Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Nishizawa Valley and the Picturesque Waterfalls

Nishizawa Keikoku (西沢渓谷) is a valley in Yamanashi Prefecture located in Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park (秩父多摩甲斐国立公園). If it is on your itinerary, prepare yourself for a feast of natural art! Once you step into this valley, we promise you will immediately be captivated by its mysterious charm (^_-)-☆.

The canyon is surrounded by an old-growth forest decorated with worn, eroded granite. The beauty of this view, together with a number of dazzling waterfalls sprinkled throughout the journey, serves to amaze and rejuvenate any tired visitor hiking the valley.

The Busy Periods at Nishizawa Valley

The valley’s deep green beauty can be enjoyed from late spring to late autumn.

However, if you are looking for some more diverse colors, visit the Nishizawa Valley around early to mid-May for the Rhododendron flowers and/or during autumn between mid-October to early November. Or, if you are hunting for the traditional Japanese colorful autumn foliage, plan a day in early November to the Shōsenkyō Gorge in the same area, with the scenery being only second to Mt. Fuji!

Brief Summary of the Scenic Spots in the Nishizawa Valley

The whole Nishizawa Valley hiking course is basically a loop course. You will be starting from and ending your exploration at Nishizawa Valley Entrance (西沢渓谷入口). You will first start by hiking up the mountain with a spectacular canyon view, before reaching the loop around, traveling down gradually.

Tip: It is a 9km course that will take approximately 5 hours to complete. So we recommend you start your trip from the valley’s entrance well before 11 am as the last bus departs from the valley at 4:25 pm.

Below is a list of notable places along this course. Click HERE to view the map of the whole course. Please note that these are written in Japanese as we couldn’t locate an English version. However, the numbers below match up.

Your Journey Starts from Nishizawa Keikoku Iriguchi (Nishizawa Valley Entrance)

Whether you are traveling by bus from JR Enzan Station (塩山駅) or JR Yamanashishi Station (山梨市駅) or driving to Nishizawa Valley, your starting point of this extremely scenic exploration will start from Nishizawa Keikoku Iriguchi. From the entrance, you will be walking on the side of a flat woodland path. The trees on both sides of the road cover the top of the road. So even in summer, there will be plenty of shade! The Narei Falls (ナレイの滝) should appear on your right-hand side after 20 minutes of easy walking. You will find the Netori Bridge (ネトリ大橋) on your left-hand side as well.

Important: Please don’t enter the valley from Netori bridge. This is more for your own safety. As some parts of the hiking paths in the valley are only suitable for one-way traffic, attempting to travel in the other direction can mean that someone will end up getting injured.

Tip: Around 10 minutes after pathing the Netori Bridge, you should be arriving at Nishizawa Mountain Lodge (西沢山荘). It will be a good idea to go to the bathroom there as you won’t get a chance to for another 2 hours of hiking (unless you want to contribute to the beautiful untouched forest, which we strongly recommend against).

Around 10 minutes from Nishizawa Sansō (Nishizawa Mountain Lodge), the super cool Futamata Suspension Bridge (二俣吊り橋) will be in front of you. After crossing the bridge, the valley will start to test your fitness level (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Futamata Suspension Bridge (二俣吊り橋)

The Futamata Suspension Bridge is approximately 30 meters from the ground.

Unlike us, if you aren’t afraid of the height, the beautiful and assumedly cockscomb-looked Mt. Keikan (鶏冠山) will be on your right-hand side. We said ‘assumedly’ because the mountain is named after the cockscomb. We didn’t get a chance to determine for ourselves as we were too busy running across the bridge…(´▽`*).

Nishizawa Valley's Futamata Suspension Bridge

There will be another bridge for you to cross after the Futamata Suspension Bridge. After that bridge, you will find a side road branching to the right. Make sure you don’t step on this branch of the road, as this will lead you to Mt. Keikan, which you just saw when you passed the Suspension Bridge.

There will be a big signboard with “西沢渓谷”(Nishizawa Valley) on it to guide you to the correct path. From that signboard, you should start climbing some wooden staircases.

Ōkubo Falls (大久保の滝)

The wooden staircases will lead you to Ōkubo Falls. Apparently, this beautiful waterfall wasn’t originally there before 1933. Back then, in order to build a train track for wood transportation (the current “旧森林軌道” (Old Forest Train Track)), some of the streams at the upper part of the mountain were redirected. As a result, quite a few swamps were formed.

The swamp underneath the waterfall is the deepest swamp in the area. The swamp was named Ōkubo Swamp (大久保沢). The waterfall falling into the Ōkubo Swamp is called Ōkubo Falls.

