“If we never had any storms, we couldn’t appreciate the sunshine” ~ Dale Evans.

Clenching my fists and grinning from ear to ear, I could barely believe my dream of visiting stunning Takachiho Gorge had finally come true! Who would have thought that reality can turn out to be better than your dreams?!

Although I’ve been regularly visiting Japan for the past decade (and shared all my Japan itineraries), it took me 9 of those years to finally make it to the Kyushu Region, which I have revisited since. So you can bet in true invisible tourist fashion, I planned to make the most of my day trip to Takachiho by exploring the sights overlooked by foreign tourists, too. 

Takachiho Gorge Day Trip: Kyushu’s Mythological Gem | The Invisible Tourist

Steeped in ancient mythology and breathtaking natural scenery, a lesser-known spot nearby this Miyazaki gorge is officially one of my most favourite places I’ve ever visited in Japan. And by the end of your time there, I’m sure it will be one of yours, too!

If you’re planning to make the trip to Takachiho in Miyazaki Prefecture, learn how to get there, find out the things to see and do in the surrounding area, tips for visiting plus one crucial mistake NOT to make, read on for more!

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Takachiho Gorge Day Trip: Kyushu's Mythological Gem in Japan | The Invisible Tourist
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NOTE: This guide to visiting Takachiho Gorge Miyazaki forms part of my detailed Kyushu Itinerary for 7-10 days, so be sure to take a look for more ideas once you’re done here.

How to get to Takachiho Gorge

Due to its remote geographical location on Kyushu Island, there are no trains servicing Takachiho Gorge or its surrounding areas. The best way to get to Takachiho Gorge is by car or bus.

The most popular two ways to reach it are either on a guided day tour from Fukuoka/Kumamoto or DIY in a rental car, which is what I personally did. Let’s take a look at each.

Day Trip to Takachiho Gorge Map - Kyushu, Japan
Day Trip to Takachiho Gorge Map – Kyushu, Japan

Guided day tour to Takachiho Gorge

The journey to Takachiho by road will depend on traffic conditions for that day, so I’ve listed the approximate times below. These times are one way:

  • Fukuoka to Takachiho Gorge: around 3 hours, 180 kms
  • Kumamoto to Takachiho Gorge: around 2 hours, 80 kms

 

Day Trip to Takachiho Gorge from Kumamoto

DIY rental car day trip to Takachiho Gorge

As I wanted to completely take my time and enjoy the sights at my own pace, I opted to hire a car for my Takachiho day trip. I’d been longing to visit since 2018, after all!

I selected my car from Toyota Rent-A-Car near Kumamoto Station. Staff are friendly, speak English, and will walk you through everything.

The journey from Kumamoto to Takachiho was quite simple, following the E3, E77, 445 and 218 motorways. On my arrival, there were workers ushering traffic to the different car parks to minimise any congestion.

Road sign for a Takachiho Gorge Day Trip from Kumamoto

Takachiho Gorge things to do

There are more to things to do in Takachiho Gorge than paddling the rental boats to see its waterfall. But with its dark, hexagonal columns rising from the emerald waters below, just how was Takachiho Gorge formed? 

Created by 4 separate eruptions from nearby Mount Aso dating back 90, 120, 140 & 270 thousand years ago respectively, the columnar joints we see at Takachiho Gorge were formed when fast-flowing lava cooled very rapidly then eroded over time. 

The Takachiho area is also considered a “power spot;” a location of very spiritual significance in Japan. This adds to its amazing aura which I’ll explain in more detail as we go. With that said, let’s take a look at what else there is to do!

Photos of Takachiho Gorge Kyushu Japan

Make a beeline for Takachiho Gorge Boat Rental Station

Here’s the epic mistake I made that I don’t want you to! In the busy lead up to my trip, I completely forgot to look into hiring one of the iconic boats that meander beneath the waterfall.

When I reached the rental boat station, the signage stated all boats were sold out for the entire day, with no same-day tickets available… Say it with me: Emotional damage

TIP: Book your boat up to one week in advance on the official tourism website to avoid disappointment!  

When reserving online, you can select any available time slot. If purchasing tickets at the gorge, the time slot to use your boat is allocated on a first-come first-served basis, which is why I suggest coming here before exploring anything else!

Nevertheless, I still thoroughly enjoyed watching the little blue boats glide around the waterfall area.

TIP: I highly, highly recommend visiting Takachiho Gorge before 12:00 – 13:00, as this is when most busses of tour groups arrive. The viewing platform can get a little crowded, although short-lived as the tour groups need to keep moving.

While waiting for your boat time slot, enjoy the nearby sights and even a bite to eat. 

Have your breath taken away by Minainotaki Waterfall

Located in the centre of the gorge, the 17-metre high Manai Falls (Minainotaki Waterfall) is THE focal point everyone comes to admire. And it’s easy to see why! 

It seems as though the white falls cascade down the black volcanic backdrop in slow motion. It’s an unbelievably beautiful sight, and one of my favourites of all time. I spent at least an hour taking photos and just watching the world go by around the falls from different viewpoints. 

TIP: This isn’t the only waterfall in the area, you’ll also see the impressive Tamadare Waterfall up the hill behind Manainotaki too!

Takachiho Gorge Kyushu Japan

Take plenty of Takachiho Gorge photos

I’m sure you’ll agree, with scenery as spectacular as this it’s almost impossible to take a bad photo at Takachiho Gorge. Scroll on down for some of my favourite photos I took.

