Travel

Takachiho (Miyazaki, Kyushu)

Today I want to share yet another travel experience during my winter vacation in Kyushu.
It was the last day of the year and it was definitely one of my highlights of the trip.

I went to Takachiho (高千穂) which is a small city in Miyazaki Prefecture.
Takachiho can be accessed by bus from either Kumamoto or Miyazaki (via Nobeoka).
If you head there from Miyazaki, you can take a train and then transfer to a bus at Nobeoka Station.
There used to be a train station in Takachiho, but it’s not in use anymore (but maybe worth a visit for train / station fans!?).

smilie Visited: December 31st 2011 smilie

Takachiho in Miyazaki Takachiho in Miyazaki

Takachiho is famous for a few things, but mainly for its Kagura dance (more about this later), so the characters that appear in the dances are displayed all over the place.
You’ll see it when you walk from the Takachiho Bus Center towards Takachiho Shrine.

 

Takachiho Shrine

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Takachiho Shrine

Takachiho Shrine (高千穂神社) is rather small and hidden in a forest with some old cedar trees.

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Takachiho Shrine Takachiho in Miyazaki, Takachiho Shrine

The atmosphere was quite nice with the sunlight shining through the old cedar trees.

TTakachiho in Miyazaki, Takachiho Shrine

They were already preparing for “Hatsumode” (the first shrine visit in early January).

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Takachiho Shrine

Some really cute dragon arrows (the zodiac of 2012). Those arrows bought at the beginning of the new year in order to protect one’s house are called Hamaya (破魔矢).

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Takachiho Shrine

The “ema” (絵馬 = wooden wish plaques often found in temples and shrines) also featured the kagura characters.
This is because the Kagura dances are actually held at this very shrine.
Of course there are some dragon themed emas as well.

Takachiho in Miyazaki

On my way back to the bus center I found even more random “Kagura” surreptitious advertising.

Takachiho in Miyazaki

 

Amano Iwato Shrine

Back at the bus center, I took a short bus ride to get to “Amano Iwato Shrine” (天岩戸神社).

In order to understand the importance of the shrine, I have to give you some extra information first:

You know that there are mainly 2 religions that have mixed quite a bit in Japan, right?
Buddhism and Shinto. The latter one being the original Japanese religion.
As every religion, Shinto also has its little story about their gods.

Some of you might have heard of “Amaterasu”, the Shinto sun goddess?
Well, Takachiho is actually the site of the most important legends in Japanese mythology concerning her.
In the story, Amaterasu hid herself in a cave because of some pranks of her brother, refusing to come out and depriving the world of her life-giving sunlight.

That was a very short version as you’ll read about the full story later in this post. This much is enough to understand the importance of the shrine.

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Amano Iwato Shrine

At the entrance of the shrine.
It looks a bit scary at first.

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Amano Iwato Shrine

The “ema” of Iwato Amano Shrine are showing Amaterasu surrounded by the other gods.

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Amano Iwato Shrine

You can take a short tour with a monk guiding you. Behind the shrine building there’s the cave in which Amaterasu hid herself according to the legend.
No photos were allowed as it’s a very sacred place.
I was the only foreigner in a group of roughly 20 people. The monk seemed to be worried if I was able to follow his explanations.
Note: You can NOT access the cave directly!! You’ll just be able to see it from far away!

 

Power Spot: Amano Yasukawara

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Amano Yasukawara

A few minutes walk from the shrine is a well-known power spot in Japan: Amano Yasukawara (that’s also what the sign says).

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Amano Yasukawara

There’s a very small shrine, but what is interesting are all the stone piles.

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Amano Yasukawara

People pile up stones in order to receive energy / power from there.
To be honest, I’m not sure if it’s more powerful the more stones you pile up. Anybody knows?

Some were amazingly high and looked like they would fall apart any minute, but most of them had been there forever.

A few people climbed over the big stones in the river to get to a spot where fewer people would come. Simply because people might trample over your pile of stones if you place it too close to the shrine. Not on purpose, but there’s not much space to walk!

