In my hometown there is a magnificent waterfall called Harajiri no Taki. Harajiri has a unique elegance that distinguishes it from other Japanese waterfalls and reminds one of Niagara. Why did such a waterfall appear? Measuring 20 or so meters in height and 120 meters in width, its grand form is without parallel. After a great volcanic eruption on Mount Aso, the stream of lava flowed into the Ogata-gawa river, and the cooled part formed a huge waterfall. That is Harajiri.
I was awestruck by the waterfall's majestic appearance and always used to visit the place to see it. From the beginning of spring, when water goes into the paddy fields, until summer there is not much water, but after that Harajiri transforms into a wonderful cascade. Especially after heavy rainfall or a typhoon, being my curious self, I would be amazed by its fury and would gaze at it for hours, getting soaked by the spray. Whenever I return home, I always visit this waterfall without fail. And each time, the value of Harajiri seems to increase.
I love waterfalls and have visited many. Without exception, they are all very beautiful and very wonderful. A waterfall occurs when water that is the source of a river or lake gathers in one place and cascades down. One might think that human beings want waterfalls to be as high as possible and to have as much water as possible, but actually people have the resources to imagine even an elegant five-meter waterfall in a larger frame. Herein, perhaps, lies the unique world of the Japanese.
In Hakone-Yumoto there is a well-known Japanese-style hotel called the Tenseien, and here there is a waterfall called the Tamadare no Taki. Instead of falling straight down the height of about 10 meters, the water gushes down in a white foam at an angle of 90 degrees. On seeing this sight, the poet Seisensui Ogiwara gave the waterfall its name, which means "screen of jewels." The Japanese have the uncanny ability to enter this elegance and to see the universe within it.
The artist Tadanori Yokoo likes waterfalls very much, and apparently he has been to see various waterfalls around the world. In his interpretation, when he sees a waterfall, he is made forcefully aware of the continuation of life. When a waterfall cascades into the pond below, he apparently sees the violent moments of the creation of life. In other words, when the great mass of water goes plunging down, one becomes aware even more clearly of the continuation of life.
For example, in Fujinomiya in Shizuoka Prefecture there is a waterfall called the Otodome no Taki. It is the same kind of waterfall as Nachi no Taki and Kegon no Taki, but it is also completely different. The great mass of water roars down into the pool below with such a terrific force that it shuts out noise in the surrounding area. One cannot help but feel a tremendous energy and symbolic awesomeness in this action.
As for Harajiri, in a way it resembles Otodome, but it also shows us various other forms. After heavy rainfall, it is just like Niagara. But it is most beautiful when there is just quite a lot of water, in spring before water goes into the paddy fields and in the fall, when the paddies no longer need water. Harajiri is especially picturesque against a background of cherry blossoms, or fresh greenery, or autumn foliage, and a clear blue sky. Drenched in the waterfall's spray, one really does get the feeling of the energy of life.