Important: The staircases and mountain trails from Ōkubo Falls are quite steep. Make sure you utilize the chain handrails readily available for your safety (‘ω’)ノ.

Mie Falls (三重の滝)

Shortly past Ōkubo Falls, you will see the emerald green-colored basin of Mie Falls. Make sure you go down to the “滝見台” (waterfall lookout) because from there, you will be able to capture the gorgeous Mie Falls for more photo-taking experience (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Nishizawa Valley's Mie no taki (mie fall)
Ⓒ photo-ac.com/

From Mie Falls, the rocky mountain track winds around the valley. You can fully enjoy the picturesque scenery of clear streams flowing into the valley (make sure you don’t let go of the handrail, though).

Important: The track you will be walking on can be quite slippery when wet, so consider making some brief stops while taking appreciation of the art of nature around you (‘ω’)ノ.

Human Face Cave (人面洞)

Nishizawa Valley's jinmendo (human face cave)
Ⓒ photo-ac.com/

Can you spot the two eyes looking at you in the cave (because we couldn’t really spot them…(´▽`*))? But some people said they can, which is why this cave is called Jinmendo (human face cave).

Ryūjin Falls (竜神の滝)、Koiito Falls (恋糸の滝)、Teisen Falls (貞泉の滝 )

10 minutes from the human face cave, you will reach the “God of Dragon’s” home. It is a waterfall that is around 6 meters tall. Whilst not as impressive as the Mie Falls, it is still a great spot for photo taking (especially with autumn colors)!

Shortly after passing where the “God of Dragons” lives, on your left-hand side, you will see the smallest waterfall of Nishizawa Valley, Koiito Falls. The waterfall was named Koiito probably because the thread of love is so fine that it can be easily broken, just like the smallest waterfall in the Valley?

After another 5-minute trekking from Koiito Falls, you will reach Teisen Falls. The mountain track passes right next to the waterfall, so you will be able to get a super close shot of the waterfall (as shown in the left photo, you will be walking on the right-hand side of that big rock where the water is falling)!

Nishizawa Valley's Teisen no taki (teisen falls)

Botai Pool (母胎淵)

Nishizawa Valley's Botai Pool

From the start of the journey, you would have seen many beautiful waterfalls from mountain streams. But the power of the stream carves out many different landscapes, not just waterfalls.

Check out Botai Pool in the photo (which will be at your lower left when you are on the track)! This pothole was drilled by swirling gravel in the river as it traveled downstream (*’▽’).

Has the beauty of the deep emerald green color in the cave captured your heart yet?

Shortly after the amazing pool, there is this “Frog Rock” (カエル岩). To be able to see the three cute frogs at once, the viewing angle is important!

Tip: Find the signboard that says “カエル岩”. If you face the signboard and look straight ahead, you should be able to see them (=゚ω゚)ノ

After the Frog Rock, there is another bridge that you must pass to get to the other side of the valley. Whilst the bridge is less scary than the suspension bridge at the start, the slope in front of you is the steepest in the entire course.

On your right-hand side is the vale, sharply cut by nature. If you slide down, it is THE END! So hold onto the handrail provided extra tightly and walk carefully!

Nanatsugama Godan Falls (七ツ釜五段の滝)

The main dish of the entire scenery feast is the Nanatsugama Godan Falls. No matter which season you visit the Nishizawa Valley, pictures of this amazing waterfall will be a masterpiece!

Nishizawa Valley's nanatsugama godan falls (nanatsugama godan no taki)
Ⓒ photo-ac.com/

Especially during autumn, when the vivid warm color surrounds the crashing turquoise waterfall, this classic scenery is eternally beautiful.

Tip: If you want a close-up view of the waterfall, we recommend you cross the Takimi Bridge (滝見橋) and walk up the hill a little. There is a spot there to take great photos (=゚ω゚)ノ

The autumn foliage usually peaks between the 20th to the 25th of Oct each year (although this may differ a bit from year to year) at Nanatsugama Godan Falls. Please note that this is earlier than the Mie Falls and Ryūjin Falls. So if you are eyeing the autumn color of Nanatsugama Godan Falls, the color at other parts of the hiking course may not be as vibrant.

Fudō Falls (不動滝)、Old Forest Train Track (旧森林軌道)

The last-named waterfall in the mountain course is the Fudō Falls. While it pales in comparison to the mighty Nanatsugama Godan Falls, it is still a beautiful little waterfall!

On the right-hand side of Fudō Falls, you will find an abandoned small house. The wooden staircases close to the house will bring you to the Old Forest Train Track.

You will find some benches and two toilets at where the old train track starts, perfect for a brief break. If you don’t urgently need the toilet facilities and can survive without one for another 90 mins, you might want to wait until you get back to the valley’s Entrance.

