TakachihoMiyazaki (prefecture) : Takachiho
Both a natural wonder and an important religious site, Takachiho draws over a million Japanese tourists yearly, but few foreigners make it this far. Takachiho Gorge is an impressive ravine with countless waterfalls cascading into it, while nearby Ama-no-Iwato Shrine contains the cave where, according to myth, the sun goddess Amaterasu hid until Ame-no-Uzume lured her out. Another legend suggests that this is where Amaterasu's grandson Ninigi-no-Mikoto descended to earth to establish Japan's imperial family, but that particular claim is contested by Takachiho-no-mine in Kirishima National Park to the south.
While technically in Miyazaki, Takachiho is located deep in the mountains in the northwest of the prefecture, and is actually easier to reach from the neighboring prefecture of Kumamoto in the west.
From Kumamoto city, the inter-city bus to Nobeoka  reaches Takachiho in about 2:50 (¥2300), passing by Kumamoto Airport (2 hrs, ¥2100) along the way. Pay when exiting the bus, or purchase a discounted round-trip double ticket (valid for 10 days) from the vending machine at Kumamoto central bus terminal (¥4000). Buses leave at 9:11 and 15:31 from JR Kumamoto Station (9:20 and 15:40 from the central bus terminal) and arrive 11:58 and 18:18 in Takachiho. Westbound buses depart Takachiho at 8:31 and 16:31 and reach Kumamoto central bus terminal at 11:06 and 19:06 (JR Kumamoto station 9 minutes later).
From Miyazaki city, take the JR Nippo Line to Nobeoka (1:15, ¥1700 by tokkyu), then connect to the Kumamoto bus  (departs 7:30 and 15:30), reaching Takachiho in one hour (¥1740). This is also the fastest route if coming in from Oita to the north.
From Nobeoka, local buses leave the bus centre (outside the railway station) at 05:50, 06:40, 08:45, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 4:55, 5:20, 6.15 and 8:00. The first and last buses are weekdays only. The journey takes 80 or 90 minutes depending on the route and the scenery is superb. Buses for Nobeoka leave Takachiho at 5:24, 6:00, 7.35, 8.15, 9.30, 10.30, 12.25, 1:30, 2:15, 3:40, 4.30, 5:30 and 7:45. The first and last buses are weekdays only.
The Takachiho Railway from Nobeoka stopped running in 2005 after it was trashed by Typhoon Nabi, although there are plans to resurrect a portion of it as a sightseeing railway.
Hiring a car from any neighbouring city (provided you have a valid local or international driver's license) provides a distinct advantage as it solves the minor problem of getting in but also the much bigger problem of how to get around once in Takachiho (see below).
Be aware that if planning a daytrip, the fastest public transport route, bus from Kumamoto, arrives at midday and departs at 4:30 leaving you on a very tight four and a half hour timeframe. In fact, the timeframe is so tight and the town buses are so infrequent that it is impossible to properly see more than one attraction (likely the gorge) without paying out on local taxis; making this a potentially cost-effective solution.
A shuttle bus operates between Takachiho Bus Center and the gorge (¥140, 5 min), but it's infrequent, and usually it's faster just to walk (about 30 min). Since this gorge-bound bus seems to be no longer operational since dec 2011, electric bicycle would be the most cost effective way to get around to inner-city attractions (like the shrine or gorge), and is available for rent ¥300 per hour (enquire at the bus center). Another bus connects to the Ama-no-Iwato Shrine, about 10 km and 15 min away.
Local taxi drivers are well aware of this issue. The taxi terminal is adjacent to the bus center, thus they might in fact approach you the moment you alight from the bus. If not, they will be sleeping in their vehicles waiting for passengers. They know the routine well, but their assistance obviously comes at a price. 7 minutes to gorge from ¥1000.
- Takachiho Gorge (高千穂峡). Carved by the Gokase River, the highlight here is the 17m Minai-no-taki Waterfall. While there is a hiking path along the edge, it's best viewed by renting a boat (¥1500/30 min for up to 3 people) and going for a paddle, since the current is gentle and easy to navigate.* edit
- Ama-no-Iwato Shrine (天岩戸神社). The cave where Amaterasu hid and the shrine protecting it. This being a Shinto site, the cave itself is much too holy to let mere mortals inside, but there's an observation deck across the river and pilgrims have stacked countless stones on the paths around the shrine. edit
Miyazaki's standard array of souvenirs are available here, namely delicious mango-flavoured everything. Keep an eye out for the signs emblazoned with Miyazaki's mascot: a cutesified (but startling accurate) image of Hideo Higashikokubaru, a comedian and the prefecture's former governor, dressed up like a used-car salesman.
Kagura senbei is unique to takachiho and its folklore. These rice cakes have images of the traditional yokagura dance baked into them.
- Onokoro Jaya Teahouse (おのころ茶屋). Located at the base of Takachiho Gorge itself, perched on a cliff atop the boating area. Although the gorge views are reserved for the kitchen staff, the gardens facing the shopfront are amazingly beautiful in their own right. Drinks are priced a touch above average at 400 yen a coffee, 400/600 yen a beer, ramune 150 yen and 500 yen for the eponymous Japanese green tea. However, the real attraction here is the food. In addition to a variety of delicious fishy treats, this teahouse offers Nagashi Somen (そめん流し, lit. flowing noodles), where for 500 yen per person, you are issued a set of chopsticks, a cup of dipping sauce and must catch your noodles as they rush towards you down a bamboo flume. The clusters come progressively thicker and faster but don't worry, any you miss are caught in a basket and given to you at the end as a consolation prize (provided your friends don't nab them first!). It's a lot of fun and provides some sweet justification for any money you may have spent honing your rhythm game skills in the local arcade. edit
- Chiho no Ie Teahouse (千穂の家). Another teahouse situated directly adjacent to the one above listed above. This establishment too serves Nagashi Somen, packing not four but a whopping eight bamboo chutes. As is typical with competing eateries in Japan, the prices are largely identical so pick whichever is least crowded. The takachiho beef grill or rice bowl is also a must try here. Known for its sweetnest, japan-famous miyazaki cattle here is fed with squeezed beer curd and once won national best wagyu awards. edit
There are at least two hotels in Takachiho town, plus a fancy hotel located directly above the gorge (where the trail begins).
Allegedly there is a campground facility downstream in the gorge. However, as of July 2010, the section of trail from the boat rental shop leading to the campsite meanders straight into a no entry sign (and if you care to peek beyond, the trail meanders into an impassably deep whirlpool). A vehicular road also connects to the campsite but its a rather indirect route, but doable by walking in the direction of the takachiho temple on the nature trial till the small temple bridge.
In the winter months, you can also go for overnight yogura dance events in yogura halls which last till morning. As the selected hall/location change everyday and the schedule is dotted with rest days, you should enquire in advance on online websites. However this trouble is worth the calmaradi experience.
- The Takachiho tourist information office (official site  Japanese) is located on the corner opposite the central bus station.
Many japanese drive to the nearby mountain peak 7km away for magnificient sunrise viewing. You will get to see the sun peeking over a sea of clouds blanketing the many mountains.
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