Have you heard of Akame 48 Falls, one of the greatest hiking trails in Japan?
The valley is located in Akame, Nabari City, Mie Prefecture. The trail is an easy 4km-long hike along the river where you can really enjoy the beauty of the Japanese forest while reaching for numerous waterfalls.
What I love about this place is that it is never too crowded and we really can refresh our mind in pure nature, far from the skyscrapers of the city. Definitely a must-go hidden gem in the Kansai region for nature lovers!
Akame 48 Falls is also an important historic place since it is home to ninja culture and giant salamanders… Read more below!
Table of Contents
Akame 48 Falls - beautiful riverside trail
A little history
Akame 48 Waterfalls (赤目四十八滝, Akame Shijuhachitaki) is a collective name for the numerous series of waterfalls in this valley.
The name akame (red eyes) comes from the legend where En no Gyoja, the founder of Shugendo (ascetic mountain worship), met the God of Fire riding a red-eyed ox when visiting the valley more than 1300 years ago.
The number 48 in the name do not specify the real number of waterfalls along the path but actually translates to “many”, “a lot”. There are 5 popular large cascades, and many smaller ones along the trail (much more than 48 waterfalls!).
The hiking trail
The hike starts at the Japanese Salamander Center, a museum where you can see the geant amphibians up close. See below fore more details!
You can complete the hike in approximatively 3 hours, but my advice would be to plan a longer time in the valley to fully enjoy the walk and the beauty of the nature, stopping at several resting areas and photo spots along the way. It’s a good idea to pack some snacks beforehand! There are also restrooms and teahouses available along the route.
If you have a tight schedule, you can also choose to see just a few waterfalls and go back without reaching the last point of the trail.
It is a gentle hike, but since there are some stairs along the way and the forest can become quite humid, always be careful in wet areas and plan to wear non-slippery shoes.
The 5 main waterfalls
15 meters high, 7 meters wide, and 10 meters deep
Location: ~6 min from the start
Please go to the bridge to enjoy its beauty at the fullest. This waterfall was named after Fudo Myō, the God of Fire of the legend. There is also a statue of the legendary red-eyed ox nearby where you can toss a coin for good luck!
15 meters high, 4 meters wide, 20 meters deep
Location: ~20 min from the start
This waterfall was named Senju which means “a thousand arms” to describe its unique shape. There is a nice resting area just in front of it; my favorite spot for a snack or lunch break!
30 meters high, 30 meters deep (the highest waterfall!)
Location: ~23 min from the start
The spectacular force of the cascade’s flowing water has eroded the stone below to form a 30 meters deep pool over time.
8 meters high
Location: ~70 min from the start
This waterfall is split in two by a large rock in the middle, and its unique shape makes it one of the most beautiful falls of the valley.
15 meters high, 10 meters deep
Location: ~80 min from the start
Its basin is named after the shape of the ancient Japanese string instrument called biwa.
The moss forest
Akame 48 Falls has a very rich environment: in addition to its natural forest and waterfalls, it is also famous for being a beautiful scenery for moss.
The moss brings moisture to the atmosphere and the air feels clean and refreshing. Moss is really appreciated by Japanese people for its calming properties when staring at it!
Akame 48 Falls - the birthplace of ninja culture
Akame 48 Waterfalls is believed to be the place where En no Gyoja started his training about 1,300 years ago. En no Gyoja is the founder of Shugendo, the path of ascetic training practiced by the gyoja or yamabushi, which is said to be the origin of the ninja culture.
The Akame valley was used as a training ground by Iga-style ninjas between the 15th and 18th centuries. In addition to its strategic location at that time, its forest and waterfalls offered indeed an ideal large panel of natural training environment for ninjas to hone their skills of stealth and combat.
Later, in the Meiji era (1868-1912), Akame became famous for its waterfalls viewing. But even today, it remains a sacred place where priests practice asceticism and meditation.
Ninja training experience
Akame’s Ninja Training School, located at the entrance of the area, offers a course to experience being a ninja.
You can rent a ninja costume and have a 90-min practice of shuriken (ninja star) throwing and other activities to train on your hiding, climbing and jumping ninja techniques.
You can also rent the ninja costume to walk the Akame 48 Falls trail and take memorable photos in the forest.
Conditions to take part in the training course:
– for adults and children ages 4 and up,
– at least two people,
– advance reservations needed (at least an hour beforehand).
You can also experience an Akame meditation tour that includes meditating under the falls and relaxing in a traditional onsen. Learn more here.
Akame 48 Falls - also home to giant salamanders
The river is also home to the Japanese giant salamanders (Andrias japonicus), the second largest salamander species in the world. They are a rare protected species also registered as Natural Monument of Japan. They can reach 1.5 meters long and live more than 50 years. The untouched and pollution-free environment of the valley makes a perfect habitat for them!
You can see them up close in the Japan Salamander Center at the entrance of the waterfalls and if you are lucky, you might even be able to see them swim in the waters between spring and autumn while enjoying your walk.
And because a trip is always enjoyed better with food, here is my little snack recommendation if you visit the Akame 48 Falls.
This sweet snack is called hekoki manju, they are sold at the “Tamakiya” shop in front of the Akame Museum of Natural History. You can buy some before visiting the falls and eat them on your way, or after your hike as a sweat reward.
The hekoki manju is baked with sweet potato dough. There are 8 flavors available: sweet potato (no filling), red bean paste (tsubuan or koshian – with or without whole red beans), white bean paste, matcha, apple, cream cheese and cranberry, and chocolate. They are all delicious but my favorite was cranberry cheese!
861-1 Akame-cho Nagasaka, Nabari City, Mie Prefecture
By train to Akameguchi Station (Kintetsu Line)
– 1h20 from Osaka-Namba Station (1,020 yen)
– 1h30 from Kyoto Station (2,140 yen)
Then, 10-minute bus ride from Akameguchi Station (赤目口) to the Akamedaki (赤目滝) bus stop.
April to November: 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM
December to March: 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM
Adults: 500 yen
Children (age 15 and under): 250 yen
When to go
- Spring: visit Akame during early spring to enjoy the view of cherry blossom trees or in late spring when the foliage is at its greenest.
- Summer: enjoy an agreeable, cool and refreshing walk to get out of the summer heat.
- Winter: you will need to be more careful along the hiking trail but you might be lucky and witness the magic of frozen waterfalls!
- Fall: enjoy the breathtaking views of waterfalls and autumn foliage (early to mid-November)
※ If you visit during fall and winter, don’t miss their light up event, where thousands of bamboo are sculpted by hand and arranged to light up the valley. It is usually held from October to the end of January, for a small fee added to the falls’ entrance ticket. Check more info on their official website.