The Akame 48 Waterfalls are just over the border of east Nara into Mie Prefecture. With five main waterfalls, and numerous small overflows, they are a unique natural phenomenon of exquisite beauty. To add to the appeal there are also giant Salamanders and a tradition of ninja training.
Akame valley was long ago established as a Buddhist Shugendo center and the name likely refers to the 48 vows of Amida Buddha. The ninja connection is due to its location to the south of Iga-Kambe and Iga-Ueno, the heart of Mie ninja territory. If you’re a nature lover, or you just want to get your ninja on, Akame 48 Waterfalls are recommended.
Getting to Akame 48 Waterfalls
Akameguchi Station is on the same Kintetsu Osaka Line that you take to get to Hasedera Temple or Uda City’s Muroji Temple. From Nagoya, you still have to get to Akameguchi station from where you take a bus to the waterfalls.
The train to Akameguchi Station
- Kintetsu Osaka Line from Namba (¥1,020) or Uehonmachi (¥960).
- Kintetsu Nagoya Station on the Kintetsu Nagoya Line(¥1,720).
Coming from Osaka-Namba you must change trains at Tsuruhashi. From Ōsaka-Uehonmachi Station you need to change at Yamato-Yagi, but sometimes the train runs all the way. The destination will either be Nabari or Aoyamacho. From Nagoya, the interchange is Ise-Nakagawa to the Kintetsu Osaka Line.
The best ticket to buy is Kintetsu Rail Pass 1day, from either the Osaka-Kansai region or Nagoya. The pass is ¥1,500 for adults and ¥750 for children. The bus is not included in the pass, but it does include train and bus access to Iga-Kambe and Iga-Ueno for more ninja action than a day can manage.
The bus to Akame 48 Waterfalls
The bus from Akameguchi Station to the waterfalls costs ¥360 one way. The last time we made the trip here was in early spring of 2022. It doesn’t appear there’s much of a bus stop left at Akameguchi, but the rusted bench with no backrest at the far end of the parking area soon welcomed the bus.
The driver was super keen to see his two customers, and even more enthused to speak English and be able to pass on info about return bus times.
These are the morning departure times:
- Weekends & Holidays: 09:05/35; 10:05/41; 11:07/35
- Weekdays: 10:05/30; 11:07
- Weekends January through March: 10:05/41; 11:07
- Weekdays January through March: 10:05 only
The last bus from the waterfalls back to Akameguchi Station departs at 3:15 pm on weekdays and 4:15 pm on weekends. The final bus goes to Nabari Station which is more convenient for express trains. The times are 3:45 pm on weekdays and 4:45 pm on weekends. For the months of January through March last departure is slightly earlier at 2:40 pm to Akameguchi and 5:40 pm to Nabari on all days of the week.
Salamanders on guard
Akameguchi Park can easily get you over-excited about salamanders. Two deft and friendly guardians named Sanchan and Tacky are always standing by to welcome you at the gate. A life-sized buddy can be seen crawling up the building. The giant salamander of Japan grows to 1.5 m (5 feet) and can weight in at 25 kg (55 pounds). They can be found in fast flowing mountain streams in numerous prefectures across western Japan, Oita Prefecture in Kyushu, and also around Shikoku.
However, the only live and strumming salamanders we saw were smaller species in the tanks as you pass through the Salamander Museum. Perhaps if you wander off the main path and sit among the rocks in the streams you may get lucky with a rare sighting of these shy creatures. Regardless, these two cute chaperoning critters pop up all over the place to keep you on track.
Best hike in Kansai
The Akame 48 hike is about 4 km and most of it is pretty even keel. A few sections require you to climb some steps (sometimes slippery) to get up successive plateaus. It can take around 3 hours to complete the hike both ways. The magical scenery of glinting streams, emerald boulders, and valley-like majesty is momentum enough to propel you along.
There are five main waterfalls, all around 15 meters high, except the Nunobiki Fall which is 30 meters. The last big waterfall is the Biwa Waterfall. At the Senju Waterfall it’s worth taking some time to investigate the unusual rock formations. Along the way, you’ll find a couple of rest-room points, and SOS phone boxes every 500 meters in case you need to call in the Salamander Rescue Crew.
Tips for the best day out
Getting to Akame 48 Waterfalls early is the best way to appreciate the unique tranquility and the spirit of the giant salamander. Also, make sure to take plenty of liquids in the summer. There is, however, a vending machine area in one midsection.
If you arrive early, it’s unlikely the vendors will be open. Therefore, make sure to pack a good lunch and tasty snacks to enjoy in the numerous scenic spots. Once you ascend up above the Biwa Fall, there’s a 10-minute forest hike to some picnic tables. The last waterfall is here, however, it’s not much to write home about.
Mie vies for best ninja training spot in Japan
Making moves on a giant salamander may very well entail stepping up your stealth with a bit of pre-ninja training. The ninja training experience includes using ninja tools, techniques of concealment, climbing, jumping, other signature tricks, and costume rental is included.
Training sessions last one and a half hours, and you have to book in advance (2 people or more) so make sure to check the monthly schedule. There’s usually a session in the morning and one in the afternoon, giving you enough time to do the waterfall hike as well. The official website also runs a variety of eco-tours that can include canyoning, shower climbing, and activities for children.
Akame and Iga-Ueno in a day?
Akame’s unique attractions are forest ninja training and the extraordinary beauty of the waterfall trail. There are also onsen hotel if you want to stay the night or just take a bath as a day guest. However, if you’re more into getting around, and if you just do the waterfall hike, you can make Iga-Ueno in the same day.
To do this, you have to catch the 9:05 weekend bus and make sure to get the 1:40 pm bus back to Akameguchi Station. If you miss the 2:00 pm train, there’s another one at 2:18 pm. The latest you’ll arrive at Iga-Ueno is 3:23 pm. Take the same train in the direction you got off when first arriving. It’s included in the Kintetsu Rail Pass 1 day.
The last entry for Iga-Ueno Castle is 4:45 pm and that to the Ninja Museum is 4:00 pm on weekends. You would have to choose one or the other depending on your arrival time. Both places are in the Iga-Ueno Park complex which includes sites of Iga’s most famous son, the haiku master Matsu Basho.
Akame vs Nachi vs Minoo Waterfalls
For those in and around the Kansai region, Akame 48, Nachi Waterfall, and Osaka Minō are the three best cascade experiences. Minō Waterfall sets Osaka apart for beer, monkey business, a Soviet-era onsen hotel, fancy restaurants in the park, and the nearby Ramen Museum. Akame is all about shamanic nature and forest ninja with a couple of onsen thrown in. Nachi Waterfall, on the other hand, impresses with iconic Japanese scenery and Kumano Kodo maidens.