The fall season is over, but if you’re going to Japan for some 紅葉 (koyo/autumn colors) at the end of this year, check out some of these breathtaking sceneries that you can experience in Naruko Gorge!
How To Get There:
Naruko Gorge is considered to be one of the most scenic gorges in the Tohoku region. It’s about 70 kilometers from Sendai (where we were staying prior to going here), and 2 kilometers away from Naruko Onsen, a small hot spring town. You can either get down on Nakayama Daira Onsen Station (which goes towards the gorge’s western end) or Naruko Onsen Station (which goes towards the gorge’s eastern end). It took us about 80 minutes to get here from Sendai (you can check out which trains to ride here through Hyperdia) and we chose to get off Naruko Onsen Station because there’s actually more things to see around this station.
What Can You See?
During the autumn season, there are buses running towards the gorge from both stations, but unfortunately the service was already over on the day we arrived. We thought that it meant that the leaves have fallen already, but we were excited to hear from the lady in the information center that it was actually still peak (this was around November 8) and that the bus schedule only moves based on the forecast, which isn’t always 100% correct. So even if the bus isn’t running already, there’s still hope that you can catch the wondrous autumn colors of the gorge! For reference to plan your trip, we went here on November 8, 2016 and the leaves actually started falling a day or two after our visit, so it was a lucky day for us. If we went any later, we would have gone for naught.
Inside the Naruko Onsen Station, there’s a small kokeshi doll exhibit (which is free!) so you actually don’t need to go out of your way to the museum if you just want to see what they look like.
They also have a cozy library with tea where you can sit down and read books and manga while enjoying the scenery from the window.
Step outside, and you’ll see a wooden area with a free footbath! It was getting pretty cold already so we went ahead and warmed up our toes before going to the gorge.
We actually decided to try hiking all the way up the gorge, but after 30 minutes we just hailed a taxi because we were getting hungry. We asked the locals how long it would take to reach the viewpoint, but they said it would still be 2 hours. The road up to the gorge was very beautiful – you can see the mountains splashed with color even when you’re inside a vehicle.
After around a 20 minute taxi ride (it cost us around Y1300), we arrived at the famous viewing spot for the gorge where you can take all those postcard-worthy shots! We were left speechless by the scene in front of us. It’s also good because there’s not many tourists, so you can definitely take your time to admire the surroundings.
It was nearing time for lunch so we headed back to the resthouse which is located beside the viewpoint. They served Japanese dishes and sweets with a wide-view glass window, so you can enjoy looking at the gorge while eating.
Once we had our fill, we walked around the area looking for more picturesque spots, and there’s really a lot! Aside from the famous Ofukazawa Bridge shot which you can take from the viewpoint, there’s also a shot of the railway which you can take if you walk across the bridge. There are also beautiful streams around the area.
After a few hours of basking in the autumn leaves, we headed back to the resthouse to call a taxi. Naruko Gorge really gave us a very memorable autumn viewing, and it’s already decided that autumn is our favorite season to travel in Japan.
Have you been to Naruko Gorge? Let us know what you think and feel free to share your experiences below! Thanks for reading!