Cascading from an incredible height, the waters of Akiu Great Falls (Akiu Otaki) are a stunning sight, but their rural location means not any make the journey to visit them. Close to a popular onsen town and surrounded by lush forests, they are a spot worth travelling for however, with plenty to see nearby.
Japan’s top 100 waterfalls: Akiu Great Falls
One of Japan’s top 100 waterfalls, Akiu Otaki is an impressive sight well worth the journey. As a designated place of scenic beauty, the 55m tall falls are a popular tourism spot in this quiet corner of Miyagi. There are a few small stalls close to the viewing platform with snacks and souvenirs, as well as a large tori gate that leads the way to the falls. You can follow a short path to the viewing platfrom and enjoy views of the falls from there. If you are able, there is a small, steep path leading down to the base of the falls for an alternative view. The surrounding gorge is known for its scenic views, especially in autumn, when the foliage turns a mix of golds, reds and oranges.
Where are Akiu Great Falls?
The Akiu Falls are located just outside the small town of Akiu Onsen, close to Saikoji Temple and Akiu Otaki Botanical Garden. This area is in the Taihaku region to the west of Sendai in Miyagi prefecture. The falls are around 30km from Sendai which is in the Tohoku region of East Japan, approximately two hours from Tokyo by bullet train.
Visiting Akiu Great Falls
The falls are a very popular day trip from Sendai, with many people staying in the nearby onsen town of Akiu. Spending a night in the nearby ryokan is a very relaxing way to enjoy the hot springs and scenery as well as making the most of the different sightseeing spots. The falls are around a 20-minute drive from Akiu and there are bus routes connecting the two areas - however times are limited on weekdays so do check ahead.
When to Visit Akiu Great Falls
Stunning throughout the year, each season brings a different natural beauty to the area. In spring, the fresh greenery surrounds them and the water is heavy as the snow melts in the higher areas. In summer, it is a cool escape while in autumn the fall leaves are an incredible addition. In Winter, the snow-covered surrounds are beautiful, but it is a little more difficult to access.
What to do Around Akiu Great Falls
The falls themselves have a viewing platform with great views of the falls from a height, while there is another path to view the base of the falls. The Akiu Ohashi Bridge offers striking views of the valley below. In the surrounding area, you can visit Saikoji Temple which is very close to the waterfall platform. Nearby is the Otaki Botanical Garden which is home to a selection of local plants from the surrounding Zao Mountains and well-maintained gardens. There are some food stalls and souvenir shops located beside the bus stop while the town has a soba restaurant and small cafe.
If you are staying in Akiu Onsen town or just passing through, you can visit the public bath or enjoy day access to one of the local hotel baths to try the natural hot springs the area is famous for. Alongside the baths located in the town, there is also a very pleasant set of public baths in the Castle Tower Nature Park, just outside it.
There are also beautiful gardens and a soba restaurant in the park. Akiu is home to the Sendai Kaleidoscopes Art Museum and the Akiu Traditional Craft Village. The latter offers an opportunity to observe and try your hand at local crafts including spinning top carving, kokeshi doll painting and indigo fabric dying. You can also explore the local landscape by strolling through Rairaikyo Gorge, which has a 650m walking trail with exceptional views. Be sure to visit the Akiu Sato Center to check transport and sightseeing information when you arrive.
How to get to Akiu Great Falls
From Sendai Station’s West Entrance, simply catch the Miyagi Kotsu bus for Akiu Otaki from Stop 8. The journey takes approximately 1 hour but only runs on weekends and holidays. Alternatively, you can catch the bus to Akiyu Onsen from the same stop and make your way from there, or catch the train to Ayashi station and take a 40-minute bus from bus stop 2.
If you’re flying into Sendai Airport, you can take the 25-minute Sendai Airport Access Line line to JR Sendai Station. From there, you catch the direct bus to Akiu Onsen. If you are staying in the town, many of the hotels offer shuttles from the airport although reservations are required in advance.