Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Takachiho 高千穂: The spiritual and "power spot" Takachiho Gorge

From takachiho Gorge Footpath
Takachiho is located in the northern Miyazaki Prefecture. It is known as a spiritual place, as it is said to be the site where the Shinto Sun Goddess, Amaterasu hid herself after disturbed by her brother's (the Storm God) cruel pranks. Takachiho is also known as a "power spot" - a spiritual spot and natural beauty.

Getting to Takachiho from Kumamoto
I chose the easiest and hassle free commute, by bus. I bought a return ticket, ¥4,110* to Takachiho Bus Center from Kumamoto Bus Terminal. Bus departs at 9:22AM and reached Takachiho at 12:38PM. Bus company that run at this service time is Miyazaki Kotsu (Miyakoh). At Kumamoto Bus Terminal, the bus departs from stop #26, to the left of the ticketing office. The bus I was on came with complimentary wi-fi.
Note: *All websites indicated that it is ¥2,370 one way though



Happy meal sustenance on bus

Getting to Takachiho Gorge from Takachiho Bus Centre



The short answer is... I walked. It took about 3 hours on bus and another 30 minutes or so by foot to get to the Gorge. Repeat on the way back. Before I launched into long winded answer, I just want to put it out there that I've seen a package offering online for return bus to Kumamoto, return shuttle bus to the gorge and a beef lunch. I didn't get that but I saw a couple of people who went on the same bus as me printed out an itinerary that indicate that. So there is an alternative option if you chose not to drive and prefer not walk.

Machinaka Tourist Information Centre is located opposite the bus centre. Both centres have washroom services. I popped into the tourist info centre to grab a brochure before I went on my way. Just so happened that on the day of my visit it was also Takachiho Shrine Annual Spring Festival.

This is the first traffic light, turn left here
As you walk out of the tourist info centre (i.e. tourist info is behind you), turn left and walk straight till you reach a set of traffic lights. Turn left here again and continue straight on. Along the way you'll pass by Takachiho Shrine.



It takes about 15 minutes to walk from the bus centre to Takachiho Shrine.


There were signs along the way to assure you that you are still on the right path and to indicate how far more to go.


The roads after were straightforward and no other roads to accidentally turn into. After going down some winding road (just like the map), you'll reach the gorge area!

This is taken from Mihashi Bridge
Takachiho Gorge (高千穂峡, Takachiho-kyō)
Entrance fee: Nil
Rental boats fee: 1 boat ¥2,000, capacity 3 person, time 30 mins
Rental boats opening hours: 8:30-16:30 (may vary depending on season)


Takachiho Gorge was formed by erosion from pyroclastic flows during ancient eruption of Mt. Aso spreading through Gokase River. Inside the gorge is the iconic 17-meter high Manai Falls. One of the best way to get closer to the waterfall is by renting a rowing boat.


There was a queue to the rowing boat. I was alone and don't trust my navigation skills nor arm strength so I skipped this.


Takachiho Gorge Footpath
This pathway is alongside Gokase River and leads to more greenery, Kihachi's Rock and Yaritobi Bridge. I saw a sign that it would also continue back to Takachiho Shrine but I wanted to grab some stuff from the shops and wasn't sure how long it will take to get to the shrine via this route.


Kihachi's Rock (Kihachi-no-Chikaraishi) is a big 200-ton rock, where according to legend it was thrown by Kihachi. Kihachi was a demon who was known for evil deeds. When one of the ancient gods in Japan, Mikenuno-Mikoto came after him, Kihachi was said to have thrown this rock to show off his power.

Kihachi's Rock
This triangle formation of bridge is known as Takachiho Three-Stage Bridge (Takachiho Sandan-Bashi). This formation is made up of Shinbashi Bridge (nearest / lowest) and Takachiho Bridge from the Showa era, and Shinto Takachiho Bridge (furthest) from the Heisei era.



Nagashi Somen at Chiho no Ie
I've always wanted to try nagashi somen so that was it for lunch.


I chose somen noodle set meal.



I was assigned a seat nearest to the spout where the noodles started flowing out, and may have let 2 lots of noodles flowed away while I took some photos...


Fear not, the noodles will be collected at the end and brought back to you.


It was a fun eating experience but the food overall is just mediocre.

Dessert of cremia soft serve with matcha powder ice-cream, ¥550. Creamy and milky.



Takachiho Shrine (高千穂神社, Takachiho Jinja)
Yakagura performance: ¥700


My visit to Takachiho happened to coincide with Takachiho Shrine Spring Festival, which is held on April 16 annually. The festival prays for peace and good harvest. When I got to Takachiho Gorge the sacred shrine was at gorge. I didn't see when the shrine went on a parade around town. However, on my way back, I saw the procession returned to the shrine.




If you are staying overnight in Takachiho, don't miss the nightly Yokagura (夜神楽, night dances). A full yokagura is a series of 33 episodes but the nightly performance is a shortened one-hour version. Yokagura is a reenactment of the legend where Amaterasu went hiding after her brother's cruel prank. She refused to come out and the world was in darkness. In attempt to lure Amaterasu out of her hiding place, one of the goddess, Ame-no-Uzume performed and/or led the rest in a ribald dance causing the rest of the gods to roar with laughter. Amaterasu left her hiding place in curiosity to see the commotion and thus, returned light to the world.


I returned to the bus station after that to catch the 16:57 bus back to Kumamoto. Near the bus centre, there were some stalls selling food and games. Arrival time at Kumamoto Kotsu Center scheduled to be 19:56.

Dinner was a simple meal at Yayoi-ken back in Kumamoto.

Grilled saba meal, ¥630

Side note: This Grand Super Cart running on Amaterasu Railyway looks interesting!

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