Okinawa II

Part 2 of our Okinawa Adventure looking for canyons…

Canyon Magazine
Japan Exploration
November 2013

Part 2 of our Okinawa Adventure looking for some canyons and waterfalls during the summer months while dodging an oncoming typhoon. In our a brief week on the main island, discovering new locations and exploring the jungle river systems to we were truly lucky to find such area that provides a unique experience and an alternative to the mainland of Japan.

We spent several hours of pouring over topographic maps looking for anything that resembled a canyon or gorge and waterfalls. Some of the challenge is that a large area of the the northern part of the main island is off limits due to the US Military using the jungle areas as a training ground. With the help of some local websites which had plotted the locations of some of the waterfalls we set off to see what we could find.

Fukugawa Falls
Situated in the remote part of Nago city. One of the more accessible waterfalls which also has a trail to climb up a second set of falls. With a large pool at the bottom of the main waterfall, it is quite popular with the locals and the US military to cool off and have some fun but we’re more interested upstream

Situated upstream is what is call Fukugawa II by some locals. A fairly easy trail runs along side the river up to the second falls. after ascending the falls on the trail it’s a quick abseil down it a canyonish descent to the main falls. Although fairly quick and easy, we enjoyed being in the water and experience the lush green jungle.

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Mystery Falls
We named this one Mystery Falls as we found this one by complete accident whilst driving across to Hira Falls. I saw a glimpse of a rock formation whilst driving over one of the bridges and we pulled up to check it out. Luckily we found an easy entrance point on the side of the road and then a smallish canyon section just before the waterfall. Below the waterfall it flattened out for quite a bit so we decided to reverse direction and head to Hira Falls. One to explore again later.
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Hira Falls
Located on the east side of Okinawa along the Aritsu River it is one of the lesser known waterfalls on Okinawa and also not an easy find even with car navigation. Less of canyoning more of jungle climbing. With thick bush everywhere crossing in and out of the streams whilst on the lookout for Habu (Japanese poisonous snakes) we made it to Hira Falls. As a waterfall it looks quite nice but upon further exploration of the area, this is the only feature in the area and the rest is fairly flat.

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Kunigami Falls
Kunigami Falls is really an unnamed waterfall but as the closest town is Kunigami, so that’s what we’ll call it. A simple walk in and climb up to abseil into the dark green water was very nice. The water is fairly deep so a lot of jumping can be done. Further upstream there was nothing much but with a small gorge section at the start and the river descending in the Hiji Falls main river we would like to come back and explore some more.

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Hiji Falls & Typhoon Day
Hiji Falls is the one we wanted to do the most. After exploring all options and scripting the area for an entry point the time we come to do this a Typhoon decided to land in Okinawa. When you have strong winds, heavy rain and see trees floating in the river it’s a good idea not to go in and start exploring. The photograph of the warning we took on the bridge was very apt at the time.

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Tachigawa Falls
After the typhoon the previous day its all clear blue skies and warm weather once again. It’s our last day of driving around Okinawa we finally come to Tachigawa. 2 Waterfalls located next to the seaside. The entrance is underneath the roadway. You would miss it completely if you don’t know it was there. You can also access it through a private property which also houses a small cafe which is a great place to relax after scrambling down the falls.

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Although not a lot of traditional canyoning and a lot more river trekking, we were pleasantly surprised and satisfied on what we found. We definitely shall be going back again to explore some more in the near future and next on the list is Iriomote Island in the Okinawa chain.