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Amano Yasukawara

Of course I wanted to receive some power as well. smilie

Takachiho in Miyazaki Takachiho in Miyazaki

I still had a little bit of time until the bus came, so I quickly rushed to the “Eastern Shrine” of Amano Iwato which is only a few minutes away from the “Western Shrine” (the main one).

Takachiho in Miyazaki Takachiho in Miyazaki

And here we are. That statue scared the hell out of me! When I came back down from the shrine (which was small, so no photos) it had moved and showed me its back!!!
That is “Ame-no-Uzume” by the way. You’ll learn about her later.

 

How to get around in Takachiho

Back in the bus a Japanese girl my age turned over and started a conversation. She said she came with the same bus as I did and so she heard me speaking Japanese.
We basically just talked about our trips. As it was December 31st she was about to go back home to be with her family. Too bad, we could have traveled through Takachiho together.

Am I still amazed about the conversations I can have in Japanese?
Uh, no. It’s something completely normal for ME, but often not for the Japanese people around me, but that’s another story. smilies
So, I was actually glad that I was treated normally by that Japanese girl.

Takachiho in Miyazaki

Most towns in Japan have their own manhole cover design – Takachiho is no exception.

 

Apart from “Amano Iwato Shrine” you can easily access the other attractions on foot. It’s a nice and pleasant walk.
From the bus center it’s about 10 mins to Takachiho Shrine (where I had already been in the morning) and from there another 20-30 mins to ….

 

Takachiho Gorge

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Takachiho Gorge

Takachiho Gorge (高千穂峡) is definitely the most picturesque spot in Takachiho.

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Takachiho Gorge Takachiho in Miyazaki, Takachiho Gorge

The gorge and the rock formations came to life after a volcano eruption a very long time ago.

If you visit in autumn, you can see beautiful fall colors.

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Takachiho Gorge

You can rent a boat for 30 mins (~ 1500 yen) to see the waterfall from close up.
First, I thought it’s not worth the money … and as I was alone it felt a little bit strange, but I swear it was totally worth it.
The only bad thing I can maybe say about it was that it was too crowded that day, so that most of the time I was just bumping into other people’s boats, apologizing.

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Takachiho Gorge Takachiho in Miyazaki, Takachiho Gorge

Actually being down there creates a really mystic atmosphere (despite all the people there)!

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Takachiho Gorge Takachiho in Miyazaki, Takachiho Gorge

I imagine it to be even better on a not so busy day!

(And I was right. When I visited again in December 2017, it wasn’t very crowded. A great experience.)

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Takachiho Gorge Takachiho in Miyazaki, Takachiho Gorge

Once done with the boat ride you can walk around the gorge. It’s really huge and the landscape is very unique and interesting.

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Takachiho Gorge Takachiho in Miyazaki, Takachiho Gorge

I liked the color of the water!

And then it was time to leave as it was slowly getting dark and thus cold. Please note that it gets dark as early as 16:30 in winter.

 

Kagura Dance Performances at Takachiho Shrine

I went to my hotel, got ready, ate dinner until it was time to go to Takachiho Shrine a second time.
I already mentioned earlier that Takachiho is also famous for its “Kagura” (神楽) dances.
Actually they have a kagura performance every single night from 8-9 p.m. at the shrine.

As it was December 31st I already expected it to get crowded, so I came there as early as possible (they told me admission would be from 7:30 p.m.).

Takachiho in Miyazaki

…. and it was SUPER crowded!! So much that some people had to stand.
Although I came so early I was only in the 3rd row and had a really tall guy in front of me.

 

Before we go into the dances, here some extra information:
Yokagura” is a repertoire of 33 ancient dances which have been passed down from generation to generation. It is said to have originated in a dance of “Ame no Uzume“, the Shinto goddess of dawn, mirth and revelry.
As we learned earlier Amaterasu hid in a cave located close to Amano Iwato Shrine. She did that because she was so scared of her brother Susanoo, the Shinto god of the sea and storms who happens to be the husband of Ame-no-Uzume.

All the other gods tried to lure her out of the cave, but failed.
Ame-no-Uzume started a very ridiculous dance. The other gods couldn’t stop laughing.
Amaterasu became curious hearing all that ruckus outside and finally came out!
They closed the cave behind her to make sure she couldn’t go back.
And thus sunlight had returned to earth!

