Living up to its fame as the best summer resort close to Tokyo, Karuizawa has a wealth of nature. And if you love exploring nature or are seeking a spot to cool yourself further down, there are two waterfalls in Karuizawa that you will want to visit. In fact, both spots are stunning throughout all seasons. Additionally, illumination events might even be on when you travel to Karuizawa!
A List of Contents
- The Scenic Toll Road, Shiraito Highland-Way (白糸ハイランドウェイ) and Shinano Nature Trail (信濃自然遊歩道)
- Karuizawa Shiraito Falls (白糸の滝)
- Ryūgaeshi Falls (竜返しの滝)
The Scenic Toll Road, Shiraito Highland-Way (白糸ハイランドウェイ) and Shinano Nature Trail (信濃自然遊歩道)
Driving or cycling through the tall tree-lined Mikasa-dōri road is one of the best things to do in summer in Karuizawa. But if you love to explore the area’s stunning nature, pay the toll at Shiraito Highland Way Misaka Tool Gate (白糸ハイランドウェイ 三笠料金所) to access the 10km forest road. The stunning toll road will lead you to Karuizawa’s infamous waterfall, Shiraito Falls.
While you can drive straight to the waterfall’s parking lot for a return trip to the picturesque natural spot, trekking through the Shinano Nature Trail is a better way to enjoy the refreshing highland breeze. The promenade also leads you to Ryūgaeshi Falls (竜返しの滝), another waterfall in the area that is worthwhile to visit.
- Refer to the end of the webpage HERE for the map of Shiraito Highland Way.
- Shiraito Highland Way’s toll is:
- 200 yen for motorbikes above 125cc
- 500 yen for normal cars
- 1,200 yen for small buses
- Refer to HERE for Shinano
- The red dotted line is Shiraito Highland Way.
- You can match the number on the map with the photos underneath for a rough idea of what to expect when you are there.
Important: Pedestrians, bicycles, and motorbikes below 125cc cannot access Shiraito Highland Way.
Karuizawa Shiraito Falls (白糸の滝)
Karuizawa’s most renowned waterfall has to be Karuizawa Shiraito Falls. While the vegetation around the waterfall and the cliff are partially man-made, the artificial element of the waterfall doesn’t make it any less amazing. If you come to Karuizawa to escape the heat, Shiraito Falls will surely cool you down, both visually and physically.
The Shiraito Falls in Karuizawa has a height of 3 meters and a width of 70 meters. Because the waterfall is formed by numerous silk-like water streams, it was named Shiraito, meaning white thread. With countless water streams falling from the same height, Karuizawa Shiraito Falls is like a curtain of water.
This is why so many people are enchanted by this beautiful scenery. In addition, your body will be treated with plenty of negative ions!
☛ Arriving at Karuizawa Shiraito Falls by 10 am or later afternoon is best. But remember to bring a jacket.
☛ Don’t forget to taste the Shiraito Wakimizu Tofu (白糸湧水とうふ) sold at the restaurant at the side of the car park. The tofu is made from Nagano Prefecture‘s soybean and the spring water from Karuizawa Shiraito Falls. Besides the savory dressing/sauce, there are also sweet options (^_-)-☆.
☛ There is also a toilet facility around the shops and restaurants.
How to Get to Karuizawa Shiraito Falls
Shiraito Falls is located at the eastern foot of Mt. Asama (浅間山), along the toll road “Shiraito Highland Way (白糸ハイランドウェイ)”. You can also get to the waterfall easily by taking a bus from Karuizawa Station.
Since the 150-meter-long promenade to Shiraito Falls is flat and well-maintained, it is a waterfall suitable for anyone to adore. The small river flowing along the promenade is the Yu River (湯川), which merges with Japan’s longest river, the Shinano River (信濃川).
Along the promenade, you will find several wooden animal sculptures. Many of them are native animals in Karuizawa. If you see the owl figure below, touch it. It says you will have an easy life if you give it a gentle stroke!
- The waterfall is around a 3-minute walk from the nearest free parking lot to Karuizawa Shiraito Falls.
- If you plan to take a bus, get off at Shiraito no Taki (白糸の滝).