This is because the two toilets can only allow 250 visits per day. So in case a lot of people come to the toilets after you, they still have a chance to utilize them if they really need to (says the notice on the toilet door…).

Ōkubo Swamp (大久保沢)

Following the Old Forest Train Track will lead you down the mountain. There are a few lookouts along the train track for some stunning photos.

Especially from the Dai tenbō-dai (大展望台), which means the large observatory deck, you will get a panoramic view of all the mountains around. The view from this deck is even better than the view from the Futamata Suspension Bridge (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Shortly after the large observatory deck, you will see the Ōkubo Swamp. This is the swamp underneath the Ōkubo Falls that you have taken photos of during your visit earlier (hopefully)!

Netori Bridge (ネトリ大橋)

Between Ōkubo Swamp and Netori Bridge, the Rhododendron flowers bloom from early to mid-May each year. During the autumn foliage season, the great view of mountains colored by autumn leaves will make you lose track of time!

Delicious Souvenir From Nishizawa Valley

Just a few minutes away from the valley’s entrance, a shop called Michi no Eki Mitomi (道の駅みとみ) sells delicious Japanese traditional sweets called Shingen Momo (信玄桃). The appearance of the sweets looks like a peach. If your families and/or friends back home want to try some of these, remember to grab a few for them as they only last for around 30 days (≧▽≦).

Important: Please note that the Shingen Momo contains egg (;´・ω・).

Things to Note Before You Visit Nishizawa Valley

  • Trekking shoes and clothing that won’t restrict your body movement are recommended.
  • The valley is located around 1,100~1,400m above the ground level, so the temperature is 5~6℃ lower. A light jacket may be a good idea even in the summer.
  • The esplanade is closed between the 1st of December and the end of April. These dates may vary from year to year depending on the situation, such as snow cover.
  • As the entire journey takes around 4 ~ 5 hours, it might be wise to grab some snacks from the convenience stores before jumping on the bus bound for Nishizawa Valley.
  • Bring along a foldable hiking pole as these will become handy.

How to get to Nishizawa Valley

It is a 60-minute bus ride from either JR Enzan Station (塩山駅) or JR Yamanashishi Station (山梨市駅).

From JR Enzan Station

You will be taking the bus bound for Nishizawa Valley, operated by Yamanashi Kotsu Limited (山梨交通). The one-way journey will cost you 1,050 yen. You will be getting off at the last stop of the service – Nishizawa Keikoku Iriguchi (西沢渓谷入口), so there is no need to worry about missing your stop!

The service departs from JR Enzan Station at 8:30, 9:05, 13:30, and, 14:30 daily (9:35, 13:10, 14:40, 15:40 from Nishizawa Valley Entrance) between the below dates:

  • The weekends and public holidays between the 16th of April and the 25th of September
  • From the 23rd of April to the 5th of May
  • From the 9th of July to the 15th of August
  • From the 1st of October to the 20th of November

For the complete timetable and bus fare, please refer to the official website HERE (in Japanese).

From JR Yamanashishi Station

You will be taking Yamanashi Shimin Bus’ (山梨市民バス) Nishizawa Valley Line. The one-way journey will cost you 900 yen. You will be getting off at the last stop of the service – Nishizawa Keikoku Iriguchi (西沢渓谷入口), so again, there is no need to worry about missing your stop!

There are a total of 6 services operating daily from JR Yamanashishi Station. The first and the second service depart at 9:12 and 10:21. Unless you want to camp at the Fuefuki Koya Camp Site, (official website in Japanese only HERE), we won’t recommend you to catch the services in the afternoon.

Only 5 services are coming back from the Nishizawa Valley with the last 2 services departing at 15:10 and 16:25. So while the scenery in the valley is awesome, do track your time carefully!

Important: The bus services from JR Yamanashishi Station do not operate on the 1st and 2nd of Jan.

For the complete timetable and bus fare, please click HERE for the official website (in Japanese).

Explore the Stunning Shōsenkyō Gorge after Your Visit to Nishizawa Gorge

The scenery at Shōsenkyō Gorge (昇仙峡) in Yamanashi prefecture will blow your mind off just as much as Mt. Fuji. It is a lot less packed, and you can get some of the best grape wines in Japan from one of the shops (=゚ω゚)ノ.

If you love fruits, you won’t regret visiting the area because you will easily find the best grapes, peaches, and Asian pears in the supermarket in Kōfu City (甲府市), where the Gorge is located!

To find out more information about the Gorge, refer to our Shōsenkyō Gorge Article.

Sengataki-with-rainbow
Click the photo to find out more information about this stunning spot!

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