At Takachiho Shrine, there are usually 4 different performances. The dances vary from time to time, so if you visit a second time, you might get to see a different version.

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Kagura Dance at Takachiho Shrine

Dance #1: “Dance of Tajikarao”:

Tajikarao was a god known for his great strength. When the sun goddess Amaterasu hid herself in the cave, Tajikarao went searching for her. Tajikarao suspected that Amaterasu hid in Amano-Iwato cave. This dance depicts Tajikarao listening for any sound that would prove that Amaterasu was actually in the cave.

Here’s a video of the dance:

 

Dance #2: “Dance of Ame-no-Uzume”

When the gods were sure that Amaterasu was hiding in Amano-Iwato cave, they gathered in front of the cave. Ame-no-Uzume then performed a very unusual dance which made the other gods laugh. The laughter made Amaterasu curious so she peeked out from the cave.

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Kagura Dance at Takachiho Shrine

So this is actually something like the origin of kagura dances.

 

Dance #3: “Totori Dance”

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Kagura Dance at Takachiho Shrine

When Amaterasu peeked out from the cave, Tajikarao removed the stone door of the cave. This dance depicts Tajikarao gathering his strength and removing the stone door.

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Kagura Dance at Takachiho Shrine

To me the dance seemed very aggressive, but also very appealing.

 

Dance #4: “Goshintai Dance” (*my personal favorite!)

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Kagura Dance at Takachiho Shrine

This dance depicts Izanagi and Izanami, the god and goddess who created Japan, as they make and drink sake. These two gods are known for their long and loving marriage.

This dance is also known as the dance of “The creation of Japan“.

Takachiho in Miyazaki, Kagura Dance at Takachiho Shrine

Watch part 1 of the video here and make sure to watch the other parts as well.

*Notes: Part 2: I really thought the guy is coming to me, I was so relieved when he picked the woman right behind me. That gave me the chance to take a video close-up. I heard that he will always pick the most beautiful lady in the room. Whoever is being hugged by him will be blessed.

After the 1 h performance was over we all went back to our hotels. A lot of hotels offer free shuttle buses.
It was a really nice way to finish 2011. Back at my warm hotel I ate some more delicious food and watched “Kohaku” and the Johnny’s Countdown.

 

If you want to see the dances and you don’t have a car, then your best bet is to stay one night in Takachiho. The last bus leaves way before 8 p.m.! And Takachiho is only worth a visit if you can also enjoy the dances.

Can you see why Takachiho was one of the highlights of my winter vacation?? smilie

34 Comments

    • Actually not everybody in Japan really knows about Takachiho and many people have never been there. All the more they’re surprised when they hear that I went there.
      It is definitely a tourist attraction, though.

  • Awesome!!
    I have seen Takaciho Gorge in Japan hour, hopefully i can get to see it for myself in real life.
    *still staring at the pictures* LOL.

  • I love the waterfalls! I can’t wait to go to Kyushu specifically for that reason. I also can understand your feeling when the Japanese girl spoke to you normally. I’m always delighted to be treated as just another person looking to see some sights. I’m looking forward to reading more.

    • Hello Brad!
      I’m glad to see you here, thank you very much for your comment! :shiawase:

      If you like waterfalls and nature, then Kyushu is a good place to go.
      Also consider Yakushima. I’ll write about my trip to Yakushima (including some waterfalls) soon.

  • hey, wie getz?

    I love you’re post, it amazes me how much experience you manage to squeeze out of your travels, makes me always think ‘I was there, but I didn’t see THAT’ good job, perhaps you can get it into a career!

    • Hey, thanks I’m fine! :D

      Oh, wow, thank you!
      I always try to squeeze in as much as possible. I want to see and experience as much as possible! :music2:

      Oh, I wish I could make a career out of it, seriously!

  • A most interesting post! Informative, and with lovely photos. All those little piles of stones… I stayed at Miyazaki, and now I wish I had also gone to Takachiho. That gorge is just breathtaking. I would probably just have to see it from above and walk around it, unless I could bribe some people to let me go with them [I am incompetent in a row boat].

