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Hike to Uguisunotaki Falls
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. The hike runs up the path between Todaiji and Kasuga Taisha. On the way, we passed 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.
Up the path, we went past some souvenir shops and into the woods. The wide path is properly maintained and at no point felt tough to climb.
Along the way 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.
Halfway up the mountain, the woods become thicker, lined with huge pine trees. My soul finds great pleasure in the chirping of birds in the woods. It was a welcome break from the monotonous Temples and Palaces I had been visiting of late. The mud path is lined with cedars, firs and cypress trees. 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. 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. It was desolate. We took some pictures. I went to wash my hands in the water. It was very very cold. By 3:30 pm we started our walk back.
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. The main trail continues beyond the waterfall and we hope we can come back another day to continue on that path and see where it goes.
I have added below a map of the interesting places in Nara Park you might also want to visit. Thank you for reading. Please leave me a comment or ask away if you need any information for hiking to the hidden waterfall.
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