Situated in the Takachiho area of Kyushu in Miyazaki Prefecture, Amano Iwato Shrine is dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu, and primarily known for the thousands of small stone pillars or stupas on the path from the shrine to the river.
Legend says that the nearby cave, called Amano Yasukawara, is where Amaterasu hid while upset, keeping her light away from the world until another female deity performed a lewd dance that made the other gods laugh so hard that Amaterasu emerged to find out why.
The shrine is about 10 to 15 minutes from central Takachiho by car, bus or taxi.
There's a bus from Takachiho Bus Center about once an hour. Amano Yasukawara cave is a 10-minute walk from Amano Iwato Shrine.
The main buildings of Amano Iwato Shrine are actually located on the opposite side of the Iwato River, across from the famous cave and shrine gate. There is an observation deck by the river, just below the shrine, that you can use to get a great view into the cave.
Inquire at the main shrine entrance and you'll be able to arrange a guided tour ,in Japanese, with a priest. He'll take you down a little path to the river, which is lined with small stone towers to mark this sacred power spot.
The further you go along the path, the more numerous these little stupas become until they seem to be everywhere. You'll then arrive at Amano Yasukawara, and enter the cave of the goddess with your guide.
Combine a tour of the shrine and cave with a visit to Takachiho Gorge, where you can row through some of the most spectacular scenery in Japan, especially during the fall and hike along the ridge above the gorge and river.
A kagura festival is held from November through to February in Takachiho, where the locals dance to pray for a good harvest, ward off the devil, and invite deities to a building called Kagurayado. Thirty-three dances are performed through the night.