12 AWESOME WATERFALLS IN KYUSHU, JAPAN
The island of Kyushu is in the south of Japan and well known for its very active volcanoes and hot springs/onsens. However, there are also so many incredible waterfalls to be found in this region. I explored Kyushu for three weeks and managed to visit lots of beautiful waterfalls throughout my adventures, which I’ve documented in this blog post so you can check out some of the best waterfalls on Kyushu Island as well.
I’ve listed all twelve of the Kyushu waterfalls below and split them up into the region I was staying when I visited them so you can plan which waterfall to visit depending on where you are staying. There are, of course, lots more waterfalls on Kyushu Island to explore and these twelve are just scraping the surface.
A few of the waterfalls detailed below will have a link to a more comprehensive guide I’ve written about that waterfall. You can click on that link for more photos, directions, and details about what to expect at that specific location.
12 AWESOME WATERFALLS ON KYUSHU ISLAND
GOROGA TAKI FALLS
The Gorogotaki Waterfall is the largest falls in Yamato, Kumamoto with a 50m drop into the basin below. The beauty of this waterfall on Kyushu Island is that often it is crowned by a rainbow as the water crashed down onto the rocks, spraying up and catching the light perfectly in a stream of color. My favorite part about this waterfall is that you view it from the suspension bridge. There is also a really nice walk around the region through the rice fields and through the gorge to the base of the falls.
Read the full blog post here: GOROGOTAKI WATERFALL NEAR KUMAMOTO
Found on the border between Oita and Kumamoto, Nabegataki Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls on the island of Kyushu in Japan. With hundreds of waterfalls on Kyushu, what makes this one so special? You can actually walk behind the wide cascade, underneath the rock face that the waterfalls pour down over. It’s a pretty magical spot.
I did my best to shoot the waterfall without any tourists but it is quite difficult as most people do a little lap underneath the waterfall viewing it from in front, each side and behind. It’s a bit of experience and going behind the waterfall was super cool. The waterfall itself is only 10m high but spans 20m across in width and pours down over the ledge, which is what makes it so unique.
Read the full blog post here: NABEGATAKI FALLS IN KYUSHU
Hidden in the foothills on the way to Mount Aso region on the way from Kumamoto is Shiraitono Falls. It isn’t a hike or a big adventure and you can actually just drive and park only fifty meters away from the waterfall. The golden light was hitting the waterfall in the late afternoon, which created an epic little scene where everything was in shade except for the golden stream of water flowing down.
This is a bit of a strange one because the access was limited due to construction going on. There is usually a viewing point but I’m not sure if it will still be closed or not. We managed to fly the drone to still check out the waterfall but normally you can view it from the platform. Nevertheless, it was one of the most powerful waterfalls I came across on Kyushu Island.
The journey to Onbara Falls is a very, very short trek but will remove you from the town of Beppu and immerse you in the jungle making you feel lost beneath the falls. Onbara Falls is a bit of a hidden gem just outside the town of Beppu in Oita Prefecture of Kyushu, Japan. Beppu is one of the most famous Onsen towns in Japan and even the world. However, amidst all of the hot springs and Onsens are some truly epic waterfalls and Onbara Falls is up there with the most beautiful and most accessible.
The trail is short and well-defined with a dirt/rock path leading you up to the falls. With the morning sun shining through it was actually a beautiful little walk, which is only about 2km return.
Read the full blog post for details: ONBARA FALLS IN KYUSHU, JAPAN
HIGASHI SHIIYA FALLS
Higashi Shiiya Falls is a pretty epic waterfall just out of Beppu Town. When you arrive you will park in the parking lot of the information center and pay your entrance/parking fee and then make the 800m along the river and through the gorge to reach the waterfall. It’s a really pretty walk and I can’t imagine how scenic it would be with the fall colors. At the end of the gorge is a massive waterfall flowing into a giant circular pool.
TAKACHIHO GORGE WATERFALL (Minainotaki Waterfall)
Takachiho Gorge is one of the most incredible natural attractions on Kyushu Island, Japan. In the forest of Miyazaki, the Gokase River runs through a gorge comprised of volcanic basalt columns where the 17-meter high Minainotaki Waterfall pours down on the awe-struck tourists below who are paddling the iconic rowboats through the narrow chasm.
Kyushu Island is beautiful in the summer and the fall, which are the most popular times for tourists. In the fall you get the beautiful tinged orange and different colors on the trees and in the summer you are blessed with the best weather. I visited in the winter, which was not the prettiest time as lots of the leaves were dead so there were plenty of sparse trees. However, Takachiho Gorge was at a lower elevation and in a spot that was still beautiful and green in the winter. The conclusion is pretty much that it is a year-round attraction, which will only differ slightly at various times throughout the year.
