Takachiho is known as the land of Japanese mythology. There are lots of shrines and places that are related to the mythology. And also Takachiho Gorge is one of the “Must-See” spots in southern Kyushu area.
I visited there in mid March, 2012. I would like to share my experience with you. I hope this will be helpful for your trip to Takachino.
My itinerary and summary of access to Takachiho
View Trip to Takachiho in a larger map
You cannot access to Takachiho by any train services. There are several bus routes available. You can access to Takachiho from three cities in Kyushu, Kumamoto, Nobeoka and Hakata. The rail passes, such as JR Pass and Kyushu Rail Pass cover to access to those three cities only. You have to pay extra for these bus services to Takachiho.
But if you use Sun-Q Pass, it is covered. Sun-Q Pass is the bus pass which covers most bus services in Kyushu. Please see the link below to find the detailed information:
In my trip, I got on Airport shuttle bus from Kumamoto station to Kumamoto airport. I could catch the express bus to Takachiho at Kumamoto station. But I had to meet my mother at the airport. So I took the bus to airport. And then I got on the express bus to Takachiho. On next day, I got on the commute bus from Takachiho to Nobeoka. My itinerary was the following:
March 17, 2012
08:00 Depart from Kumamoto station bus stop by Airport shuttle bus
08:53 Arrive at Kumamoto airport.
10:04 Depart from Kumamoto airport by Express bus to Nobeoka via Takachiho
12:09 Arrive at Takachiho bus center
I visited Takachiho shrine, Takachiho Gorge, Amanoiwato shrine and Amanoyasukawara.
I watched Kagura in the evening.
March 18, 2012
08:15 Depart from Takachiho bus center by local bus to Nobeoka
09:45 Arrive at Nobeoka station
Takachiho Railway used to operate the passengers train service between Nobeoka and Takachiho. But the truck was damaged by the typhoon in 2005. It was not recovered due to a financial issue. I saw some old trucks along the roadside when I traveled there. But now the small sightseeing train service “Super Cart” runs between Takachiho and Takachiho bridge. Takachiho bridge was the highest railway bridge. You can enjoy the amazing scenery from this train. Unfortunately they have only Japanese website. But I put the link below for your convenience.
From Kumamoto station and Kumamoto airport to Nobeoka station via Takachiho
There is a joint express bus service to Nobeoka via Takachiho by Kyushu Sanko bus and Miyazaki Kotsu bus. Since Kumamoto is very accessible by Kyushu Shinkansen from Hakata and Osaka, Kumamoto is most common gateway to get Takachiho.
Please see Sanko Bus official site to get a timetable and a faretable.
They operate only two round tips a day. Once you miss the bus in the morning, you must wait for next bus until late afternoon. Reservation was not required when I took this bus service but it does now. If you do not make a reservation, you may take a bus if the bus has an unoccupied seat. However Takachiho has been getting popular in these days. Advanced reservation is highly recommended.
Please see the link below to find a reservation site.
This coach does not equip a washroom. The bus stop at Takamori Chuo for 5 to 10 minutes in the middle of Kumamoto and Takachiho. You can take a break at this stop. If you take a bus from Kumamoto station, you do not have a chance to go to washroom for 1.5 hour.
View Kumamoto station bus stops in a larger map
If you take a bus at Kumamoto station, the bus depart from bus stop #3. Exit from Shirakawaguchi exit at Kumamoto station. When you exit the station, you will see JR Kyushu Kumamoto Hotel (light brown colored 10 stories building) on your right side. Bus stop #3 is located behind this building. If you want to buy a ticket before ride, you need to go to information center beside bus stop #1. You may see Hotel New Otani on your left side at the Shirakawaguchi exit. Information is located beside this hotel. Don’t expect the building. Information center is a small booth. Both bus stop #1 and #3 (information center) are located within 50m from the Shirakawaguchi exit. Don’t worry. You can’t miss it.
If you stay in Kumamoto, you may be able to take a bus at Kumamoto Kotsu Center. The downtown of Kumamoto is actually not located near the station. It is near Kumamoto castle. Kumamoto Kotsu Center is located in the middle of downtown Kumamoto. Your hotel may be closer to Kumamoto kotsu center than Kumamoto station. If you take a bus here, the bus stops at bay #6. Please see the map on the right and make sure locations.
