Miho Shimizu is a Japanese freelance writer settled in Shizuoka with her husband and two rabbits. Fascinated with traveling at the age of 18, she has spent most of her long holidays exploring incredible spots around Japan. She also loves to listen to music, draw, and read novels over a cup of green tea.
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Located in the northern part of Kyushu’s Miyazaki prefecture, Takachiho Gorge (高千穂峡) is one of Japan’s top nature attractions and offers incredible scenery and unforgettable experiences. This gorgeous natural wonder is the perfect destination for travelers looking for a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Besides enchanting visitors with its stunning beauty, Takachiho Gorge also offers a wide range of activity options, including an adventurous boat ride through the picturesque ravine formed by an eruption of nearby Mt. Aso. It is also home to historical shrines and sacred sites deeply associated with local legends and Japanese mythology. This article will provide you with helpful ideas and tips to make the most of your time in Takachiho Gorge!
How to Get to Takachiho Gorge?
Major airlines such as JAL and ANA operate convenient domestic flights connecting major cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe with the Kyushu region. A one-way flight from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Kumamoto Airport takes about 2 hours and will set you back around 20,000 yen. Alternatively, you can board the shinkansen which can take you to major train stations such as Hakata, Kumamoto and Kagoshima with no or only a few transfers.
Unfortunately, there are currently no train services connecting any major cities to Takachiho Gorge. Therefore, if you have an international license permitting you to drive in Japan, by far the easiest way to reach Takachiho Gorge is by renting a car. You can easily rent one around airports and most railway stations such as Kumamoto Station, Aso Kumamoto Airport and Miyazaki Airport.
Renting a car will allow you to visit Takachiho’s attractions smoothly without having to worry about crowded public transport. Some local bus companies such as Sanko Bus and Miyazaki Kotsu also operate buses from Kumamoto and Miyazaki to Takachiho Bus Center.
What to Do and See Around Takachiho Gorge
Takachiho’s spectacular scenery is the area’s main draw, but the gorge also offers plenty of activities to do and smaller sites to enjoy. Here are some of our best picks for what you definitely shouldn’t miss during your stay in Takachiho!
Boat Ride Along the Gokase River
Takachiho Gorge stretches approximately 7 kilometers through rocky cliffs towering high above the lovely Gokase River, and one of the best ways to enjoy the picturesque gorge is by taking a memorable boat ride to the bottom of the gorge. Rental boats are available for 3,000 yen for 30 minutes, with an extra cost of 1,000 yen per adult to be added on top. During the pleasant boat ride you can take in impressive views of the surrounding nature which changes with the seasons. The rental boat service is available from 8:30am – 5pm, and the maximum capacity is 3 passengers per boat. The peaceful setting of the spectacular gorge is sure to make you feel both refreshed and relaxed!
Manai Falls is a 17-meter tall waterfall located in Takachiho Gorge. This lovely waterfall is considered one of Japan’s most beautiful falls and is often featured in guidebooks and travel magazines as a symbol of Takachiho. You can view it from a pathway overlooking the gorge, and it’s popular to take pictures from here. If you want to get a closer look, consider going on a boat ride as it will allow you to get very close to the water gushing down the cliffs right in front of you! Manai Falls is beautifully illuminated at night twice a year during summer and winter.
Founded 1,900 years ago, Takachiho Shrine is a sacred Shinto shrine dedicated to three generations of deities in Japanese mythology. It is located about a 20-minute walk from Takachiho Gorge and conveniently connected to it by a lovely nature trail. One of the highlights at the shrine is the traditional kagura dance performance which takes place every evening. The main hall is a beautiful wooden structure which is officially designated as an Important Cultural Property. The peaceful grounds of the shrine are home to huge cedars, making it a perfect spot for a lovely stroll under the towering trees. Two of the cedar trees are 800 years old and have been tied together with a sacred rope as they are believed to bring good fortune in romantic relationships and marriage!
Amano Iwato Shrine
Another historical spot in the Takachiho area is Amano Iwato Shrine. This sacred place is dedicated to Amaterasu, Japanese mythology’s legendary goddess of the sun, and is home to the mystical cave where she is believed to have hidden herself from the world. Originally the shrine consisted of independently founded east and west units which were later merged, and the cave can be seen from behind the west shrine which is situated on the opposite side of the river. To experience the cave, you need to join a tour led by a Shinto priest which is held every day and starts every 30 minutes.
From Amano Iwato Shrine, it’s a 10-minute walk down the river to Amano Yasugawara (天安河原). This is said to be a place where deities gathered to discuss how they could persuade Amaterasu to come out of the cave. Once you get there you will notice how the atmosphere suddenly changes, and you will find yourself surrounded by the power of nature. Tiny stone pagodas are found everywhere as markers of this sacred spot. These stone pagodas were built by visitors hoping that their wish would be granted by the gods and come true.
Tochimata Rice Terrace
Officially selected as one of the 100 best rice terraces in Japan, Tochimata Rice Terrace offers breathtaking scenery all year round. Renting a car will allow you to reach this beautiful spot easily via the Prefectural Route 7 from the center of Takachiho City. In early summer local farmers start planting the rice, and the fresh green plants are reflected in the water which creates a truly stunning view. Autumn is also a perfect time to visit as you can see the golden rice plants swaying in the wind, waiting to be harvested. This is where traditional Japanese landscapes have survived for centuries and still form an essential part of the lives of the locals.
Takachiho Gorge is a great example of one of the many natural wonders that Kyushu has to offer. To make the most of your Kyushu visit, make sure to read our Best Places to Visit in Kyushu – Complete Guide to Kyushu which will help make your trip even more memorable!
While Kyushu is a popular travel destination among both domestic and international travelers, visiting here can be a little challenging due to the attractions being in more secluded locations as well as the limited public transport. If you are planning your first trip to Kyushu, make sure to check out our private guided tours in Nagasaki and Kagoshima!
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