Last weekend, our family made a trip to Shiraito Falls, on the border between Yamanashi Prefecture and Shizuoka Prefecture.
I recommend this trip as a great field trip for individual families as well as for schools (although you can visit any other waterfall nearest you). You can combine the trip with a thematic unit to make learning really productive as well as fun. Here are the resources we used for our kids’ thematic lesson on how waterfalls are formed:
Waterfall reading for younger kids: Pearsonpublishing unit (good also for desert unit)
Waterfall reading for intermediate grade kids: A geography unit and for advanced kids try this unit from answers.com which in addition to the information in the other two units, also lists the types of waterfalls (not given in the other two sites).
Information about Shiraito Falls and on getting there:
The Shiraito-no-taki (White Thread Waterfalls) are beautiful waterfalls (25 meters high) just inside the Yamanashi border from Shizuoka prefecture on the lower slopes of Mount Fuji. There is actually another splendid fall that you will pass before getting to the Shiraito one, the Otodome(25 meters high and 5 meters wide). Shiraito Falls are much wider than what is pictured in the photo above. There is a long and huge arch over which thousands of “threadlike” small streams trickle as well as from the rocks between the main flows, creating a vast white cascade nearly 200 meters wide. The water here is from Mount Fuji, flowing down via the Kaotou river. The falls are particularly attractive in spring as the snows of the mountain melt and strengthen the flow.
In the case of Otodome Fall nearby, the main stream of the Shiba river flows over the cliff into a deep pool. You often get beautiful rainsbows forming in the midst below the Otodome Fall.
As a plus, Mount Fuji is often visible on a good day on the approach to both the Falls. Mt. Fuji erupted and five lakes were made behind. The water which sank into Mt. Fuji accumulated over many years, grew from a stream into a large river flowing into and over the waterfall. The water then flows into a lake.
The waterfall unit, beyond the geography elements, can be integrated with art as well… The waterfalls have been well visited since ancient times, and the Shiraito Falls are depicted in a hanging scroll in the British Museum “Suminoe Buzen, Mt Fuji and Shiraito Falls”, from the Mid-Edo period, late 18th century AD see a photo of the painting at the Britishmuseum.org website.
You can combine this trip with a visit to the Naruzawa Ice Cave nearby in the vicinity as well to see the stalactites and stalagmites.
Access: From Tokyo or Osaka…by Shinkansen get off at Shin-Fuji Station.
Then from Shin-Fuji tranfer to Fuji Station then take the Minobu Line to Fujinomiya station. From there take the bus to Shiraito falls.
Note: Do not confuse the above Falls with the other Shiraito Falls in Karuizawa (which are only 3 meters high, but 70 meters wide, and which located along the Shiraito Highlandway toll road.)