Takachiho Gorge Photos

Takachiho Gorge Photos

Takachiho Gorge Photos

Feed the fish in crystal waters of Onokoro Pond

There is a miniature shrine on a small island in the middle of this crystal clear pond. Once a year in spring for the Takachiho Shrine Festival, an omikoshi (portable shrine) is purified by circling the pond three times. You can pick up a pack of fish food for 100 yen beside the pond.

Grab something to eat by the Gorge Monument

Working up an appetite? Beside the Gorge Monument is a row of small shops and eateries. Local specialties to try include Takachiho wagyu beef, Takachiho rice (you may even drive past the paddy fields later!), green tea from nearby tea fields, chicken namban (crumbed chicken with tartare sauce), kagura udon and more. 

Use chopsticks to catch noodles floating down a bamboo shoot at Nagashi Somen restaurant, enjoy a mango-flavoured ice cream (the local specialty!), pick up a few local souvenirs and then spot the Lucky Yellow Mailbox.

What to see near Takachiho Gorge

Don’t just visit Takachiho Gorge and call it a day, there are a few other things you may be interested in!

West Sanctuary of Amano Iwato Shrine

While the myth surrounding this next place has been passed down for generations in Japan, most foreign visitors don’t know about Amano Iwato Shrine. It is divided into East and West Sanctuaries.

Although the main wooden shrine buildings of the West Sanctuary (Nishi Hongu) may seem like any other, it’s the picturesque downhill trail to another part of the shrine in an ancient cave that draws local visitors.

TIP: Follow the little signs to Amanoyasukawara and other visitors downhill. The path is marked, easy to follow and provides some of the most stunning mossy scenery you may ever see!

Amanoyasukawara

Marked by a stone torii at its entrance beside Iwato River, Amanoyasukawara is a cave filled with small stacked stones worshippers have left for their wishes to be fulfilled. This shrine is dedicated to Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, believed to be the Shinto deity Japanese Emperors are descended from.

You can read more of Amaretsu’s fascinating story, but know that she was responsible for plunging the world into darkness when she hid here! It is such a serene spot.

TIP: Keep an eye out for fluorescent blue worms wiggling their way around the damp rocks in the area. When I asked locals what they were, they responded “mizu” meaning water (so I assume they meant water worms). I later saw these worms swimming in a shallow pool near the cave’s entrance. They look unreal!

Amanoyasukawara (Amano Iwato Shrine) in a cave, Takachiho

Lush mossy forest surrounding Amanoyasukawara in Takachiho
Lush, mossy forest surrounding Amanoyasukawara in Takachiho

East Sanctuary of Amano Iwato Shrine

Its large wooden torii gate greeting visitors beside a rotating statue, the East Sanctuary of Amanoiwato Shrine (Higashi Hongu) seems like it is completely overlooked by visitors… I had the whole shrine to myself! 

By pressing a button, the statue of Ame no Uzumeno Mikoto slowly spins to life. Dressed in traditional clothes and dancing on a barrel, she is credited with luring Amaterasu the Sun Goddess out of hiding in Amanoyasukawara, therefore bringing light back into the world. 

Follow the stairs and pathway towards the back of the shrine here to see a sacred spring and well. Towards the end of the path marks the Seven Sacred Cedars, 600 years old and standing in a straight line.

TIP: There is a large car park right beside the entrance, which is free.

Amano Iwato Shrine East Sanctuary, Takachiho
Amano Iwato Shrine East Sanctuary, Takachiho

Takachiho Three Bridges

From Yaritobibashi Bridge, it’s possible to spot the Three Bridges of Takachiho at once. This unique perspective creates the illusion of the bridges nesting one above the other.

The bridges are built in different eras, showcasing a range of architectural styles from their times. They are known as Shinbashi, Takachiho Ohashi and Shinto Takachiho Ohashi, each spanning across the Gokase River below. 

OPTIONAL: Stay the night for the Takachiho Kagura

Want to spend the night in Takachiho instead of a day trip? Don’t miss the Kagura! This is an 800-year old dance celebrating the gods of Shinto, Japan’s native religion.

Dressed up as different deities from mythology in an intimate setting, the performance tells the story of how Amaterasu was enticed out of her cave.

Click here to find where to stay near Takachiho Gorge → 

Masks used in the Takachiho Kagura

Concluding this day trip to Takachiho Gorge Kyushu Japan 

That wraps up this guide to an unforgettable Takachiho Gorge day trip! Now you know how to get there either as part of a guided tour or by DIY, the travel time to Takachiho Gorge from different cities, things to see and do once you’re there plus the amazing sights other day trippers skip over. 

Have any questions about visiting the Takachiho area? Let me know in the comments below!

While you’re here, why not take a look at all my articles for visiting the Kyushu Region, including a day trip to an old port town with traditional boat rides along its canals on a Yanagawa day trip? Also read my 10 days in Japan itinerary, (even if it’s not for your honeymoon), how to spend 2 weeks in Japan, itinerary for 3 weeks in Japan, do’s and don’ts of Japanese etiquette, learn some basic Japanese phrases for tourists with my free cheat sheet, find out what to pack for Japan, and even the best Japanese souvenirs to bring home — I have every step of your Japan planning journey covered from my multiple visits!

And if you’d love to see some footage, head over to my Instagram featuring Takachiho Gorge day trip videos for more. 

Feeling social? Come and join me on Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok and Instagram for more Japan travel inspiration!

Until next time,

The Invisible Tourist


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Takachiho Gorge Things to Do, Kyushu Japan | The Invisible Tourist

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