Do you like high places? Do you enjoy walking up endless steps through the mountains to find hidden pockets of natural beauty and solitutde, coupled by the excitement of rusty iron chains running over slippery surfaces providing access to even higher places?
Well, you’re in luck.
While the large number of mountains in Tokushima (80% of all available land) may be a bottomless pit of potential construction work, in a different frame of mind it is also a lush garden filled with deep forests and valleys, mountainous peaks and beautiful country views. The amagoi no taki, or amagoi waterfalls, is a little of all of these things mixed in together, nestled deep in the heart of the town of Kamiyama in the middle of the prefecture.
Actually, the falls here are listed as one of the 100 most beautiful in the country. They are broken into three steps, two of which are a ‘male’ and a ‘female’ step, and cascade down over 45 metres to form a small stream below. The pool they form at their base is a great little spot to take a quick dip, as the water is cool all year round (a lot cooler in winter, mind) although you never can be sure what’s hanging around so it’s good to keep an eye out. And, while the falls themselves are broken into three different steps, there is a large iron chain fixed down the cliffside that you can use to climb up to the middle. This is not for the lighthearted, though, or the unsure of foot – take care as you climb, as the rockface can become quite slippery!
Unfortunately, such descriptions of a place might give you the image that it isn’t exactly one of the easier places to get to in Tokushima. This description is both accurate and inaccurate in equal parts.
Getting out to Kamiyama itself is not so hard. A bus runs from the city and gets there in an hour, costing only around 1,000 yen (one way). There are also several roads that you can follow from the north, east and west to get there, so if you have a car then you will have a relatively easy trip. However, if you end up in Kamiyama and are relying on the strength of your legs, then you have quite a lot of legwork to get done.
Once you arrive in Kamiyama (the Kamiyama-cho Yakuba Mae bus stop is the closest to it) then there is a walk of several kilometres to get to the parking area closest to the falls. From here there is another 800m trek up through the mountains until you get to the top, but the walk is quite pleasant thanks to the smaller falls you can see along the way (namely, the Uguisu, Momiji, and Fudo falls).
The Valley of Hell
Along the track up to the falls you will come across a sign that reads ‘Valley of Hell’ (地獄淵). This small valley is so named because of its steep sides, and it is said that once you fall into it, you never come back out. I haven’t tested the validity of this yet, but it certainly does look like a nasty drop, so take care not to fall in!