Last weekend, I went to spend 3 days in Miyazaki prefecture, in the southeast of Kyushu island. My first and only trip to Miyazaki was in 2011. I had spent two days in the main city and I couldn't do anything because of the heavy rain. I decided to take a revenge and to go this month. My mother is currently in Fukuoka so I also wanted to show her some Kyushu.
Today I take you in the mountains, in the small village of Takachiho.
Takachiho villageTakachiho is located in the mountains in the north of Miyazaki Prefecture, next to Mount Aso and Kumamoto. Takachiho is a well-known place among Japanese but not by foreign tourists because it is a famous place for its link to Japanese mythology.
The village is divided into two (at least) parts. Downtown is really quiet with many closed shops it has little charm. I liked much better the part around Amano Iwato located ten minute drive in another valley. It is surronded by rice fields in terraces, numerous mountains and below a gorge carved by the Gokase River and its unleashed waterfalls. In morning and evening, clouds cling to the top of the surrounding mountains. We arrived on a cloudy afternoon and gloomy weather reinforced the mystic atmosphere of the place. Generally, I like much more Japan under the clouds that under a large sun so I was delighted to walk in this environment and I continued to walk until dinner time while my mother preferred to go back to the ryokan.
What is good and surprising in Takachiho is that this is a place that attracts many visitors but almost nothing in the city is done to tourism, apart from a few shops. We had the feeling of landing in the village daily life and blend into the crowd ... even if with our Western faces people stared a lot on us. Another point that we liked is that the dolls of the girl festival (Hina matsuri ,ひな祭り) was still displayed all around the city.
|Hina matsuri dolls|
|Shrine good manners at Amani Iwato shrine|
What to do in Takachiho ?
Going to the gorges
Everyday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm (7:30 to 6pm in summer)
2000 yens per passenger for a 30 minutes ride. Boat for 3 people max.
Discovering Japanese mythology at Amano IwatoThe other place to explore is related to Japanese mythology : the Amano Iwato shrine and the Amano Yasugawara cave. To access to the cave, the most interesting place to me, people must pass in front of the Amano Iwato shrine. Then we continue on a path that goes down into the gorge until arriving at the river. Few meters and a pretty round shapped bridge later and we arrive at Amano Yasugawara cave. It is said that it is here that the sun goddess Amaterasu hid and this brought the night on earth. In and around the cave, there are thousands of small stone towers created by visitors. I would have liked to build one too but there was no more stones left one the area.
On my way back, I climbed just over 100 steps to a seast part of Amano Iwato shrine, did a little pray, had a look at the spring water (I didn't want to drink it because frogs were swimming in) and admire the 7 cedars perfectly aligned (it doesn't sound exciting but it was quite pretty to see).
|Amano Yasugawara cave|
|Amano Iwato shrine|
Riding the super cartThe village of Takachiho has a railway station, now disused. Until 2005, Takachiho was the last station of the line of the same name but 11 years ago a typhoon washed away two bridges. They were never rebuilt and the line was closed permanently. In recent years, local authority and former train drivers are reviving the Takachiho station and the end of the line by offering small train rides without windows, between the station and the bridge of Takachiho. I have experienced this attraction thanks to my Japanese guide book and I really wanted to do it because I love Japanese small train stations and lines. When we arrived the first day everything was already full. We went back there really early the next day and managed to buy a ticket for the 10:30 ride.
While waiting for our turn, we were able to explore the station, dock and a train line. I was thrilled. Do I not trying to convert me gently to the UR Bex? We took lots of pictures and then we saw the train back off: it would be our turn. The walk was really nice. We discover another aspect of Takachiho, we pass near private gardens where people were we cuckoo hand. The mild spring and the breeze was pleasant but I would not recommend this attraction in winter! Before the entrance to the bridge, drivers check the power of the wind. As there are no windows and the train passes 103 meters above the gorge winds can be dangerous.
During our visit there was a slight breeze so we could move forward. Back in Takachiho, the wind had risen considerably and the next trains could not go on the bridge. We were really lucky. Without going on the bridge the ride would be a bit too expensive.
Takachiho Super Cart
1300 yens for a 30 minutes ride
|On Takachiho bridge|
Watching a traditionnal Japanese performance called Yokagura
There are almost no serif during the performance so there is no need to understand Japanese to enjoy it but it is better to know the story beforehand, especially for the first three dances. The music and movements are very repetitive and very different from what we can see in Europe. This may a bit boring but don't do what my mom did and left before the end because the last dance is SO hilarious. The Japan creator gods are drunk and will dredge the public. A must to see.
Like every small town in Japan, Takachiho is a perfect place to stay in a ryokan (traditional Japanese hotel). There is a nice offer but prices start at about 10,000 yen per person per night (including dinner and breakfast). Smaller budgets can also find a room in a youth hostel (4500 yen per night) or in a minshuku (homestay) from 6,000 yen.
Whare to stay
Most of the time I travel alone : Daisuke works on Saturday and I like to do things at my own pace. Because of my way of traveling, I almost never stay in ryokans because they rarely accept single travelers. So this time I took the opportunity to have my mother with me to take a room in the Hana Ryokan Iwatoya which is 10 minutes drive from Takachiho bus center, near Amano Iwato.
Hana Ryokan Iwatoya
The service was good too. On a simple phone call, we were picked up at Takachiho Bus Station and was redeposited there the next day. Before take us into town, the staff offered us black rice dumplings as a snack for the day. A delicate and delicious attention.
|of course I wore my yukata|
Access and useful informations
Access from Fukuoka :
Take the "Gokase-go" highway bus bound to Nobeoka in front of Miyazaki station. Three hours and 50 minutes for 4020 yens. Four round trip per day.
Access from Kumamoto :
Take the "Takachiho-go" highway bus bound to Nobeoka in front of Miyazaki station. Four hours for 4110 yens. Two round trip per day.
Access from Miyazaki :
Take the highway bus bound to Takachiho in front of Miyazaki station. Three hours for 2500 yens. One round trip per day.
From the center of Takachiho, most of the tourist spots (gorges, Takachiho shrine, station...) are within a walking distance. For the other ones there are electric bikes for rent in front of the bus center (300 yens per hour or 1500 yens a day) and a bus service which serves all the tourist destinations including Amano Iwato. They are infrequent but fast and very practical. To visit outside the town, a car is essential .
Best time to go
Spring, summer and autumn for some fantastic landscapes. Rainy season is to avoid. Landslide occur quite often in Miyazaki and boat rental will close if the level of the river rise.
How much time
Because it is a tiny town, everything close down at 5pm so I'd say one day and a half or two days are the best.
What to eat
Takachiho beef, black rice, kyokoku dango, all regional specialities.
What to buy
Lucky charms from all the shrines and also very nice pictures.
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