Not far from the small city of Nabari in mid west Mie Prefecture is the magnificent Kaochidani Valley, an ancient ravine located along the Shorenji River, a tributary of the Nabari River. It’s an eight kilometer stretch of incredible rock formations, sheer cliffs and walls of stone columns all set amongst some of the most beautiful natural forest and river scenery.
The walls of rock, much of it created by lava flows through fissures in the earth millions of years ago make for some spectacular sightseeing. The gateway to this remarkable spot is across a bright red bridge that arches across the still blue waters of the Shorenji Lake, created in 1970 when the Shorenji River was dammed.
The walking path along the ravine is quite reasonable, and enjoyable for serious hikers as well as the day tripper out to see some scenery. Either way, scenery is what you’ll see! In one section, parts of the mountain side seem to have been carved out by the hand of a giant, like the turns of a huge, natural half pipe water slide. There’s the formation known as the Tengu Bashira, named for the long nosed goblin of Japanese mythology, and the awe inspiring Kotaro Rocks, a precipitous cliff 200 meters high, 700 meters wide. Standing below the Kotaro Rocks, looking up at the sheer drop makes one feel that the fact these formations are not better known is truly a travesty!
Every season provides its’ own unique views and experiences. The Shorenji lakeside is awash with abundant light pink cherry blossom in spring, and is one of the better kept secret cherry blossom viewing spots. The valley itself comes alive in spring with Japanese yellow roses and vivid azaleas. By summer, when the birds and cicadas are singing, the cool breeze blowing through the ravine and the river itself brings a welcome respite from the heat. Late October, early November, the area is ablaze with amazing red, yellow and orange foliage as the autumn colors peak. In the silence of winter, the blue of the lake is simply stunning, becoming a mirror to all around it, and the crisp, clean air is most refreshing.
You’ll be richly rewarded simply by going a little out of your way to visit this incredibly beautiful area. It’s a hikers’ paradise, a photographers’ dream, a nature lovers’ heaven. Even it’s name is beautiful, Kaochidani, the Fragrace Falling Valley.