The most famous of Nikko’s waterfalls, Kegon Falls (華厳滝, Kegon no Taki, or Kegon Waterfall) is one of the Three Great Waterfalls of Japan (the other two being Nachi Falls in Wakayama and Fukuroda Falls in Ibaraki). It was also recognised as one of the “Eight Views” which best showed Japan and its culture in the Shōwa period in 1927, and was listed as one of the “Japan’s Top 100 Waterfalls” by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment in 1990.
Kegon Falls is on the Daiyi River, the only exit for the water from Lake Chūzenji, which is just above the falls. The falls were formed when the Daiya River was rerouted by lava flows, creating the main waterfall which has a drop of approximately 97m, and about twelve smaller cascades where the water leaks through the cracks between the mountain and the lava flows.
While famous for its natural beauty, the Kegon Waterfall is also infamous for suicides, especially among Japanese youth. Misao Fujimura, a Japanese philosophy student and poet, carved a farewell poem on the trunk of a tree before jumping to his death in May 1903. The story was sensationalized in contemporary newspapers, and the falls become a notorious spot for heartbroken teens to take their lives. It’s estimated over 200 people have committed suicide at Kegan Falls since 1903.
Getting to Kegon Falls
The waterfall is about 50min from Nikko by road (it’s a short walk from the Chuzenjiko Onsen bus terminal). The road between Nikko and Chūzenji is very windy, and can get congested in peak times!
There are a few ways to view Kegon Falls:
- free upper deck to see it from above
- lower observatory for a head-on view, accessible by an elevator for a small fee (operates all year between about 8am and 5pm depending on the season)
- Akechidaira Observatory, accessible by a cable car from Akechidaira Plateau (which lets you see both Kegon Waterfall and Lake Chūzenji).
- Japan Guide – Kegon Waterfall
- Travel 4 History – Kegon Falls Japan: Why 200 people committed suicide in Nikko?