Takachiho  is a city in Miyazaki, Kyushu,Japan.

Understand : Both a natural wonder and an important religious site, Takachiho draws over a million Japanese tourists yearly, but few foreigners make it this far. Takachiho Gorge is an impressive ravine with countless waterfalls cascading into it, while nearby Ama-no-Iwato Shrine contains the cave where, according to myth, the sun goddess Amaterasu hid until Ame-no-Uzume lured her out. Another legend suggests that this is where Amaterasu’s grandson Ninigi-no-Mikoto descended to earth to establish Japan’s imperial family, but that particular claim is contested by Takachiho-no-mine in Kirishima National Park to the south.

Access : Coordinates : 32.716667, 131.3 / By bus :  While technically in Miyazaki, Takachiho is located deep in the mountains in the northwest of the prefecture, and is actually easier to reach from the neighboring prefecture of Kumamoto in the west.

From Kumamoto city, the inter-city bus to Nobeoka  reaches Takachiho in about 2:50 (¥2300), passing by Kumamoto Airport (2 hrs, ¥2100) along the way. Pay when exiting the bus, or purchase a discounted round-trip double ticket (valid for 10 days) from the vending machine at Kumamoto central bus terminal (¥4000). Buses leave at 9:11 and 15:31 from JR Kumamoto Station (9:20 and 15:40 from the central bus terminal) and arrive 11:58 and 18:18 in Takachiho. Westbound buses depart Takachiho at 8:31 and 16:31 and reach Kumamoto central bus terminal at 11:06 and 19:06 (JR Kumamoto station 9 minutes later).

From Miyazaki city, take the JR Nippo Line to Nobeoka (1:15, ¥1700 by tokkyu), then connect to the Kumamoto bus  (departs 7:30 and 15:30), reaching Takachiho in one hour (¥1740). This is also the fastest route if coming in from Oita to the north. From Fukuoka, direct buses from the Nishitetsu Tenjin Bus Center  connect to Takachiho in 3:15 (¥3910). From Nobeoka, local buses leave the bus centre (outside the railway station) at 05:50, 06:40, 08:45, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 4:55, 5:20, 6.15 and 8:00. The first and last buses are weekdays only. The journey takes 80 or 90 minutes depending on the route and the scenery is superb. Buses for Nobeoka leave Takachiho at 5:24, 6:00, 7.35, 8.15, 9.30, 10.30, 12.25, 1:30, 2:15, 3:40, 4.30, 5:30 and 7:45. The first and last buses are weekdays only.

By car :  Hiring a car from any neighbouring city (provided you have a valid local or international driver’s license) provides a distinct advantage as it solves the minor problem of getting in but also the much bigger problem of how to get around once in Takachiho. The Takachiho Railway from Nobeoka stopped running in 2005 after it was trashed by Typhoon Nabi, although there are plans to resurrect a portion of it as a sightseeing railway.

Highlights :

  •  Takachiho Gorge . Carved by the Gokase River, the highlight here is the 17m Minai-no-taki Waterfall. While there is a hiking path along the edge, it’s best viewed by renting a boat (¥1500/30 min for up to 3 people) and going for a paddle, since the current is gentle and easy to navigate.
  • Ama-no-Iwato Shrine . The cave where Amaterasu hid and the shrine protecting it. This being a Shinto site, the cave itself is much too holy to let mere mortals inside, but there’s an observation deck across the river and pilgrims have stacked countless stones on the paths around the shrine.

Activities : sightseeing / photo opportunities / trekking

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