I have been to Nara Park several times. The ever popular Tôdai-ji temple and Kasuga-Taisha shrine are always crawling with inquisitive tourists, but today Mani & I wander beyond these cultural landscapes into the Kasugayama Primeval Forest. The natural environment of Kasugayama is an integral yet invisible part of the shrines and temples in Nara Park. The park is so large you could easily wander into the Primeval Forest, without even knowing it.
Kasugayama Primeval Forest is a primeval forest spread over 250 hectares, near the summit of Kasugayama. It contains around 270 different kinds of trees. Hunting and logging have been prohibited in the sacred forest since AD 841. As a result, the forest backdrop of the shrines that you see today have remained unchanged since the Nara period, retaining the authenticity in spirit and feeling from yesteryear.
I had been looking forward to hike to Uguisunotaki Falls for some time now, but the wet weather in Nara kept preventing me. Eventually the rains gave way this week and we took the opportunity to hike up the Wakakusa mountain. After a quick meal at the college cafeteria, Mani & I walked towards Todaiji from where the trail starts.
The hike to the Falls is about 10 km round trip, from the base of Wakakusayama. You can find the trail somewhere between Todaiji and Kasuga Taisha which leads into the woods. A signboard is present at the start of the trail, so it won’t be tough to find.
A few minutes into the hike, we passed some cheerful elderly ladies trudging back towards the city. They greeted us with a sweet “Konnichiwa.” I always find the friendliest of people up here. Maybe its the mountain air or the energy from conquering the hike.
There are some Snake warning signs along the path so be careful.
Deep into the forest, we found some lovely looking Japanese beautyberry shrubs. It is a deciduous shrub, most notable for producing purple berries during fall. These fruits are not edible for humans, but provide food for birds and deer in the region.
Halfway up the mountain the woods become thicker. With huge pine trees around me, I felt like a tiny little ant. There was silence all around us except for the sudden chirping of the birds. It was a welcome break from the monotonous Temples I had been visiting of late.
The inside of the forest is dark even in the daytime because sunlight cannot get through the tall trees deep in the forest.
To get to the waterfall we had to descend down from the main trail. There are proper signs to show you where to descend. The path becomes very narrow here and at some curves, are a bit tricky to negotiate in the wet mud. After about 15 minutes of descent, we reached the Falls at around 2:30 pm. The Sun wasn’t strong enough to get in through the tall trees, so it was a bit murky.
The Uguisunotaki Falls, takes it name from the popular Uguisu bird, also known as the Japanese bush warbler. The Uguisu, with its camouflaged colors, is more often heard than seen. Its distinctive breeding call can be heard throughout most of Japan from the start of spring. Since the Edo Period (1600-1868), the Japanese have anticipated the first calls of the bush warbler as it heralds the coming of spring in Japan.
We spent some time at the base of the falls. The water at the base of the fall was very very cold.
By 3:30 pm we started our walk back. The way back was much faster. We were quickly out of the wooded area where the skies were much more visible. In the late afternoon, the Sun had sprayed the forest with a golden glow.
Once you are out of the woods, it feels quite pleasant walking on the pebbled path. Surprisingly I didn’t notice any deer in the area, though this isn’t very far from the Nara Park where they can be found loitering in abundance.
After walking for about an hour, we were back at Nara Park in front of the glowing, brown Wakakusayama, slated to be burned in a couple of weeks. Every winter on the fourth Saturday of January, Wakakusayama’s slopes are burned during the spectacular Wakakusa Yamayaki festival.
I love to be able to experience wilderness areas in peace.The Uguisunotaki Falls is not a very big waterfall, but the hike alone is gratifying in itself. The trail to Uguisunotaki continues beyond the waterfall and I hope we can come back another day to continue on that path and see where it goes.
Thank you for reading. Please leave me a comment or ask away if you need any information for hiking to the hidden waterfall.