Translated by Jelena Kitamura
6 Things To Do In Takachiho, A Nature-Abundant Paradise In Miyazaki
Takachiho is in northern Miyazaki Prefecture in Kyushu, Japan's southern island. This small city is renowned for its abundant nature, like Takachiho Gorge, and many major mythological and historical sites. Read and find out why you should visit Takachiho!
Written by terawaki
Adbundant Nature and Rich History in Takachiho
Takachiho in Miyazaki Prefecture is known for its Japanese mythology (*1) about the creation of Japan. The myths and stories are connected to Takachiho's majestic nature, and there are still many areas that are believed to be the ones mentioned in the legends.
We decided to take you to the spots where you can experience the nature and history of Takachiho firsthand.
*1 Japanese mythology is written in historical books such as “Kojiki” and “Nihon Shoki” (“Nihongi”), containing myths about the creation of Japan and its royal lineage to this day. The relations between gods and humans, as well as society, are vividly described.
1. Rent a Boat at Takachiho Gorge
Takachiho Gorge was created when Mount Aso, an active volcano in Kumamoto Prefecture, erupted, and the pyroclastic flow, spreading through the Gokase River, abruptly cooled down. In 1934, it was desginated as a sight of an outstanding beauty ("meisho" in Japanaese), and became one of Japan’s natural monuments, which has resulted in many travelers coming to visit from many countries.
Inside the gorge, you’ll discover Manai Falls (picture above), designated as one of Japan’s 100 Most Beautiful Waterfalls. The powerful 17-meter wall of water gushing down will leave you speechless! The best way to get to the waterfall and take in other spots at the dynamic gorge is to rent a boat. It is very rare to get so close to a waterfall that you can nearly feel the water splashing down on you.
The rental fee for a boat is 2,000 yen for 30 minutes (up to three persons). During Golden Week (the holiday week lasting from the late April through the beginning of May) and summer holidays there is a possibility you’ll have to wait for 2 to 3 hours for your boat, so it is best you visit the gorge when you have a lot of time to spare.
Takachiho Gorge Boat Rental
Address: Miyazaki, Nishiusuki, Takachiho, Mitai Oshioi Google Map
Access: around 13 minutes by Takachiho Kaiyu bus (*) from Takachiho Bus center; get off at Takachiho Gorge bus stop
Official Webpage: https://takachiho-kanko.info/en/
** Takachiho Kaiyu bus runs on the weekends and holidays (during busy seasons)
2. Walk Down the Takachiho Promenade
In the Takachiho Gorge alongside the Gokase River is a kilometer-long promenade. During April 2016, due to the Kumamoto Earthquake, the promenade was closed but was repaired and reopened in March 2017.
The walkway has many interesting spots, such as Yaritobi Bridge, spread across the narrowest part of the Gokase River, Kihachi no Chikaraishi, a gigantic rock estimated to be large as 3 meters high and as heavy as 200 tons, Tamadare Falls, and Manai Falls, where water flows in several stunning streams. In the summertime, you can enjoy illuminations and view the mesmerizing autumn foliage in the fall. The area is bound to surprise you each season with its look-of-the-season.
Address: Miyazaki, Nishiusuki, Takachiho, Mitai Oshioi Google Map (Japanese)
Access: Access: around 13 minutes by Takachiho Kaiyu bus (*) from Takachiho Bus center; get off at Takachiho Gorge bus stop
Official Webpage: http://takachiho-kanko.info/sightseeing/detail.php?log=1355898005 (Japanese)
** Takachiho Kaiyu bus runs on Weekends and holidays (during busy seasons)
3. Hop on the Grand Super Cart of Amaterasu Railway
In 2005, old, out-of-use railway tracks were used to create Amaterasu Railway, a train that operates at 25 km per hour between Takachiho Station to Takachiho Iron Bridge for a 5.1-kilometer round trip.
The Grand Super Cart, which made its debut in March 2017, is particularly popular. The center part of the passenger seat floor is see-through, fortified glass, enabling you to see the tracks. Another fascinating side to the round trip is 105-meter high Takachiho Iron Bridge, which, together with the cart’s glass floor, makes the voyage all the more interesting.
The ride only lasts for around 30 minutes, but since the reservations aren't required, this activity is easy to fit into your travel itinerary. It will also familiarize you with the area’s beautiful nature and give you a chance to enjoy the stunning scenery.
Takachiho Amaterasu Railway
Address: Miyazaki, Nishiusuki, Takachiho, Mitai 1425-1 Google Map
Access: around 10 minutes by foot from Takachiho Bus Center
Official Webpage: https://amaterasu-railway.jp (Japanese)
4. Visit the Divine Amano Iwato Shrine
The Japanese Amano-Iwato myth (machine-translated English available) tells a story about the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami and Susano-o no Mikoto, brother and sister deities, whose relations worsened when Susano-o enraged his sister, making her retreat herself to a cave called Amano-Iwato.
Amano Iwato Shrine was built to honor the Amano-Iwato from the story. You can take a look at the Amano-Iwato goshintai (sacred place, *2) under the guidance of the Shinto priest in charge. Find out about the schedule by clicking on this link (machine-translated English available). However, please note that photography is prohibited.
