Best known for the famous Takachiho Gorge and its connections to Japan's first gods and goddesses, Takachiho in Miyazaki Prefecture offers visitors an awesome blend of natural beauty and cultural inspiration.
Takachiho is not easily accessible by public transportation. The best ways to visit are by car or by bus.
Takachiho is 140 kilometers from Miyazaki City and takes about two-and-a-half hours. Get onto the Higashi Kyushu Expressway (Miyazaki Route), and head north towards Nobeoka. After about 90 kilometers, take the exit toward Kumamoto just after Kadogawa IC. Route 10 will become Route 218. Stay on Route 218 for 25 kilometers, and then follow the signs for Takachiho.
Known for its crystal-clear mountain waters, Takachiho Gorge is the pride of the area. Takachiko Gorge was formed over 100,000 years ago as a result of volcanic activity nearby. Visitors can take a rowboat through the canyon and see the Minainotaki waterfall up close. Alternatively, you can view Takachiho Gorge from above along a paved path that runs along the gorge.
Near the southern end of Takachiho Gorge are souvenir shops and a small aquarium. The gorge is illuminated until 10 p.m. during the warmer months.
Takachiho is the site of one of the most famous stories in Shinto mythology. According to legend, the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu was so angry that she hid in a cave in Takachiho, and the world was plunged into darkness. Other gods and goddesses gathered nearby, but could not convince her to come out of the cave. As the gods and goddesses waited, one goddess performed a provocative dance that made everyone laugh. Hearing the laughter, Amaterasu came out to see what all the commotion was about, bringing her light back to the Earth.
It is this story that the town celebrates. The legend is reenacted in a performance called Yokagura, or night dances. Yokagura is made up of a series of 33 episodes and takes place on Saturday evenings from mid-November to mid-February.
Located near the center of the town of Takachiho, Takachiho-jinja Shrine was built over 1,200 years ago on this sacred ground. Here, locals perform an abridged version of the Yokagura every night. The show starts at 8 p.m. and costs 700 yen per person.
Also on the premises are two giant trees with their trunks fused together. Called the "Couple Cedar", superstition says your descendants will prosper if you walk around these trees three times while holding the hand of a partner.
Nearby, you can visit Amano Iwato-jinja Shrine . Just behind Takachiho Shrine along the river is the cave where the sun goddess Amaterasu hid.
Futagami-jinja Shrine, just slightly southwest of Takachiho Gorge, was built for Izanagi and Izanami. Known for their marital bliss, the myth says this celestial couple created the Japan archipelago.