The first way to enjoy Takachio gorge and the Minaionotaki Waterfall is to paddle underneath the stone bridge and then alongside the Minainotaki Waterfall. It sprayed us a little but mostly we just enjoyed the stunning gorge, which is made of volcanic basalt columns. The columns are said to resemble the scales of a dragon where the stones were twisted when the river flowed in the formation of the gorge.
The second way to enjoy the Takachiho Gorge is from one of the many viewing points. My two favorites were the bridge and the lower (most popular) viewpoint. The bridge gives you a very elevated view of the boats and the waterfall below, framed nicely by the overhanging trees and the walls of the gorge.
Yaesono Falls is a sweet little roadside waterfall, which you will find on the way to the Mount Karakuni hike in Kirishima. It’s probably not worth an adventure all on its own because you just park next to the road and check it out without needing to hike. However, if you are heading up to the Kirishima mountains for a hike it is only a small detour and is quite a nice waterfall surrounded by trees.
If you are staying near Kirishima then Ryumon Falls is definitely a spot I would recommend. It isn’t too far from Kirishima town and is a pretty epic waterfall. There is a small parking lot and then you walk about 500 meters to the viewing platform. You can go down closer to the base of the falls as well but it was a stormy, misty day when I visited and I was the only one there. I decided to just enjoy the view from the platform and snapped a photo from right there.
Inukai Falls was probably my favorite waterfall that I visited while based in Kirishima. It was a booming waterfall but I really loved the gorge that led up to the falls, which was lined by woodland and forest giving it a Pacific Northwest vibe. I actually had to wait a while here for the fog to clear enough to see the falls but when it cleared a little, I was able to record a little video on the drone to show you just how epic this gorge is.
KINZAN BRIDGE WATERFALL
While the Kinzan Bridge waterfall is the biggest falls on Kyushu Island, it is a pretty unique little spot. The bridge is actually a serviceable road I used several times while exploring Kirishima and you can get down to river level for photos. I did take this shot from the drone as I floated it under the bridge while a meter or so above the water. There’s a small trail along the side of the river but parking is right next to the bridge so it is a good little pit stop but not the highlight of the day with Ryumon, Sekinoo and Inukai the bigger waterfalls in the area.
Sekinoo is a pretty popular waterfall that has a suspension bridge viewing point. I visited it on the same day as Ryumon, Inukai, and the Kinzan Bridge so they are all within reaching distance of each other. This waterfall has a short walk down a forest path, which leads you to the suspension bridge where you can get up close enough to feel a bit of spray on a day with a heavy flow!
HOW TO GET AROUND KYUSHU FOR ADVENTURERS
While the train may suit those in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and even in Fukuoka, it won’t cut it out here on Kyushu. The trains will get you from major towns and even into some regional areas with bus connection but almost all of the adventure sports I visited had no bus connection. When I searched on Google Maps and clicked the public transport option it would just say ‘not available’. It was very clear, very quickly that Kyushu island is best to explore by car, especially if you are doing hikes and activities outside of the city (literally everything on this list).
Renting a car wasn’t too expensive and I did it through RentalCars.com, finding them to be the best-reviewed and had the cheapest options. I flew in from Tokyo so picked the car up from Fukuoka Airport and dropped it back when I was done. If you click on RentalCars.com and then search to pick up at Fukuoka Airport you should find a range of options. I got a very small car as it was cheap but it turned out very handy as the narrow roads of Japanse suburbs where my Airbnb was made it impossible for big SUVs. There was also no time that I needed to be off-road or anything like that so a small, fuel-efficient car made it cheap and convenient.
*** It is extremely important to know that you MUST HAVE an international driver’s license to rent a car in Japan. In fact, they won’t even look at your actual driver’s license and only want to see the international driver’s license. Take that seriously as they genuinely will not give you the car and likely no refund if you don’t have that. To get one you need to be in your country of residence and you can get one on the spot or order online and receive in a week or so. Make sure you organize that in advance as I almost got caught out not knowing that.
Here is my little blue whip that I rented on RentalCars.com
BEST TIME TO VISIT KYUSHU
I visited in February, which was winter and freezing. I don’t advise it but it was still epic. The best time to visit Kyushu is most definitely not winter. It’s not really a ski destination so likely you will be freezing and all of the leaves will be dead so the landscapes will not be as beautiful as other times of the year. There are a few drawcards to each season so I will go through them below.
- Fall/Autumn: The temperature is mild and comfortable making it great for hikes and adventuring. If you time things right, you will get the beautiful fall colors out on the trails!
- Spring: This is definitely the most popular season to travel to Kyushu with sunny days and comfortable temperatures. It is very popular at this time due to the cherry blossoms and flowers that are in full swing at this time of year.
- Summer: While not known for its beaches, Kyushu does offer a number of great swimming spots and beaches to explore. For hiking, it may get a little hot but (up to 30 degrees celsius) never reaching temperatures that would limit your adventures.