    I also loved your videos. I think the Goshintai dance is exceptional. I showed it to someone else, who agreed and thought the performers did a wonderful job. I will definitely visit if I go back to Kyushu. I probably will, as I like it very much. And I want see Yakushima once more.

    • I’m sure you’ll get another chance to go!
      Oh, you think that I can row a boat?? *lol* But I managed to get me and the boat back in one piece somehow, so you can do it, too!

      Wow, thank you very much! I’m so happy to hear that! :D

  • I love this post! Even though I’ve never been to this part of Japan, seeing your photos and hearing about the legends has brought me a little bit closer. Thank you!

  • Takachiho Gorge is so pretty! One thing I love about Japanis that even if the country is well developed and modernized, nature is still preserved. :sparkling:

    Your stone pile was smartly done. :thumbup:

    I find Kagura dance a little difficult to comprehend since I’m not familiar with the history of Shinto gods and goddesses. :sweatdrop: But it’s entertaining nonetheless.

    • Yes, in some parts of Japan.

      *LOL* Thank you. I wonder if it’s still there or if somebody already knocked it over. ^-^; ..

      Me neither, that’s why I liked that last one the most. For me that dance was much easier to understand.

  • sag mal, hast Du schon mal überlegt weniger Pink und niedlich und so, und vielleicht einen normalen Mauszeiger statt die Hello-Kitty-Variante?

    Ich lese Deinen Blog durchaus mit Interesse, aber ich fühle mich dabei irgendwie immer so unmännlich… ;-)

    • Hallo .. äh .. “user”.
      Ich hab versucht, das Design möglichst neutral zu halten. Du hättest mal meinen alten Blog sehen sollen, dann würdest du sehen, wie sehr ich mich zusammengerissen habe *g*

      Tut mir leid, dass du dich deiner Männlichkeit beraubt fühlst, aber ich hoffe, du liest trotzdem ab und zu mit! :hihi:

  • Hi,

    Thank you so much for interesting writing piece. It is very inspiring and helpful.
    Actually it makes me to have this new year trip in Kyushu, planning to stay at Takachiho in 31st Dec as well. Unfortunately it is quite hard to find cheap accommodation there. Could you please give me any advice or recommendation on this. I am staying in Japan now so it is fine for me to call them and make booking if I can get some information of name or phone number.

    Thank you.

    Mika

  • Hi,

    Thank you for your quick advice.
    I have checked the hotel you mentioned. It looks nice. It seems the booking system in the rakuten website is not working, I guess I must call them.

    Thank you again.

    Mika

    • Hi Mika,
      I’m sorry to hear that. I’ve never had any issues using the Rakuten website, but I’ve only used the Japanese version, never the English one.
      Calling will work, too.
      Good luck and enjoy your trip! :D

  • Hi, I need some suggestions for travelling to and from Takachiho and would be most grateful if you could please provide some advices. I’m planning to travel from Kumamoto City to Takachiho via bus and (using my limited Japanese) was shocked to see that it might take me 4 hours for the bus trip (http://www.kyusanko.co.jp/sankobus/toshikan/takachiho/). Could you please advise a faster bus trip to Takachiho from Kumamoto?

    Secondly, could you please advise how I can travel (via bus) from Takachiho Bus Center to Nobeoka Station? Thank you so much! :D

    • Hello Sun! :)

      It’ll take about 3h by bus from Kumamoto to Takachiho Bus Center, but there are only 2 buses per day it seems.
      From Kumamoto Airport it would take about 2h.
      Alternatively you could take a train from Kumamoto to Nobeoka and then take a bus to Takachiho.
      However, going by train is more expensive and also takes about 4h. I wouldn’t recommend it.

      This is a very good site that lists all the buses and timetables:
      http://www.town-takachiho.jp/culture/access/bus.html
      If you scroll down to the bottom you’ll find the connection: Nobeoka-Takachiho

      Please let me know if you need any further help! :D

  • Hello!

    I am very interested in getting to Takachiho in December. But planning it around a tight budget and schedule has been tough. I am hoping you can provide some advice!

