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Where can I go off the beaten track in Japan? – Part 1

Where can I go off the beaten track in Japan?

Have you already been to Japan once or twice? Maybe more!! How about taking an adventure to find some hidden gems or just get away from the big cities? Why not go off the beaten track in Japan!

I’m Emi, a Japan Explorer staff member – a Japan expert who used to be a ‘tenjoin’ (tour guide/tour conductor) in Japan and travelled throughout the whole of Japan!).

There are so many beautiful places to see in Japan. Whether you like rivers, mountains, forests, hidden walks, onsen retreats….or even the big cities, there is something here for everyone.

We are talking about “off the beaten track in Japan”, so to get to some areas can be quite challenging. Some places can still be accessed by public transportation, but trains/buses may not be frequent enough to make your visit convenient and time efficient. It could take a long time just to reach your destination. Therefore, it’s always a great idea to prepare and organise in advance when you plan on visiting these ‘hidden gem’ type places.

Here is one of my three favourite places to get “off the beaten track in Japan” which will never let you down.

Takachiho Gorge in Miyazaki (Kyushu region)

Takachiho is located in the north of Miyazaki Prefecture on Kyushu Island, near the border of Oita and Kumamoto. The little town in the middle of the mountains is a famous site in Japanese mythology. You can witness the magnificent natural landscape, the ancient shrines and the solemn and mysterious “Kagura” dance – a Shinto ritual designated as an important intangible folk cultural asset.

Takachiho Gorge is the part of the Gosegawa Valley and was formed by multiple eruptions of Mount Aso. It stretches for about 7km in a V-formation with towering cliffs of 80-100 metres in height. Manai Waterfalls is one of the highlights of the gorge. The 17 metre high falls is one of Japan’s “Top 100 Waterfalls”.

There’s a 1.2km walking track nearby and you can get some amazing views from the bridges that cross the Gokase River. Here you’ll find Takachiho’s ‘san-dan bashi’ – a series of 3 arch bridges that provide a unique sight in Japan.

Off the beaten track in Japan Takachiho Gorge

Local Experiences:

Take a pleasant walk on the Foot Path about 1.2km and enjoy the magnificent natural scenery in a rowboat!

Off the beaten track in Japan Takachiho Gorge
Off the beaten track in Japan Takachiho Gorge

You could also take a little bit of an adventure to the Amanoiwato Shrine with Amanoyasugawara (a cave shrine).

Off the beaten track in Japan Takachiho

You won’t want to miss Takachiho Shrine and the Kagura Dance which takes place at the shrine!

Off the beaten track in Japan Takachiho
Off the beaten track in Japan Takachiho

Tip! Takachiho is a hidden gem, but still a lot of people visit. It would be ideal to stay a night….or two. After people start leaving in the later afternoon, Takachiho is covered in silence at night. You will see its real ‘mysterious and secret’ face.  In the evening, after checking in to your accommodation and before dinner, revisit the gorge area and wander around. (The waterfalls and the foot path will be illuminated with coloured LED lights from 6-10pm daily.)

Visiting here would be best by hiring and driving a car! If you’d like to rent a car in Japan, visit here.

A sample itinerary that includes a visit to Takachiho – https://www.japanexplorer.com.au/japan-holiday-packages/west-and-south-explorer/kyushu-by-tourist-train-15-days/