HOME Tohoku Akita Surrounding Areas Of Akita (Tohoku Japan Guide) Akita’s Dakigaeri Gorge: Refreshing Cobalt Blue Stream and Vibrant Fall Foliage
(Tohoku Japan Guide) Akita’s Dakigaeri Gorge: Refreshing Cobalt Blue Stream and Vibrant Fall Foliage

(Tohoku Japan Guide) Akita’s Dakigaeri Gorge: Refreshing Cobalt Blue Stream and Vibrant Fall Foliage

Date published: 23 October 2019
Last updated: 30 October 2019

Dakigaeri Gorge (Dakigaeri Keikoku) in Senboku City located in the eastern part of Akita Prefecture is great spot to view autumn leaves. Every year from early October to early November the virgin forest turns vibrant with autumn leaves, and the contrast with the cobalt blue stream will wash away your daily stress. Here are the highlights of the one way 30 minute hiking course.

Summer and autumn are the Best Seasons to Visit Dakigaeri Gorge

Dakigaeri Gorge is 10km long and located in the midstream of Tama River that flows into Lake Tazawa and Kakunodate Town. You can get there in 15 minutes from JR Kakunodate Station by car, the area is designated as Tazawako-Dakigaeri Prefectural Nature Park. The name Dakigaeri (hugging back) comes from times when the mountain paths were dangerous and narrow that when people passed each other, they had to hug and support each other to get by.

▲The stone monument at the entrance

The beautiful scenery of odd shaped boulders, waterfalls, the clear blue stream and lush virgin forest of cherry trees and maple trees is called the Yabakei of Tohoku. Many tourist visit the area from mid-June to late August to see the fresh verdure, and from early October to early November to see the autumn leaves.

▲The vibrant autumn leaves and the sound of the stream rejuvenates the soul (photo provided by Tazawako - Kakunodate Kanko Kyokai)

There are walking paths in the area, which provide a great experience walking along the river. Some might be put off by exploring a gorge, however the course is 1.5km long one way and takes about 30 minutes on foot. Also there are very few slopes, which is great for beginners. We slipped into some comfortable clothes and decided to check out the area.

▲Heading towards the final destination Mikaeri-no-taki (waterfall)

Getting Started

Let’s stop by Dakigaeri Shrine by the entrance of the path before heading in. In 1673 when the former Dakigaeri Village (current Wakamatsu Region) was established, there was a drought that could destroy all their crops. The villagers prayed for rain at the water source of Dakigaeri and the crisis was averted. With this there are still many people who visit the shrine to pray for the guardian deity of rain, sacred waters, dragon god and sericulture.

▲A charming shrine surrounded by a cedar forest (offers may be freely given)

We visited in mid-September. The walking path is single path going through the forest. The sunlight beaming in through the forest and sound of water flowing gave us a great start to our hike. The path is wide enough that you can go around people and say hello as you go by.

▲You can enjoy nature here, but keep an eye out for wild animals such as mamushi (Japanese pit viper)

Walking past Dakigaeri Shrine for 2 to 3 minutes, you will reach the symbol of Dakigaeri Gorge, Kami-no-Iwabashi Bridge.

It is the oldest suspension bridge in Akita Prefecture and was completed in 1926. From the approximately 80m long red suspension bridge you can get a great view of the gorge and the blue water, it’s a great place to take pictures.

▲The view from Kami-no-Iwabashi in autumn
▲A great shot of the red bridge and autumn leaves (photo provided by Tazawako - Kakunodate Kanko Kyokai)

Also looking towards the entrance of the gorge from the bridge there is a strange rock with a pine tree growing out of it. This rock is called “Miko Ishi” and legends says that when a shrine maiden couldn’t’t cross the river to go pray, a Myojin (deity) helped her across.

▲The shrine maiden was so grateful that through the power of worship she turned into the large rock, Miko Ishi

After crossing Kami-no-Iwabashi, continue walking straight towards the destination Mikaeri-no-taki. There are many great spots to take pictures along the way, such as the river below or the scenery on the other side, there is even a place where you can drink spring water.

▲The river and forest makes a great photo on a sunny day
▲In autumn the virgin forest turns red
▲The moss covered spring water is cold and refreshing
▲If you put the camera close to the ground, you can take a beautiful photo of the reflection off the spring water flowing down on the walking path.

Also the cobalt blue stream, which is the symbol of Dakigaeri Gorge is breathtakingly beautiful. It is said that the color of the stream comes from Tamagawa hot spring up stream, which is said to have the strongest acidity in Japan. The rich aluminium in the hot spring scatter blue light, which creates the vivid blue color.