    My hope is to depart Kyoto (via Rail-I will have the Seishun 18) on December 30th for either Kumamoto, Miyakaki City or Fukoka. Then the following day take a bus from on of those places for Takachiho. Stay one night in Takachiho, then leave for Kagoshima City the following day (using bus is fine but by rail preferably -Seishun 18).

    I am wondering if you have any experience or advice on how to reach Kyushu from Kyoto. And also how to reach Kagoshima City from Takachiho.

    Thank you!!!

    PS I love this post. Excellent information.

    • Hello Ashley!

      There are several ways to get from Kyoto to Kyushu. Most people either use the Shinkansen or go by airplane. If you don’t have the Japan Railpass, taking the Shinkansen might be too expensive for you. You COULD get there using the Seishun 18 ticket, but it will take the whole day. Also, taking Fukuoka as example it costs about 15.000 yen from Kyoto via Shinkansen and about 9900 yen using the Seishun 18 Kippu via local trains. There are also night buses, so check them out as well.
      There might be cheap flights, so you should definitely check that. Miyazaki also has an airport, but I don’t know if there are direct flights from Kansai, but I’m quite sure there are.

      I’m trying to remember what I did, but I think I eventually took the train from Miyazaki to Kagoshima, although they also had buses that (at that time) were a bit cheaper.
      There’s a bus center with nice people next to Miyazaki Station, so you could just asked once you’re there. That’s what I did anyway.
      As far as I know there are only direct buses connecting Kumamoto with Takachiho, but not Kagoshima, so you’ll have to get back to Nobeoka or Miyazaki and take a train or bus from there.

      Maybe someone can share more information about buses, but that’s all I can tell you for now.
      Have a nice trip. I’m sure you’ll love Takachiho! :D

  • Hi,
    I’m looking at visiting Takachiho soon but getting around is a bit confusing.
    On arrival at Takachiho bus center, rent a bicycle/walk to takachiho shrine then to the gorge.
    Return to the bus center and then walk /ride to the power spot.
    Leave Takachiho the next day.
    I also heard there is a bus tour but cant find any info online.
    I will have a toddler with me so I really need to be sure of my route.
    Thanks a lot.

  • Please how often does the bus to the amano iwato shrine come around and how long did it take before your bus came back. how far is it from the bus center? Thanks

    • Sorry, I can’t remember and even if I could, it’s been so many years, bus timetables usually always change.
      I wouldn’t worry so much. There were several buses per day, just don’t go there too late and you should be fine.
      By car it would take around 15 minutes, so I think by bus one-way it would take 20-25 minutes to get there.
      You can find access information about it here as well:
      http://amanoiwato-jinja.jp/publics/index/10/
      But if you cannot understand Japanese it might not be very useful.

  • Hi Jasmine

    Great write-up about Takachiho! We made the decision to head to Takachiho after reading it and have decided to stay for 2 nights.

    We are staying near the bus centre. Are most of the major attractions located within walking distance? The full day that we have, we will be covering the gorge and the area around it. Any recommendations for a half day trip as we will be arriving Takachiho early afternoon?

    Appreciate any suggestions that you might have. Thanks a million.

    • Yes, the major attractions are in walking distance.
      I don’t know where you’re coming from or where you’ll be heading to, but Nobeoka would be an option. It’s very likely you pass by when entering / leaving Takachio, so it might make more sense to visit on your way to / back from Takachiho. :)

      • We will be making our way to takachiho from kumamoto, and heading to kagoshima after. We have a 70+ year old family member in our group, so we are taking it easy. We have 2 weeks to cover kyushu, and will be using kumamoto, takachiho, kagaoshima and fukuoka as our base. Any must visit locations?

        • If you go to Kagoshima definitely also go to Sakurajima and enjoy one of the great onsen (hot springs) there.
          I wouldn’t just stay in Fukuoka City, but also explore a few things nearby, e.g. Kurume. If you’re coming in late April / early May, then the Kawachi Fuji-en Garden is a must-see.

          If you like hot springs, then you also might want to consider visiting Oita Prefecture.

          I guess you won’t have enough time to also go to Yakushima, and I’m also not sure if it makes sense with a person who’s over 70.

          Personally I’m a huge fan of Nagasaki.

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