*2 Goshintai: places and objects a deity is believed to be dwelling in.
If you take a 15-minute walk from Nishi-hongu to the Iwato River, you’ll find a large cave called Amanoyasukawa. The myth says that when the sun goddess, Amaterasu Omikami, was in the cave, the whole world went dark. It marks that very place as the place where countless gods and goddesses were to discuss the problem. The cave is will give you goosebumps with its sacred and magical atmosphere.
Address: Miyazaki, Nishiusuki, Takachiho, Iwato 1073-1 Google Map
Access: around 17 minutes by Takachiho Kaiyu bus (*) from Takachiho Bus Center; get off at Amanoiwato Shrine bus stop
Official Webpage: http://amanoiwato-jinja.jp (machine-translated English available)
** Takachiho Kaiyu bus runs on weekends and holidays (during busy seasons)
5. Watch the Traditional Performance, Takachiho Kagura, at Takachiho Shrine
The Takachiho Gorge once had over 500 different shrines, and there were 88 shrines that were above all others, known as Takachiho’s 88 Shrines.
Built almost 1900 years ago, Takachiho Shrine represents the main shrine of Takachiho’s 88 Shrines, and its main hall and the pair of iron komainu statues (komainu: lion-dog) are designated as Important Cultural Property in Japan.
Every year from the middle of November through the beginning of February of the following year, Takachiho City organizes a musical and dance performance known as Yokagura (*3) throughout the night, at 20 different locations.
Yokagura is another Important Intangible Cultural Property in Japan. Visitors can watch Takachiho Kagura every evening between 20:00 to 21:00 throughout the whole year at Takachiho Kagura Hall (Kaguraden), for 700 yen (price of 1 person, no reservations required).
*3 Kagura/Yokagura: a ceremony (prayer) held for good harvest and catch (fish and animals). Nowadays it is a folk art performance given at special events and celebrations, much loved by the people.
6. Look Down at a Sea of Clouds at Kunimigaoka
There is an old Shinto legend at Kunimigaoka about Takeiwatatsu no Mikoto, grandson of the first emperor of Japan, Emperor Jinmu. It is said that he stood on this hill and observed Kyushu.
The view from a platform 513 meters high above the sea level is so magnificent that Kunimigaoka was granted a star from Michelin Green Guide Japan (2011).
The area is known for its beautiful sea of clouds, and during the early mornings in autumn and early winter, Takachiho basin and the surrounding mountains are covered in mist, creating a fairytale-like atmosphere.
Kunimigaoka Viewing Platform
Address: Miyazaki, Nishiusuki, Takachiho, Oshikata Google Map
Access: around 15 minutes by car from Takachiho bus center
Official Webpage: http://takachiho-kanko.info/en/sightseeing/
Travel Plan: 1-Night 2-Day for Yokagura and the Sea of Clouds
If you’re planning to visit Takachiho, make sure not to miss the evening event, Takachiho Yokagura, or the autumn-early winter spectacular view of the sea of clouds. We suggest a two-day, one-night trip.
You’ll find a wide range of lodging facilities in the city center, from low-price guest houses to luxurious ryokan facilities. All you have to do is pick one depending on your budget and preferences.
Although you can ride on the city bus, it can be inconvenient as the number of the buses and routes are limited, so we suggest using taxis or renting a car or bicycle.
Takachiho Kaiyu bus runs during peak travel seasons, weekends, and holidays, and connecting major attractions such as Takachiho Gorge, Amanoiwato and Takachiho Shrine, and other sites. For a more convenient experience, you can purchase an all-day pass for the Takachiho Kaiyu bus, allowing you to ride as much as you want for one day (adults 600 yen; children 300 yen).
When you first arrive at Takachiho, look for Machinaka Annaijo, or Machinaka Tourist Information Center (a tourism center government-approved by the JNTO). You can find everything you need to know about the city of Takachiho here. You can receive information for your trip, take part in tours, local events, and activities, find out about car and bicycle rental, as well as luggage storage.
Machinaka Tourist Information Center
Address: Miyazaki, Nishiusuki, Takachiho, Mitai 802-3 Google Map (Japanese)
Access: around a minute by foot from Takachiho bus center
Official Webpage: http://takachiho-kanko.info/sightseeing/detail.php?log=1339228383 (Japanese)
Getting to Takachiho
It takes around 4 hours by highway bus, Gokase-go, from Hakata Station. Four buses per day. A single one-way ticket costs 4,020 yen (prior reservation required).
It takes around 3 hours by limited express buses, Aso-go and Takachiho-go, from Kumamoto Station. Two buses run per day. A single one-way ticket costs 2,370 yen (prior reservation required).
About 2 hours and 40 minutes by transit highway bus from Miyako City Bus Center. One bus runs per day. A single one-way ticket costs 2,500 yen (prior reservation required).
Experience the Nature and History of Takachiho!
Takachiho is located in remote, difficult-to-access area in the central part of the Kyushu region. However, one visiting will show the charm and wondrous aura of this region. Make plans to travel to this historical and spiritual nature haven!