When people visit Semboku city in Akita prefecture for leisure, their preferred destinations will most likely either be Nyūtō Onsen (乳頭温泉郷), Lake Tazawa (田沢湖), or Tamagawa Onsen (玉川温泉). While those spots are definitely worthwhile places to visit, we would recommend that you also drop by the Dakigaeri Valley (抱返り渓谷) as well! The valley is close to those three popular attractions, and it takes just 2 hours to explore this valley, especially its mysterious cobalt blue mountain stream (*’▽’).
Dakigaeri Valley, also known as Dakigaeri Gorge, is most famous for its autumn foliage. Each year from mid-October to early November, a rich collage of color by the virgin forest at the banks will be beautifully contrasted to the turquoise Tamakawa River (玉川) running downstream.
It is also a great time to visit the valley during spring and summer. With the river changing its color depending on where you stand and the sun shining on the vivid green forest, you should be able to see different shades of green!
The promenade is well-maintained in Dakigaeri Valley. The trail is flat throughout the 1.5 km long course, so it is a trekking route suitable for everyone.
You can get to the end of the course in around 30 minutes. But taking into account the amount of time that you will be spending on photography, allowing 1.5 – 2 hours here might be a wiser decision (‘ω’)ノ
Dakigaeri Valley’s Stone Monument
At the entrance of the valley is this stone monument. There is nothing too special about it but the view of the valley from here is awesome!
If you know how to read Chinese characters, you might be wondering, “what does the valley get anything to do with hugging?” – the word “抱” means a hug.
In the past, the trails in the valley were so narrow that they only allowed one-way traffic. It was impossible to do traffic control in this 10 km long valley. So whenever two people met going in opposite directions, they must embrace each other and turn each other around to pass! This is why the valley is called “dakigaeri” (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
Tip: The only toilet in the valley is located at the small souvenir shop/restaurant close to the car park (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
Dakigaeri Shrine (抱返神社)
Proceed to the promenade after you have your fill of the valley’s panoramic view! At the entrance of the promenade, you will find the Dakigaeri Shrine.
The old shrine is home to the guardian deity of sericulture, water, and dragon. No fee is required to enter the shrine’s precinct, so feel free to walk around!
Kami no Iwahashi Suspension Bridge (神の岩橋)
This red bridge you saw from the stone monument was completed in 1926 as part of a forest railway and is now the oldest bridge in Akita prefecture.
The view from the 80 meters long suspension bridge is just breathtaking. On a clear sunny day, the sky will reflect on the surface of the Tamagawa River under the bridge that we doubt that no one on this earth would forget or not want to snap a photo of this heavenly scenery!
Seiganji Temple (誓願寺) and Seigan Suspension Bridge (誓願橋)
Following the promenade, you will reach the second suspension bridge, the Seigan Bridge.
The view from here to the end goal – Mikaeri-no-Taki Falls (回顧の滝) is the highlight of the entire valley, with the scenery from Seiganji Temple being one of the most beautiful spots (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
The view from the Kami no Iwahashi Bridge is certainly magnificent. But at the Seiganji Temple, with the banks so close to each other, it makes the cobalt blue river stand out more beautifully with an extra mysterious element!
When a place is named XXX Temple, we expect a temple to be around. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try to find a temple around Seiganji Temple, you will never find one (≧▽≦).
And this is not because you are temporarily blind. It is because the temple here is used to describe the view of the Tamagawa River!
From the Seigan Bridge, the distance between the banks on the two sides of the river is short. The white bubbles that are created when the stream flows downstream somehow resemble the drifting incense that burns in a temple (the Japanese really have some awesome imagination there. We just couldn’t see it no matter how hard we tried (´▽｀*)).
Side note: Due to the acid from the Tawagawa Onsen (玉川温泉) at the river upstream, the color of the Tawagawa River will be a cobalt blue/emerald green color.
The Three Tunnels at Dakigaeri Valley
Soon after passing Seiganji Temple, three dark hand-carved tunnels will be waiting for you.
Walking through the cave reminds us of the Ghibli movie, Spirited Away. It feels as if we will enter a completely different world once we reach the other side of the tunnel.
The atmosphere and surroundings will make you feel like you are on a great pioneer adventure.
Given that the lights in the tunnels are quite dim, please walk carefully so you don’t trip over (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
Mikaeri no Taki Falls (回顧の滝)
Once you reach the other side of the 50 meters long tunnel section, you will hear the sound of a waterfall.
The water falling from the 30 meters cliffside looks like a large piece of silk hanging on a giant rock wall. The beauty of the waterfall has made people continuously look back for another glance. This is why it is named “Mikaeri (回顧)”!
The gorgeous waterfall marks the end of the 30 minutes scenic trip. A Japanese area map can be accessed HERE. We will update this link if an English map becomes available.
Different Seasons In Dakigaeri Valley
- The valley is closed in winter from late November to late April
- Summer: from mid-June to late August
- Dakigaeri Autumn Festival: Early October to early November
- During the autumn festival:
- Shuttle bus services operate between the valley (抱返り渓谷), Bukeyashiki Street (武家屋敷) in Kakunodate, and Kakunodate Station (角館駅)
- HERE is the timetable in Japanese. Please refer back to the Japanese name of the above three mentioned spots when you read the timetable
- On the weekends during the festival periods, there will be traditional folk entertainment and tea ceremonies (fees may apply)
What to Wear and What to Bring
- While the track in Dakigaeri Valley is mostly flat and easy to walk on, we would still recommend at least sneakers for footwear
- The temperature differs in the morning and evening so taking a thin jacket or light cardigan with you is always handy
- A bottle of water even though you might only spend two hours maximum there
- Insect repellent to keep the mosquitoes away
How to Get to Dakigaeri Valley
Unfortunately, the valley is only accessible if you have access to a car (that is if you don’t want to walk for an hour or so).
- From JR Jindai Station (神代駅): 5 minutes
- From JR Kakunodate Station (角館駅): 15 minutes
- From JR Tazawako Station (田沢湖駅): 20 minutes
Tip: You can rent a bicycle from Shimoda Rental instead of catching a taxi!
Visit Kakunodate for the many awesome attractions such as Bukeyashiki Street samurai’s residence lined on the side of the street.
To find out all the great attractions you can visit in the historic town, check out our article on Kakunodate!
Other Scenic Attractions Close to Dakigaeri Valley
Lake Tazawa is a popular scenic spot that tourists visit when they come to Akita prefecture.
Not only is the lake scenic, but the food at the restaurants/cafes around the lake is delicious too (there is even a beer curry)!
Find out more about all the great attractions around Lake Tazawa with our article HERE!