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Photo By: Cara Lam
Largest City

Kiyotsukyo Gorge

Massive lava rock formations surround you, as you tunnel your way to the best panoramic view.

In between the towering cliffs of southern Niigata prefecture is one of Japan’s Top 3 gorges, Kiyotsu Gorge. The natural scenery alone, with clear blue water and panoramic views, is enough to make the trip, but the area has more in store for travelers.

With an intricate appearance, the gorge and its surrounding cliffs are located in Joshinetsu Kogen National Park in Tokamachi City. Beyond a flowing stream, the gorge features a 12.5 kilometer-long continuation of V-shaped valleys formed by hardened lava.

Volcanic gorge

Photo by: Kropsoq Columnar jointing rock formations.

Kiyotsu Gorge has iconic and rather unique rock formations called “columnar jointing,” which are only created naturally.

At first, you might think, so what? They’re just rocks. But stumbling upon these geometric columns, which are often hexagonal in form (imagine a bunch of giant pencils shooting up form the ground), has been described by the geological community as a “magical” experience.

These columns came about after an underwater volcanic eruption about 16 million years ago, as magma cooled down and hardened. And now you see them in present-day at Kiyotsu.

Before you go

The hike

Access to the gorge is safe through the Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel. This tunnel runs 750 meters through the gorge and has four viewpoints. The walk is completely flat, which allows visitors of all ages to appreciate the beauty of the natural wonder.

A round trip through the tunnel takes at most an hour. Throughout the tunnel, information about the gorge and its surrounding area is detailed in exhibitions, photos and videos. At the last viewpoint, visitors can get a panoramic view of the gorge.


Photo by: Osamu Nakamura Ma Yansong MAD Architects created this Light Cave at the Kiyotsukyo Gorge. It makes for amazing photos.


Kiyotsu Gorge is worth a visit year-round, but it is most popular for autumn colors, as well as to cool off in summer.


The entrance of the tunnel is very close to the parking lot; no hiking is needed. As soba noodle restaurants and a hot spring village are in the vicinity, feel free to make a half-day expedition to the area.  To indulge in extra natural splendors of Tokamachi City, make your way to Hoshitoge Rice Terrace and Bijin Bayashi Forest.

? This location is in Niigata Prefecture —  GaijinPot Travel’s No. 1 place to visit in 2018! ?


Sumatakyo Gorge

Make a wish while suspended over dream-like crystal-blue water.


Things To Know


The tunnel is closed from mid-January to end of March due to heavy snowfall.

How To Get There


Unnamed Road, Tōkamachi-shi, Niigata-ken, Japan

By bus

Take the express bus “Morimiyanohara” from JR Echigo-Yuzawa station to Kiyotsukyou-Iriguchi bus stop. The ride takes about 30 minutes and costs ¥470 for adults. From the bus stop, it is about a 30-minute walk to the gorge.

By car

You can search for the gorge using the phone number 025-763-4800 on the GPS.

  • From Tokyo: After exiting at Shiozawa-Ishiuchi Interchange on the Kanetsu Expressway, continue driving for 25 minutes on route 353.
  • From Niigata: Exit at the Echigo-Kawaguchi Interchange and continue driving for 60 minutes on route 117.

Where To Stay

New Greenpia Tsunan
  • 12300 Akinari, Nakauonuma-gun Tsunan-machi, Niigata, 949-8313 Japan
  • ¥17,800 - ¥17,800
  • 4.27/5 (773 reviews)
  • 4.2 km
Ishiuchi Ski Center
  • 2321 Ishiuchi, Minamiuonuma-shi, Niigata, 949-6372 Japan
  • ¥5,850 - ¥24,210
  • 4.67/5 (36 reviews)
  • 5.4 km
  • 834-28 Ishiuchi, Minamiuonuma-shi, Niigata, 949-6372 Japan
  • ¥9,000 - ¥9,000
  • 5/5 (102 reviews)
  • 5.7 km
Echigo Yuzawa Yumoto Takahan
  • Yuzawa, Minamiuonuma-gun Yuzawa-machi, Niigata, 949-6101 Japan
  • ¥15,800 - ¥51,000
  • 4.5/5 (340 reviews)
  • 6.2 km
Echigo Yuzawa Onsen Yuzawa Toei Hotel
  • 3459 Yuzawa, Minamiuonuma-gun Yuzawa-machi, Niigata, 949-6101 Japan
  • ¥11,000 - ¥14,300
  • 3.74/5 (1,426 reviews)
  • 6.9 km

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