| John Asano

The Refreshing Waters of the Embara River

The Embara River which flows through the Miyama area of rural Yamagata City in Gifu Prefecture is known for its spectacular natural landscapes, river mist and light beam phenomenon that shines through the lush green trees in summer. The river, with its crystal-clear water and moss-covered rocks, is like a fantasy world and feels like the set of a Ghibli movie. It has been selected as one of the “100 Best Places for Water and Green Environment in Gifu”.

The Magical Curtain of Light

The light beams occur due to a natural phenomenon with the river. In the early morning of summer, when the morning sun hits the river, a mist is created by the temperature difference between the water and the air. As the temperature rises, light reflects off the river mist, creating this magical curtain of light. The water temperature is a chilly 11C all year round and is even surprisingly cold during the summer. It is a fantastic place to cool off and relax during the hot summer in Japan.

The river is like stepping into a fantasy world

Unfortunately, it was partly cloudy on the day that I visited, and I was unable to capture any of the light beams, but I did get some pretty cool mist coming off the river. Also, until August 31st, 2022, you can’t go to the far end of the river which is the best spot for the light beams and moss-covered rocks due to a recent mudslide. You can still enjoy the river up to this point and it is definitely still worth a visit in my book. I am already planning to return again very soon!

Mist coming off the river in the early morning
Mist from the riverbank

Moss-Covered Rocks and Stairs

The natural scenery of the Embara River is enhanced by the moss-covered rocks which can be found in and around the water in several places. Lots of cool moss-covered stone stairs lead down to the river from various spots along the river. You can wander down to the cool refreshing river to fully experience its healing powers.

Moss-covered stone stairs leading down to the river

The Best Time for the Light Show

The best time to capture the fantastic light beams is between 7:00 – 9:00 a.m. on sunny mornings in July and August. The peak is usually around 8:00 a.m.

View from the bridge that crosses the river
View from the other side of the bridge

The Secret Waters of the River

The Embara River flows for about 8 kilometers through the northern part of Yamagata City in Gifu Prefecture. After joining the Kanzaki River, it becomes the Mugi River and eventually empties into the Nagara River, one of Japan’s most famous rivers.

The fast-flowing Embara River

The secret to the amazingly clear water lies with its subterranean water. The river is located in a limestone bedrock that purifies the water and is thought to be the reason for its cleanliness.

The icy cold water is refreshing in summer and is crystal clear that it appears to be an almost turquoise blue color. The water is delicious as well with many of the locals collecting it in large bottles to take home to drink or cook with.

Turquoise blue water and moss-covered stone stairs


There is a small parking area that can accommodate about 10 cars near the main part of the river. It is only a short walk from the parking lot to the river. It can fill up quite quickly, so you need to get there pretty early in the morning. There are also plenty of smaller parking spots to stop along the road on the way up to the main part of the river.

View from a small parking spot next to the Embara River

Old Mountain Shrine

Along the river on the right-hand side is a small mountain shrine which is quite interesting due to its location right by a mountain and spectacular moss-covered stone lanterns. To the side of the shrine is a nice collection of Jizo statues (the guardian deity of children and travelers).

The entrance to the mountain shrine
Moss-covered stone lanterns at the shrine
Jizo statues near the shrine

Other Spots Nearby

There are some other interesting scenic spots near the Embara River that are worth checking out including Monet’s Pond, Miyama Gorge and the Ai no Mori nature preserve. Miyama Gorge in the Miyama area of Yamagata City is a beautiful scenic spot on the Kanzaki River.

Monet’s Pond

On the drive up to the Embara River, there is a camping site and a small cottage village (Green Plaza Miyama), where guests can enjoy a stay by the river in the mountains to enjoy the great outdoors.

River near the Cottage Village
One of the cottages at the Cottage Village

How to Get There?

There is no public transportation to the river. From Gifu City, it is about a 70-minute drive to the Embara River. If you are coming from Nagoya, take the Tokai Kanjo Expressway to the Seki-Hiromi IC, which is approximately 26 km from the river. It is a lovely drive along lush, forested roads lined by rivers. It takes about 90 minutes from Nagoya.

Wrap Up

The scenic location is a great escape from the summer heat of the big city and is a fantastic nature spot without all the crowds. The refreshing cool waters, fresh mountain air and soothing greenery is the perfect environment to relax and recharge in the great outdoors.

Embara River from the riverbank

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