I’ve always considered myself a nature lover, but admittedly, waterfalls never used to be something I’d make an effort to seek out. That all changed when I started traveling to Japan a few years ago, as the country’s wide variety of many spectacular waterfalls really took a hold on me. That interest has increased since then and waterfalls are now a must-see when I visit different parts of the country.
Shikoku is known for its natural beauty, and certainly part of that appeal are the island’s many waterfalls. Although not the easiest to access, Todoroki Falls (轟の滝) in Tokushima Prefecture are amongst the best falls in Shikoku and are definitely worth the journey necessary to reach them. In fact, the area is somewhat of a waterfall wonderland.
The main fall is called Todoroki Hontaki (轟本滝) but the area encompassing all falls here is known as Todoroki Ninety-nine Falls (轟九十九滝). Unless someone counted every section of water falling here, I’m not sure if there are actually ninety-nine falls to be seen, but there are definitely 10 major falls here to check out.
Three words: National Route 193. All roads lead to Rome, but only one road leads to Todoroki Falls. I’ve already written about this road in detail in a previous article, but to summarize, let’s just say that it’s a nerve-racking drive on one of the narrowest, most poorly maintained roads you’ll encounter as a driver in any mountainous area of Japan. Well, at least that’s the challenge you’ll face if approaching from the northerly Tokushima direction as we did when we visited the falls.
However, from Kaiyou (海陽) in Shikoku’s south, the condition of the 193 road is apparently better, supported by the fact that there is a bus from the town’s JR Awa-Kainan Station (JR阿波海南駅) to the falls. I can’t find any information about a bus coming from the north, and I’d be very surprised if there is one as the road that way is barely suitable for a car, let alone any vehicle bigger than that. In fact, I’d recommend self-driving for a trip within Shikoku anyway as many of the best sites are somewhat remote. Buses are not that common, nor frequent, particularly in mountainous areas such as this.
Todoroki Hontaki is definitely the star here and I’d think it’s the main reason why the waterfalls collectively have a place in Japan’s Top 100 Waterfalls (日本の滝百選 – Nihon no Taki Hyakusen). At 58 meters, it’s far from Japan’s biggest waterfall, but it is breathtakingly beautiful and unique. Soon after you pass through the torii gate at the waterfall’s approach, you’ll hear the roaring sound of the waterfall from which it earned its name (Todoroki means “roar”).
The waterfall’s unique appearance will become apparent as you near the closest viewpoint, finally revealing it between surrounding cliff-faces that almost enclose it within a natural display area at the back of a crevice. The water flow is split by a large rock at the top of the waterfall which creates two separate streams of water that tumble down towards the bottom, giving the waterfall further visual appeal. The moss covered rocks that abound within the waterfall’s vicinity, plus the light mist coming from the fall itself, add to the spectacular vision as you stand there in awe.
Being at ground level next to the pretty Todoroki Shrine (轟神社), Todoroki Hontaki is the easiest fall to access as it requires no climbing. However, the other falls do require a couple hours of reasonably easy mountain hiking but are very much worth the effort of seeking them out.
To reach the other falls, head up the mountain path, and you will come across each waterfall as the path follows the stream up the mountainside waterfall corridor. That probably helps give you a sense of how spectacular the main waterfall is, given that it sits below all the water running down from the series of upper waterfalls.
The variety of falls here is really wonderful. You’ll see a couple of singular stream falls, falls that curve and cascade down in stages via rocky gulleys, and those that fan out over the rocks below them. I’d say Nijunotaki (二重の滝) is the highlight amongst these remaining falls due to its expansive shape and multi-streamed flows, but all here are interesting in their own ways. I can’t think of anywhere I’ve been where such a variety of falls can be seen within one area. It’s almost a case of literally turning the corner and seeing a different waterfall in front of you.
Aside from admiring the falls, you’ll be following the path through lush, moss covered forest, alongside a lovely stream of flowing crystal clear water. Sounds like a natural paradise, doesn’t it?
To give you an idea of the time needed to see all the falls, it took my wife and I a bit more than an hour and a half to reach the uppermost fall. We were rushing somewhat as it was late in the afternoon, but we still had enough time to thoroughly enjoy the waterfalls and we took plenty of pictures and videos. You can get back down to the carpark in half that time or less. As mentioned, the climb up and down the path isn’t particularly difficult, but the mossy sections of path and stairs do require some care to be taken, particularly after rain.
If waterfalls interest you and you don’t mind dealing with a challenging road in order to get to them, then you will not regret making the effort to come to Todoroki Falls. Due to its difficult-to-reach location, it’s a very peaceful area with only a few other people around, so you won’t be dealing with hordes of tourists either. Even if waterfalls aren’t on top of your list, give this place a go if you get the opportunity, you might come to appreciate their beauty more.