Hidden away in the remote hills of the town of Daigo in northwestern Ibaraki Prefecture is Fukuroda Falls (袋田の滝, Fukuroda-no-taki), a 120-meter-tall cascading waterfall, regarded as one of the three most beautiful in Japan alongside Nachi Falls in Wakayama Prefecture and Kegon Falls in Tochigi Prefecture.
While most visitors flock to the falls in early November to see them amongst peak autumn color foliage, they can be uniquely attractive in each season. Winter in particular can offer the rare chance to see the entire cascade frozen over (between late December and mid February in freezing conditions). Also in winter (November to January), colorful nightly illuminations of the falls are held incorporating music.
The entrance to the falls sits at the end of a valley dotted with small restaurants and souvenirs shops. From the ticket gate, visitors walk through a 276-meter-long pedestrian tunnel leading to a multi-level observation platform. The lower platform provides an up-close view of the cascade just meters away from the base of the falls. The upper platform, accessible via an elevator, provides panoramic views of the falls' four main tiers from about 50 meters above the ground.
On the way out, visitors have the option to backtrack the way they came or to use a secondary tunnel exit which leads to a short pedestrian suspension bridge with a side-on perspective of the waterfall near its base.
After crossing the suspension bridge, an optional, steep 20-30-minute hiking trail leads to the Namase Waterfall, the slightly removed fifth tier of the falls system. The trail can also be followed further into the mountains for about 45 minutes (one way) to a small temple dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of Mercy.
The nearest train station to Fukuroda Falls is Fukuroda Station. From Tokyo (Ueno, Tokyo or Shinagawa stations), take a limited express train to Mito (70 minutes, 2 trains/hour) and transfer to the JR Suigun Line to Fukuroda Station (70 minutes, one train every 1-2 hours). The entire one way trip costs 4660 yen and is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass, Tokyo Wide Pass and other regional JR passes.
Instead of using a limited express train between Tokyo and Mito, it is also possible to use a local train, which adds an hour to the journey but reduces the one way fare to 3080 yen. The Seishun 18 Kippu can be worth considering to access Fukuroda Falls.
From Fukuroda Station there is a bus every 1-2 hours that runs as far as the Takimoto bus stop (7 minutes, 210 yen one way), from where it is a 5-10 minute walk to the entrance of the tunnel to the waterfall. Taxis are also available from the station (10 minutes, around 1300 yen one way). Alternatively, it is about a 45 minute walk from the station to the falls.
Driving is perhaps most convenient way to reach the falls and also offers the ability to easily explore the Daigo town area. Rental car outlets are available at Mito Station. The drive takes about 75 minutes from Mito, and parking is available near the entrance to the falls.