Connecting the foreign community in Okinawa

Todoroki Falls in Nago, Okinawa

One of the most visited waterfalls on the Okinawa main island, Torodoki Falls an the park around it make for an easy refreshing getaway.

Just to the east of Route 58, not far from where the Todoroki River runs into Nago Bay, is one of Okinawa’s most famous (and most visited) water falls. Considered one of Okinawa’s great natural wonders, Todoroki Falls has inspired legends throughout the history of the island and been the subject of paintings, photographs, and even traditional poems.

About Todoroki Falls

At an elevation of 50m from sea level, the falls features an impressive 28 meter drop where water tumbles into rocky basin below, which in turn drains into a craggy river. Before running out to sea, the water flows over a series of much tinier falls and through several pools of varying depths which are popular swimming spots in the summer.

Designated a prefectural cultural asset only as late as 1956 (when Okinawa was still under the administration of the US military), the amount of water that tumbles over the falls each years is less than it was, partially as a result of Sukuta Dam that was built upstream, completed in 2019 according to the dedicated web page, and partially because of water withdrawals by developments in the surrounding mountains. While water flow is light compared to previous eras, it never seems to run dry and the current can sometimes be too powerful to swim in after a major storm with lots of rain.

History of Todoroki Falls

Not to be confused with the identically names Todoroki Falls in Tokushima Prefecture, Okinawa’s Todoroki Falls has an interesting history. The falls so impressed King Shou Kou that he built a pavilion nearby in 1804 and made a point of touring of the area. Incidentally, Ling Shou Kou was famous for being only the second Ryukyu king to abdicate the throne in the recorded history of Okinawan royalty. His abdication was forced by his overlords in the Satsuma Domain (based in Kyushyu) which ruled the Okinawan islands as a vassal state, ostensibly as a result of what his advisors (known as the ‘Sanshikan’) claimed was reckless and erratic behavior. Some historians believe the abdication had more to do with his desire to liberate Okinawa from Satsuma rule than mental disability, but this is mere speculation. What is certain is that his troubles absolutely did not arise from his visit to Todoroki Falls.

The falls, in addition to being admired by royalty, also inspired a number of poets, one of whom apparently speculated that the headwaters originated from the “riverbank of heaven.” In reality, the headwaters of the Todoroki River originate on Mt. Henoko and Mt. Kushi, but I like the poetic version better.

Todoroki Falls up close in the dry season.

What Does 'Todoroki' Mean?

In Japanese, the word ‘todoroki’ means ” beating, pounding or throbbing.’ The kanji is composed of a single character meaning ‘car or cart’ written three times (the same way the character ‘mori’ for forest is written with three characters meaning ‘tree’). Imagine how the Okinawan people who named the falls years ago might have imagined that the roar of the falls was similar to the rumble of several horse-drawn cards rolling down a cobblestone road and you can see how the name ‘todoroki’ was appropriate. Presumably the river was named after the falls. The name ‘Todoroki no Taki’ just means ‘thunderous waterfalls.’

The character for 'Todoroki' means 'thunderous.'

The Todoroki River

The Todorki River winds its way down the hill from Mt. Henoko. Taking a circuitous route through a steep, craggy valley that runs through dense sub-tropical jungle. Many would-be adventurers have considered trying to navigate up the river from the falls, but there is no obvious way up there, at least not from the park. It is possible there may a lot to see up there. On the English version of Google Maps, I can see that there is a nearby spot named ‘Todorono Falls’ farther up the river. Having never been upstream from the falls, I can’s say for sure whether there is another waterfall there or whether a well-meaning but misinformed contributor just got the name wrong and put the pin in the wrong place

A mini waterfall west of Todoroki Falls

As tempted as I am to find out, it may not be a good idea. On one of the signs in the park at the base of the falls is a note in red letters (Japanese only), warning visitors that the area above the falls is a site used for training by the US military, so it is forbidden for people to go there. On the other hand, recall that there is a dam not far upstream, and this dam is listed on Google Maps as a tourist attraction (with parking), so those who really want to get a glimpse of the river can try to go there. Just be advised that there are no hours listed and it’s possible that access may be denied for any number of reasons. But not to worry. It’s only a few minutes drive from the falls, so if you go and find you can’t get in (or it isn’t worth the trip), you’ve only wasted a few minutes.

Another Little Stream

To the left of Todoroki Falls runs a path and this path runs up a set of wooden steps to a little boardwalk. When I say ‘little,’ I mean it, because it doesn’t go far. It just sort of stops dead. However, while the boardwalk might be a bit of a let-down you can walk down a little stone staircase toward an embankment, at the bottom of which is a little stream. This stream is barely more than a trickle in parts, but between rocky patches of fast moving water, there are still pools, some of which are deep enough for a child to tread water in.

A little stream runs parallel to the Todoroki River.

This stream lets out into the river at the other end of the park and is sometimes full of tiny little fish. Where it originates, I have no idea, but following the stream up as far as it’s practical to go is on my bucket list of things to do in Nago. It’s possible that it joins the Todoroki river somewhere upstream of the falls, but if so, it’s likely quite a distance up the hill, because the falls, remember, originates 28m above the little stream. Even for people who don’t have a burning desire to discover where the river leads will find that it’s a nice place to get out of the hot sun and sit and relax in the shade.

What is Near Todoroki Falls?

Todoroki Falls is a great place to visit and, yes, it’s worth the trip from central or south Okinawa all on it’s own, especially if you feel like splashing around in the refreshing waters of the little river below the rapids. Note that swimming is not allowed in the basin beneath the falls itself out of concern for falling rocks, but honestly, the river looks like a better place to swim anyway. However, as awesome as Todoroki Falls is, if you’re coming from the south, I recommend combining the trip with some other other amazing things do in Nago.

When you’re visiting at the height of cherry blossom season, I recommend checking out Nago Castle Park, where the gorgeous pink blossoms are plentiful. Even if it’s not blossom season, ascending the viewing platform at the the east end of the park is a great way to enjoy the sunset (and there’s a nice cafe right there if you’ve got time to kill). If you haven’t been to see the rows and rows of fukugi trees at Bise, that’s a great combination with the falls, since a satisfying walk around Bise only takes a couple of hours. Of course, you could always check out ChuraUmi Aquarium and Ocean Expo Park (it’s a lot more than just fish tanks).

Todoroki Falls is safe, fun place for kids to splash around.

If you’re into vegan food, you should consider eating lunch at Niceness Cafe in Nago (be sure to get there early) and it’s also not too far to Yagaji Island where you can enjoy an even more filling lunch at Avocafe before visiting Unten Port and seeing the rather remarkable gravesite of two unknown foreigners who happened to die in Okinawa in the 1800s.

The bottom line is that Todoroki Falls is a great trip and along with some of the other awesome places in Okinawa that we recommend on this site, is a must-see place for people who are going to be on the island for more than a few days.

Read a translation of this article about Todoroki Falls on the Japanese side of this site.

Todoroki Falls, Okinawa

609 Sukuta, Nago, Okinawa 905-0023
Todoroki Falls Website

Share

Awesome Places in Okinawa
Paul Sean Grieve

Aha Dam Kohan Park

Aha Dam (and Kouhan Park) in Kunigami is a little-known spot that offers world-class views of jungle covered mountains.

Read More »
Awesome Places in Okinawa
Paul Sean Grieve

Todoroki Falls in Nago, Okinawa

One of the most visited waterfalls on the Okinawa main island, Torodoki Falls an the park around it make for an easy refreshing getaway.

Read More »