Recently, I visited the Sandankyo Gorge at the recommendation of locals. I arrived at this beautiful place just an hour and a half away from the roar of the city. The change in landscape that took place in a short bus ride made it seem like it was a different country. I could not imagine the rivers and waterfalls I now saw were in the same area as a city filled with a million people and busy city streets. The day I visited the gorge was one of the best days that I have had in Hiroshima.
Sandankyo is an 11.5km long ravine in northwestern Hiroshima that runs along the Shibaki River. It is surrounded by deep virgin forests and is one of the five most famous ravines in Japan. Sandankyo Gorge, a place of beauty, is someplace you can go to go to lose yourself in the surrounding nature.
The word ‘Sandankyo’ means a three-step waterfall. The Sandankyo Gorge is usually described as a tourist attraction, but on my hike I observed that most of the hikers were local to Hiroshima and there seemed to be few tourists. The area is so beautiful that the Government has protected the area from future development.
Actually, this hike is not only beautiful, but exciting. While I was hiking with my teacher and friend, Maya, we were faced with some dangers. We climbed on a narrow path with a cliff to the left and the river gushing below you to the right. The wind was gusting around us, pulling trees from the roots and throwing them off the cliff. Once, a log tumbled down the wall beside us, smashed against the wall, and split into multiple pieces. It nearly hit us. Since we were being good hikers and aware of our surroundings, we were lucky to avoid the pieces of tree crashing around us. This is not a hike you want to do while distracted- definitely no texting while walking!
As I scampered along the trail, we finally emerged from the bush that surrounded us just in time to hear the roaring, uninterrupted splashing of a waterfall tumbling into a series of blue-green pools. The smell captured my attention and I could not look away, it roared louder and louder in my ears. It was one true, surreal moment that I could not be captured by a picture or even words- a moment that truly filled me with emotion.
We slowly made our way down the gorge, following the ravine. We arrived at a small bridge connecting the trail we were on and the other side of the valley. We crossed the bridge that led to a small building where our senses were again taken over. This time, the aroma of of freshly grilled fish and udon spiced perfectly. The friendly smiles welcomed us to the same balcony area and we were served the food we ordered almost immediately. I am not sure if it was because we had been hiking since 9am or that the food was truly remarkable, the udon we had the best I have ever had in all my time here in Hiroshima.
After a filling, delicious meal, we had a chance to take a small boat ride filled with chatter and the occasional splash. As we approached the waterfall, we couldn’t help but stare. Beautiful, cascading water as it plummets to the earth-I was completely breathless, as I stood and took in the sights that the gorge had to offer. I watched the birds play with their freedom and dive to the water. This beautiful, natural place propelled my imagination into a spiraling fit of sights, sounds and smells.
To get to the Sandankyo Gorge take the no. 7 express bus from the Hiroshima Bus Station to Sandankyo to the last stop. There is only one express bus and it leaves at exactly 8:18 am and will not wait for anyone. The ticket costs 1,440 yen one way, to get back you need to pay another 1,440 yen. I would recommend taking the shuttle bus to the middle of the trail, at the front of the bus you can get a free English or Japanese map of the area.With this map and the maps on the trails you can customize your hike. Upon return, the only express bus leaves from the Sandankyo Bus Stop at 3pm, so make sure to plan your trip accordingly. To experience the Sandankyo Gorge and all of its beauty you can follow this guideline from Visit Hiroshima.
Anyone looking to escape their life for just a day should take an hour and a half trip to find the natural wonders of The Gorge. The walk to the waterfall will take you less than a day and a half, but the emotions that overwhelm you as you hike and are met by such natural beauty, is the reason the Sandankyo Gorge is my favorite place in Hiroshima.