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Takachiho Gorge

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Imagine emerald waters carving their way through towering basalt cliffs, their jagged faces adorned with ancient moss and whispering tales of forgotten gods. Imagine mist dancing through a sun-dappled forest, the rhythmic roar of a waterfall echoing through the canyon like a dragon's song. This is Takachiho Gorge, a breathtaking natural wonder nestled in the heart of Kyushu, Japan, where myth and reality intertwine in a landscape of unparalleled beauty.

As you descend into the gorge, the towering rock walls close in, framing a scene straight out of a Shinto painting. Lush greenery carpets the slopes, punctuated by the vibrant red and orange of ancient shrines clinging precariously to the cliffs. Sunlight pierces the canopy, casting dappled shadows on the emerald surface of the Gokase River, gurgling and swirling its way through the ancient canyon.

This is a place where few tourists visit, because of how deep it lies within Kyushu. If you do make it here, welcome to the wonders Takachiho Gorge has for you. Many people drive in, but there are those who elect to take the bus.

One of the most iconic experiences in Takachiho Gorge is a boat ride down the river. You'll glide beneath towering rock formations, each with its own fantastical name: "Old Man's Beard," "Devil's Claw," and the awe-inspiring "Manai Falls," a 17-meter cascade that plunges into the emerald depths below.

As you row your boat, you can feed the ducks.

Takachiho Gorge is more than just a scenic wonder; it's a portal to a bygone era, a place where history whispers from the wind and myths resonate in the roar of the falls. It's a place to reconnect with nature, to lose yourself in its captivating beauty, and to emerge with a renewed sense of wonder and connection to the world around you.

You have two main options for renting a boat at Takachiho Gorge:

1. Takachiho Gorge Boat Rental Station: This is the official boat rental station located right next to the entrance of the gorge. They offer traditional rowboats that can accommodate up to three people for 30 minutes. The cost is¥4,100~¥5,100 per boat, depending on when it was rented. Best to book ahead of time. You can find them here:

2. Individual boatmen: Along the path leading to the boat rental station, you may also find individual boatmen offering their services. These typically operate smaller boats and their prices can vary depending on the length of the ride and the number of passengers.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind:

  • Boat rides operate from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm (closing time may vary depending on the season).

  • Boat rides only run when the water levels are safe.

  • Be aware that the boats can get quite crowded, especially during peak season.

For those who are interested, Takachiho Gorge is deeply entwined with Japanese mythology. The gorge is considered the birthplace of Japanese creation myths, where gods and goddesses played out their dramas against the backdrop of towering cliffs and cascading waterfalls. Here are some of the most fascinating myths surrounding Takachiho Gorge:

Credit to Japan-guide

Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, and the Cave of Amano-Iwato: One of the most famous creation myths in Japan centers around Amaterasu, the sun goddess. According to the myth, Amaterasu's mischievous brother, Susanoo, destroyed her rice fields and threw a dead horse into her weaving room. Enraged and distraught, Amaterasu retreated into the Amano-Iwato cave, plunging the world into darkness. The other gods and goddesses, desperate to bring back the light, devised a clever plan. They set up a stage outside the cave and performed a raucous and comedic dance, complete with music and laughter. Intrigued by the commotion, Amaterasu peeked out of the cave, and one of the gods, Ame-no-Uzume, peeked into the cave to make her laugh out loud, trapping her outside with their reflection. Her light returned to the world, bringing warmth and life back to the earth. The Amano-Iwato cave, located near the entrance of Takachiho Gorge, is believed to be the very cave where Amaterasu hid. Visitors can walk up to the cave and peek inside, experiencing a sliver of the darkness that engulfed the world when the sun goddess hid away. You can read more about Cave of Amano-Iwato here.

Credit to Tripadvisor

The Yoro Falls and the Descent of Ninigi-no-Mikoto: Another prominent myth tells the story of Ninigi-no-Mikoto, the grandson of Amaterasu, who was sent down to earth to rule over Japan. He landed on Takachiho Peak, located next to Takachiho Gorge, and descended to the earth via Yoro Falls, a spectacular waterfall that cascades down the cliffs of the gorge.

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