Be Amazed by the Prehistoric Natural Beauty of Dorokyo Gorge

Be Amazed by the Prehistoric Natural Beauty of Dorokyo Gorge

Doro Gorge (Dorokyo), also known as “Doro-haccho”, is located in the spectacular Yoshino-Kumano National Park where the borders of Mie, Nara and Wakayama Prefectures meet. The pristine forests, towering cliffs and bright blue-green waters of the gorge surround visitors and fill your senses with the wonder of nature. Dorokyo is registered as a “Special Place of Scenic Beauty Natural Monument”. Each season offers a unique palette of colors to amaze those who make the journey into the mountains.

Written by Vern Begg 
About the Author: 
I believe travel is an opportunity to feed your soul and I will never stop exploring our amazing planet. Originally from Canada, I now live in Osaka with my family and have learned that Japan is an incredible place for discovering new experiences.

When researching places to visit near Kumano City in Mie Prefecture, the photos I saw of Dorokyo were incredible. The combination of the rugged stone cliffs, lush plant life and clear blue-green waters of the Kitayama River was something I wanted to see with my own eyes. I decided to do some self-guided sightseeing and then take a jet boat cruise on the river to enjoy another perspective.

Caption: Looking down at the Kitayama River from the mountain.

I started with a drive up into the mountains that surround the river to get a birds-eye view. Thick untamed green forests on both sides bordered the winding road as I drove up the mountain. When I reached the top, there was a viewing area looking out over the river valley with some chairs waiting for visitors who wanted to sit and take in the spectacular views. 

The view was worth the trip and the low hanging clouds that clung to the mountaintops created a dreamlike atmosphere. The clean and clear waters of the Kitayama River snaked lazily between the mountains and small stone beaches along the river’s edge. It was a cool morning when I visited Dorokyo and the crisp mountain air felt good in my lungs.

Caption: The crisp mountain air was invigorating.

After checking out the views from high above the river, the next stop was the Doro Hotel and a viewing area on the cliffs overlooking the gorge. The 100-year-old hotel and restaurant sits at a perfect vantage point for taking in the beautiful scenery of Dorokyo. I could imagine how awesome it would be to wake-up and look out your window at the scene below the hotel to start your day. 

Caption: Looking down from the viewing area next to the Doro Hotel.

There was some signage and information about the fact that the gorge was the meeting point of three prefectures – Mie, Wakayama and Nara. Visitors can walk out to the cliff’s edge and hike down a path to get closer to the water and find the best spot to snap some photos. The hue of the water was so vibrant that the whole scene was like a living piece of art.

Caption: The sign indicates that the borders of three prefectures meet at Dorokyo. 

Caption: The Dorokyo has a rugged and prehistoric beauty.

After the visit to the viewing point near the Doro Hotel, it was time to head into the heart of Dorokyo on my jet boat river cruise. I went to the luxurious Hotel Seiryuso to buy my ticket for the one-hour round-trip cruise on the Kitayama River. From the hotel, it was just a 15-minute walk to the Ogawaguchi Pier where I would be boarding the jet boat.

Caption: The tree-covered mountains around Dorokyo are incredible.

When I arrived at the pier, I boarded the long jet boat and took my seat around the middle section. The roof of the boat was open and I looked up at the mountain peaks reaching up into the clouds. Once all of the guests were seated, the captain started up the motor and we departed the pier for what was sure to be an unforgettable experience.

As we departed from Ogawaguchi Pier, the river was wide-open and the water was calm. It felt good to be on the river and cruising deep into the mountains of Yoshino-Kumano National Park. The jet boat had a smooth cruising speed of about 40 km/h and it was a very comfortable ride. As we moved down the river, the rugged rocks of Dorokyo appeared in the distance. The rock faces were coming straight up out of the water and they looked amazing.

Caption: A boat trip down the Kitayama River is the best way to experience Dorokyo.

When we reached Dorokyo, it was beyond my expectations and I was humbled by the immensity and beauty of the gorge that had been created so long ago in the Earth’s history. The emerald water contrasted so intensely with the dark tones of the rocks at the river’s edge that it seemed like we had entered an imaginary world. 

Caption: The emerald waters of the river were lovely.

The captain helpfully indicated several points of interest as we cruised down the river. There was the “Kameiwa”, a huge stone that looks like a turtle that is sunning itself on the side of the river. Another interesting rock was “Komainuiwa, which looks like a large dog sitting on the shoreline. Someone had even placed a red and white collar around its neck to complete the illusion.

Caption: Kameiwa is a large rock that resembles a turtle sitting on the riverbank.

As we rounded the corner coming out of the first main section of the gorge, I looked up to see the Yamabiko Bridge, a suspension bridge that connects Mie and Nara Prefectures. It looked like a great spot to visit later on foot after the river cruise.

Of course, we passed by the Doro Hotel and I was able to see the vantage point I had visited earlier. This section of Dorokyo was remarkably beautiful and I was happy to experience it from both a high and low perspective so I could truly appreciate it. I especially liked how the rock walls changed from sheer stone to tree covered mountains about 10-15 meters above the water. 

The scenery of Dorokyo is so intense, that it is almost overwhelming at times. The unspoiled nature of the gorge feels prehistoric and I could imagine the world before man had ever seen this place. After we reached the halfway point of our cruise, the captain turned the boat around and we started the return journey to Ogawaguchi Pier.

Tourist attractions covered by this article