Takachiho Gorge Japan WaterFall in Kyushu

Takachiho Gorge

Takachiho Gorge: An Overview

Geographical Location of Takachiho Gorge

Takachiho Gorge is located in the northwestern part of Miyazaki Prefecture, in the Kyushu region of Japan. Situated near the borders of Kumamoto and Oita prefectures, it draws about one million Japanese visitors annually but remains relatively unknown to international tourists. Known for its dramatic gorge and picturesque views from every angle, the area is imbued with a serene energy and sacred history​​.

The Gorge was formed by the Gokase River cutting through rock, creating a narrow chasm. The nearly vertical cliffs surrounding the gorge are composed of volcanic basalt columns, which resemble the scales of a dragon.

These columns were formed when the stone twisted and flowed during its formation. Additionally, the gorge was created about 100,000 years ago following eruptions from the nearby Mt. Aso, featuring 80-100 meter high basalt cliffs, with the narrowest part of the gorge being just 3 meters wide.

Historical Background and Cultural Significance

Takachiho Shrine
Takachiho Shrine

Takachiho Gorge is also known as the birthplace of Japanese mythology. It is believed to be the place where the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, saddened by violence on Earth, sent her grandson Ninigi no Mikoto from heaven to bring peace and plant rice. This mystical place is near a cave where Amaterasu is said to have hidden herself, taking the sunlight with her, after a feud with her brother Susanoo.

Moreover, after Amaterasu and Susanoo reconciled, the Sun returned to Earth, a story reenacted in the all-night dance festivals known as ‘yokagura’ held at nearby Amanoiwato Shrine.

These festivals include dances that depict the return of Amaterasu, led by Ame-no-Uzume’s legendary dance, along with performances portraying over 33 deities. Yokagura festivals are held throughout Miyazaki Prefecture, with those in Takachiho and particularly at Amanoiwato Shrine being most closely connected to the original legends.

Furthermore, the Takachiho Amaterasu Railway (TAR) offers a fantastic way to experience the region’s scenery. The 5-kilometer route follows the tracks of the former Takachiho Railway, showcasing some of the area’s most prominent landmarks.

A drive through Takachiho also provides atmospheric views of the terraced rice paddies, which consist of a 500km network of canals and over 1,800 hectares of fields. The cultivation of these paddies is part of the local ecological initiatives for sustainable land stewardship, which include special techniques for cultivating tea and shiitake mushrooms. These efforts have helped the Takachihogo-Shiibayama region gain recognition as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) by the United Nations.

Reasons to Visit Takachiho Gorge

Scenic Beauty and photography Spots

Takachiho Gorge

Takachiho Gorge is worth visiting for its natural grandeur and unique landscape. The nearly vertical basalt columns surrounding the gorge have a distinctive appearance, resembling the scales of a dragon. At the heart of the gorge, Manai Falls, dropping from a height of 17 meters, is especially beautiful against the backdrop of the lush greenery.

When visiting Takachiho Gorge, taking a boat ride along the Gokase River is highly recommended. This boat trip offers an excellent opportunity to observe the waterfall and the cliffs of the gorge up close. Additionally, the walking trail along the top of the gorge provides panoramic views of the valley and river, making it a perfect spot for photography.

Access to Takachiho Gorge

Transportation and Access Details

There are several ways to access Takachiho Gorge:

  • Bus: Takachiho Gorge is about a 30-40 minute walk from Takachiho Bus Center. Buses run from cities like Miyazaki and Kumamoto, making access from these cities convenient.
  • Rental Bike or Taxi: You can also choose to rent a bike or take a taxi from the bus center to Takachiho Gorge.
  • Car: It is possible to visit by private or rental car. There is parking available at Takachiho Gorge, but it can get crowded during the tourist season, so it’s advisable to arrive early.

Best Season and Visit Tips

  • Best Season: The best time to visit Takachiho Gorge is from spring to autumn, with the autumn foliage season being particularly popular for its vibrant colors. In summer, the gorge is illuminated during special events.
  • Visit Tips: It is recommended to wear comfortable walking shoes. Especially in summer, it’s wise to bring hats and sunscreen for sun protection. Since Takachiho Gorge is a nature-rich area, please be mindful of the environment and take your trash with you.

Use this information to plan your visit to Takachiho Gorge and fully enjoy its natural beauty and cultural richness.

Experiences at Takachiho Gorge

Boating and Hiking Options

Takachiho Gorge Boating
Takachiho Gorge Hiking
  • Boating: One of the popular activities in Takachiho Gorge is boating along the Gokase River. This boating experience offers an excellent opportunity to enjoy the magnificent views of the waterfall and the gorge from the water’s surface. You can get close to the base of the waterfall by boat, experiencing the force of nature up close.
  • Hiking: There is a walking trail along the top of the gorge that allows for the enjoyment of beautiful views. This trail extends for about 1 kilometer and offers spots where you can overlook the entire gorge and river. While hiking, you can immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the surroundings.

Local Cuisine and Souvenirs

Chicken Nanban
Bamboo Products
  • Local Cuisine: Around Takachiho Gorge, you can enjoy local Miyazaki cuisine. Specialties include “Miyazaki Chicken Nanban,” made with local chicken, and dishes using fresh local vegetables. Miyazaki is also known for its shiitake mushroom production, and dishes featuring local shiitake are a delight.
  • Souvenirs: Local products and crafts are popular as souvenirs. Miyazaki is famous for its bamboo products and pottery. Local shiitake mushrooms, tea, and sake are also appreciated gifts.

Visiting Takachiho Gorge allows you to engage in activities amidst nature and experience the local food culture, offering a variety of attractions to visitors. Enjoying time in nature and tasting the local flavors and culture can enrich your travel memories.

Summary and Travel Tips for Visiting Takachiho Gorge

Optimal Stay Duration and Itinerary Planning

  • Stay Duration: To fully enjoy Takachiho Gorge, plan for at least half a day to a full day. This time frame is recommended to allocate sufficient time for boating in the gorge, hiking along the trails, and exploring local cuisine and souvenir shopping.
  • Itinerary Planning: When planning your visit to Takachiho Gorge, consider including nearby tourist attractions. Visiting places like Amanoiwato Shrine and local hot springs can make your trip more fulfilling. Participating in regional events and festivals, especially ‘yokagura’ cultural dances, can deepen your understanding of the area’s allure.

Importance of Eco-Tourism Considering Environmental Impact

  • Environmental Conservation: When visiting Takachiho Gorge, it’s crucial to minimize the impact on the natural environment. This includes taking your trash with you, being mindful of the natural surroundings, and respecting local culture and traditions.
  • Eco-Tourism: Engaging in eco-tourism helps protect the natural environment and cultural heritage of the places you visit, contributing positively to local communities. Utilizing local guides and participating in environmentally friendly activities support sustainable tourism.

Keep these travel tips in mind when visiting this natural gem to plan a safe and enjoyable trip. Takachiho Gorge, with its natural beauty and cultural depth, offers unforgettable experiences to its visitors.

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