This Kyushu town is steeped in Japanese mythology
Japan 2019 Travel Guide: Takachiho
Located in the north of the Miyazaki Prefecture, Takachiho is famed for its beautiful gorge and spiritual experiences…
The Culture Vulture
One of the best-known legends of Japanese mythology centres on Takachiho. The tale is of Amaterasu, the Shinto sun goddess, and how her brother’s pranks led to her hiding in a cave and depriving the world of her light. It wasn’t until another goddess’s dance caused others to laugh that Amaterasu emerged to see what was happening.
You cannot visit the cave in which she was said to have hidden, but there is a viewing deck at the Amano Iwato Shrine where you can look across to the side of the Iwato River where the cave is located.
There is also a path to Amano Yasukawara, a shrine in a cave said to be where the other gods and goddesses met to discuss how to lure Amaterasu out.
The town of Takachiho is also known as a ‘power spot’, a place of profound religious importance and natural beauty which radiates spiritual energy.
Somen is a thin, white Japanese noodle made from wheat flour – and there is a unique way to eat them here. Nagashi-somen means the noodles flow down a bamboo pipe that has been cut in half, then diners catch some of the noodles and dip them in a Japanese soup. Try them at the restaurant Chiho-No-le – it’s a real test of your skills with chopsticks!
Takachiho beef is a local speciality and was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize at the ninth National Wagyu Beef Capability Association – known as the ‘Wagyu Olympics’ – in 2007. Takachiho beef is popular for being marbled and tender, and is an ingredient in the Takachiho croquette.
Chicken nanban – fried and served with tartar sauce – is another speciality of the Miyazaki Prefecture. Kamairicha tea is too.
Takachiho Gorge is a narrow chasm cut through the rock by the Gokase River. The nearly sheer cliffs lining the gorge are made of slow-forming volcanic basalt columns from the lava flow of Mount Aso and they resemble the scales of a dragon as the stone has twisted as it formed.
You can hire a boat to row down the river so you can see the Manai Falls and the cliffs up close. There is also a 1km-long walking path along the gorge that offers fantastic scenery.
While the Takachiho Railway stopped running in 2008, there is a ‘Super Cart’ that takes tourists on a 30-minute trip along the tracks, from which you can see terraced rice fields, enjoy the light displays in the tunnel and take in the magnificent view from the Takachiho Bridge, which is 105 metres high.
The Party Animal
Takachiho-no-Yokagura is a 33-part theatrical Shinto dance dedicated to Ujigami-sama (a local god) from November to February. Throughout the year, you can watch a performance from 8-9pm at the Takachiho Shrine Kagura-den Hall that includes the dances of Tajikarao, Uzume and Totori – all based on Iwato mythology – as well as Goshintai, the dance of a married couple.
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How to get there
The town is 90 minutes by bus from JR Nobeoka station, which is two hours from Oita or one hour from Miyazaki. Get off at the Takachiho Bus Centre stop. Or it’s three hours by bus from Kumamoto.