▲The beautiful contrast of the green forest and cobalt blue stream (photo provided by Tazawako - Kakunodate Kanko Kyokai)

Also the odd shaped boulders along the walk path or in the river is one of the charms of the gorge. Not only the autumn leaves but the odd shape rocks and boulders make a great photo opportunity that adds to the experience.

▲The Goza Rock, named after the way it looks like you can place few goza (straw mats) on it
▲This cave is called Taishaku Iwaya and it is said that Dakigaeri Taishaku Myojin, the enshrined deity in Dakigaeri Shrine, was born here. The surface looks like it is made with blocks

Going further in the gorge there is another bridge and the scenery keeps getting better. Once you reach Seigan Bridge, you are almost at the destination Mikaeri-no-taki. However Seiganji up ahead is one of the best scenic points in the gorge, and a place we strongly suggest to stop by.

▲The walking path was destroyed and the Seigan Bridge was built

When we saw the sign Seiganji (Seigan Temple) we started looking for a temple, however the temple refers to the view. The rock walls of the gorge on both sides are closer when looking down from the bridge, and the foam flowing out from the bottom of the stream looks like the smoke that drifts from incense in a temple, and that is where the name was taken from.

▲A magnificent view when looking down

If the view from Kami-no-Iwabishi is spectacular, the view from Seiganji is mystical. The approaching rock walls make the cobalt blue stand out, and in autumn the red, orange, yellow and green leaves create an amazing view.

▲Amazing view of colored leaves from Seiganji

After getting past the bridge there are three tunnels that look like gates to mountain asceticism training grounds. The tunnels are quite dark, and it feels like you are exploring! Just be careful of your footing.

▲The tunnel looks like something from a Ghibli movie!
▲After walking for about 50 meters you will see the other side

Once you get out you are at the destination Mikaeri-no-taki, and you can hear the waterfall from the right. The explanation of the waterfall states “The waterfall is so beautiful that you will look back,” and just like the explanation the 30m drop waterfall is powerful and breathtaking. If you adjust the shutter speed of you camera, the waterfall will look like silk.

▲The white waterfall stands out beautifully with the green background.
▲The waterfall surrounded by autumn leaves is graceful

Once you are refreshed by the negative ions from the waterfall, it’s time to turn around and head back. It’s about a 30 minute walk and it was just the right amount of exercise.

▲The path ahead of Mikaeri-no-taki is closed off year round, because the path is in critical condition.

Also during the Mikaeri Keikoku Koyosai festival that takes place from early October to early November every year, there is a shuttle bus that goes from Kakunodate Satation and Tazawako Station. During the festival there are guided tours and special performances.

▲There is also a shop by the entrance. The clear tasting beer “Dakigaeri Beer” (570 yen tax included) is only sold here
  • Dakigaeri Gorge
    抱返り渓谷
    • Address Tazawako Sotsuda – Kakunodatemachi Hirokunai, Semboku City, Akita Prefecture

    Free Access
    Phone: 0187-54-2700 (Semboku City Sightseeing Information Center “Kakunodate Eki Maezo”)

Kimpo Jinja with Large Nio Statues and the Magnificent Cedar Avenue

Since we are here, we decided to head over to another sightseeing spot nearby.
We stopped by Kimpo Jinja (shrine) that is about 20 minutes by car from Mikaeri Gorge. At the shrine there is an avenue of prefecturally-designated national treasure cedar trees, which are said to be 350 to 800 years old. At the entrance of the shrine there is a Niomon (Deva Gate), and one of the statue was sculpted from a large cedar tree.

▲Niomon in the center of the avenue with cedar trees that are approximately 30m tall
▲The Nio statues to the right and left are about 3.8m tall. The Nio statues don’t look too fierce here

Walking thought the immensely tall cedar avenue and moss covered stairs, it feels like you slipped into a magical world.

▲A mystical path where you can only hear footsteps
▲About 5 minutes from Niomon you will reach the main hall

We were able to enjoy the small walk surrounded by tall cedar trees that reach the sky and magnificent Nio statues.

  • Kimpo Jinja
    金峰神社
    • Address 235 Higashida, Umezawa, Tazawako, Semboku-shi, Akita

    Free to offer worship
    0187-43-2111 (Semboku City Tazwako Sightseeing Information Center “Folake”)

There are many places you can see fabulous autumn leaves, however we strongly recommend vesting this scenic spot where you can casually see the cobalt blue stream going through the colorful gorge. Make sure you don’t forget your camera when you visit.

*The picture of the autumn leaves were taken before 2017

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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