Tip: Several roads lead to Shiraito Highland Way (白糸ハイランドウェイ). While many choose to head north from the south, using the road on the east is recommended to avoid traffic jams and for easy parking. The road on the west is narrower and has many curves.
Interesting Facts About Karuizawa Shiraito Falls
If you dip your hand into the waterfall basin, you might be surprised by the water’s temperature. It is most likely to be higher than your expectation.
Because the waterfall is formed by the spring water gushing out between the rocks and the terrain, it is affected by Mt. Asama’s volcanic activity. Thus the water is warmer than the normal mountain stream. So while the temperature around Shiraito Falls is lower than at the trailhead, the waterfall certainly isn’t a cooling device (´▽｀*).
Another interesting fact about Karuizawa Shiraito Falls is that the spring was made from the rain 6 years ago. This is the approximate time required for the rainwater to become the mountain stream at Mt. Asama! Because the water source of Karuizawa Shiraito Falls is underground water, it won’t become muddy after rain.
Karuizawa Shiraito Falls’s Four Season
- The light green season at Karuizawa Shiraito Falls is in May.
- From Friday to Sunday between late July and late August, during the Christmas and New Year seasons, and around Valentine’s Day, Karuizawa Shiraito Falls is illuminated, giving tourists another reason to visit Karuizawa.
- Refer to HERE for the winter illumination (白糸の滝・真冬のライトアップ) event date.
- Come between late October and early November if you want to adorn the autumn foilage.
- And from early February to mid-March, the Icicle Shiraito Illumination (氷柱白糸イルミネーション) may be on from Friday to Sunday. So check with the tourist information center for more information!
If you visit Karuizawa Shiraito Falls during the light-up event, cute lanterns might be placed along the promenade.
Ryūgaeshi Falls (竜返しの滝)
Ryūgaeshi Falls, also known as Suzuga Falls (珠数ケ滝), is the hidden spot 2.5km downstream of Karuizawa Shiraito Falls. It is another waterfall loved by those who have visited it.
Although it is relatively small at 1.5m in width and 9m in height, it is a powerful waterfall and quite steep.
So why was the waterfall named Ryūgaeshi? The legend is that once upon a time, there was a serpent as big as a dragon. One day, the serpent tried to cross to the opposite bank by crawling on a tree. Sadly, it was too heavy that the tree collapsed, and the serpent fell into the torrent.
While it was a bad ending for the serpent, the locals think the torrent sent the serpent to where it came from. So the waterfall was named Ryūgaeshi, meaning the waterfall that sent the dragon home.
In winter, it is an amazing waterfall where part of it becomes an icefall, but water continues falling down the cliff!
How to Get to Ryūgaeshi Falls
There is a reason that Ryūgaeshi Falls remains less known to tourists. Getting there isn’t as straightforward as Karuizawa Shiraito Falls.
Around a 5-minute drive from Shiraito Highland Way Misaka Tool Gate (白糸ハイランドウェイ 三笠料金所), you should see the brown signboard of ANCIENT HOTEL. Following the sign and proceeding with the smaller road on the left, you should reach the waterfall’s parking space. The trailhead to Ryūgaeshi Falls is at the far end of the open car park.
Tip: You can also take a bus and get off at Kose Onsen (小瀬温泉).
Following the promenade, it will just be another 10 to 15-minute walk to the waterfall. Note that there is a bridge on the promenade. After crossing the bridge, turn right for Ryūgaeshi Falls and turn left for Karuizawa Shiraito Falls (4.5km away).
☛ The promenade is made of an earthen road that is more uneven closer to the waterfall. So sneakers are recommended.
☛ Remember to apply insect repellent in warmer seasons.
While in Japanese, THIS MAP might help you gain a brief understanding of the trail to Ryūgaeshi Falls.
Discover Other Fascinating Attractions Karuizawa
The attractions on Usui Pass aren’t the only must-visit spot in Japan’s best highland resort, Karuizawa. It also has a couple more amazing natural spots. In addition, the traditional township has several Western-style villas, amazingly designed churches, and unique cafes and restaurants awaiting your visit.
So refer to our Guide to Karuizawa article for more attractions to include in your itinerary!