he trained many shinobi ninjas, including the famous Hattori Hanzo. He also maintained three households, complete with three separate wives and families, and three identities, in order to keep himself safe. Because he also used other disguises and identities at will, much of his history is convoluted, unsubstantiated or outright legend. What is clear, though, is that he resisted Nobunaga, and managed to repel an army led by Nobunaga’s son. Outraged, Nobunaga invaded Iga with a massive army and annihilated the shinobi. Momochi fled, not returning to Iga until Nobunaga’s assassination. At that time, Momochi tried to reunite the remnants of the various ninja families, but failed, ultimately dying in a duel at the hands of his student, Hattori Hanzo.
Regarding ninjutsu, Momochi famously said, “Ninjutsu is not something which should be used for personal desires. It is something which should be used when no other choice is available, for the sake of one’s country, for the sake of one’s lord, or to escape personal danger. If one deliberately uses it for the sake of personal desires, the techniques will indeed fail totally.”
What is Shugendo?
Shugendo is a Japanese mystic religion which contains influences from Shintoism, Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. The religion stressed physical endurance as the path to enlightenment; trials of the religion included long treks with little equipment, and meditation in deep snow or a cold river. Followers seek enlightenment via communion with kami, or a kind of life-force or deity found within mountains, rivers and rocks. To achieve this, followers frequently engage in meditation in natural, particularly mountainous, settings. Many rites and rituals remain hidden from the public and from beginner-followers; additionally, many followers maintain relative anonymity. For these two reasons, even today not much is known about it.
After its establishment, due to various changing political landscapes the Japanese government characterized it as a superstitious religion unbefitting a civilized culture, and followers were pressured to align themselves with Shingon Buddhism or Tendai. This law was later repealed, and today the religion still exists, albeit in a very limited capacity.
More about Giant Salamanders
The scientific name of this amphibian is cryptobranchidae. It is the largest amphibian in the world. There are three species: the hellbender (smallest), the Japanese giant salamander (almost as big as the Chinese giant salamander) and the Chinese giant salamander (the largest). The hellbender is found in the eastern US. The Japanese and Chinese salamanders are found in their respective countries. The Japanese giant salamander can grow to 1.44m, while the Chinese giant salamander can reach lengths of 1.8m. The longest life was recorded in captivity at 52 years, though it is theoretically possible they can live longer. Because they travel upstream during mating season, dams are threatening their reproduction; some dams in Japan now feature ramps and staircases for salamanders to use. Males will protect eggs and even drive the females away after fertilization because they will eat the eggs. They are aquatic, have poor eyesight, and are nocturnal. Today, giant salamanders are endangered; their population has decreased approximately 80% since the 1950s due to environment destruction and over-hunting. Some salamanders are known to excrete toxins if touched; thankfully giant salamanders are not poisonous. They are known to smell similar to pepper and occasionally make sounds like human babies.