If you take a bus at Kumamoto airport, the bus stop is located near arrival exit.
In Takachiho, all bus stop at Takachiho bus center.
If you catch a bus at Nobeoka, the bus center is just located in front of the station. It is quite easy because Nobeoka station has only one exit. You cannot miss it.
From Nobeoka station to Takachiho
Nobeoka is the nearest station from Takachiho. But Nobeoka is not very accessible from other places unless you get Nobeoka from Miyazaki or Oita. It is 4 hours away from Hakata by limited express Sonic and Nichirin. But Kumamoto is only 40 minutes away from Hakata by Kyushu Shinkansen.
If you get on a bus at Nobeoka station bus center, there are some more trips by a local commute bus on top of express bus services between Nobeoka and Kumamoto. It runs once an hour almost all day.
The fare is 1,790 yen between Nobeoka and Takachiho. It is exactly same fare as an express bus service. Since this is the local commute bus, reservation is not required.
Visit Miyazaki Bus Pass
If you take this local bus, I recommend you to purchase one day unlimited ride pass.
It is sold at 1,500 yen and it is cheaper than one way regular fare. But this pass does not cover the express bus service. Please be careful when you take a bus. This pass covers other local bus services in Miyazaki. If you intend to visit some places in Miyazaki, this pass is very good choice.
From Hakata station and Tenjin bus terminal to Takachiho
I have never took this bus service. This express bus service is operated by both Miyazaki Kotsu and Nishitetsu Bus co. It takes 3 hours 30 minutes. There are four round trips a day. This is operated by a highway motor coach that equip a washroom, Wi-Fi, a power outlet and blanket. You must make a reservation to take this bus. Please see the link below to find a reservation site.
Sun Q Pass
As I mentioned above too, Sun Q Pass offers unlimited ride on most of express and local bus in Kyushu. You can get almost anywhere in Kyushu by this pass. Hakata to/from Takachiho and Kumamoto to/from Takachiho bus services are covered by this pass. You may consider to use this pass.
Tips in Takachiho
I stayed at Hotel Grateful Takachiho. This hotel is nothing special. But this is one of a few western style hotels in Takachiho. It was clean and neat.
When you go to Takachiho Gorge, you need to go down the hill for 1.5 km from Takachiho shrine. It is a paved road and takes about 20 minutes. But you need to go up the hill on the way back. I went there with my mother. She almost gave up. But we went down. Hopefully we could get a cab down there. So if you don’t want to go up the hill on foot, take a taxi from the town and ask driver to pick you up later. I strongly recommend you to go this point. This was a breathtaking view. You can enjoy the view from the trail or on the rental boat. There are some souvenir shops and restaurants. This spot is spoiled. 🙂
Takachiho Gorge and Takachiho shrine are located in town of Takachiho. But other spots, like Amanoiwato shrine, are a bit away from town of Takachiho. I took a taxi from Takachiho Gorge to Amanoiwato shrine. The fare was 2200 yen.
If you stay overnight in Takachiho, you cannot miss Kagura (神楽). It is Shinto native dance. Original Kagura is performed all through the night. But short version Kagura is performed at Takachiho shrine every night. It takes jst one hour from 20:00 and admission is 500 yen per person. This is very interesting and one of popular attraction in Takachiho. But if you see this without any knowledge about Shinto and Japanese Mythology, it might be boring. All performances look same.
If you are not interesting in Kagura, you don’t need to stay in Takachiho and transfer to Kumamoto or Miyazaki. Nobeoka is the closet city from Takachiho. But Nobeoka is one of those small cities in Kyushu. If you don’t want to go to Kumamoto, take a train to Miyazaki from Nobeoka. Miyazaki is one hour away from Nobeoka by limited express Nichirin. This express train is covered by Japan Rail Pass fully. I got on this train after I arrived at Nobeoka. And I visited Udo Jingu shrine and got on the popular train Umisachi-Yamasachi. I would like to write about access to Udo Jingu shrine in next post.