While Miyazaki Prefecture is known for its beautiful beaches and good surfing spots, the mountains guard its greatest treasure. Takachiho, a village nestled high in the north-west, is known as the place where the gods descended to Earth.
The emerald water of the Gokase River flows through the town into a ravine carved out by the lava flow of Mount Aso. At the narrowest part of the gorge is the Manai Waterfall, a 17-meter cascade that sends clouds of spray billowing into the air.
It’s a reprieve from the heat for visitors in summer, when Takachiho Gorge gets most of its traffic, although the lush and variegated vegetation provides unique views throughout all seasons.
The one-kilometer footpath alongside the river is decorated with cherry blossoms, azaleas, and wisteria from spring to summer, and red and gold leaves in autumn. From July to early September, the gorge is illuminated at night.
Boats for rent
The most spectacular way to see the gorge is from its sacred water. Between 8:30am and 4:30pm, visitors can row themselves in boats that seat up to three people each for a close look at the waterfall and cliffs (¥2,000 for 30 minutes). But be warned, the wait can be as long as four hours in peak seasons.
There are a few other attractions at the gorge to help pass the time: a freshwater fish aquarium, mochi (rice cakes) vendors, a fishing pond, and souvenir shops.
There are also two restaurants that specialize in somen—a long, thin wheat noodle dish that is served with a spring onion and ginger broth. In Takachiho, they are doused first in boiling water and then placed in cold spring water, a method native to the town. In a unique dining experience, the noodles are sent down long bamboo troughs where patrons catch them with chopsticks.
There is also plenty to see and do around the gorge. There are 88 shrines in the area, as well as two onsen and a history and folklore museum.
Takachiho Shrine, a 20-minute walk from the gorge, preserves the deities of the other local shrines and venerates the gods of agriculture, exorcism, and matchmaking. Every night, from 8 to 9pm, visitors can watch kagura, a ceremonial dance performance native to Takachiho.
A little way outside of town, Amano-iwato Shrine is also worth a visit. Here you can see the cave, where it’s believed the sun goddess Amaterasu hid after a feud with her brother, Susano-o.
How to get there
Train access via the Kyushu Shinkansen and JR Express with a bus change at Kumamoto or Nobeoka Station. More information and travel details at www.takachiho-kanko.info/en/images/side/pdf_guidebook.pdf.