Follow in the footsteps of the gods, take the Takachiho Gorge Tour

Just over the border into Miyazaki Prefecture, the romantic Takachiho Gorge winds its way through the sleepy town of Takachiho. The gorge was formed from the pyroclastic flow of the Aso volcanos, when sudden cooling led to dramatic columnar formations and sheer cliffs that rise above the river between 80 to 100 m high. At the base the blue green Gokase river runs, and sightseers row at a leisurely pace past the stunning Manai waterfall that falls over the gorge edge. The gorge is renowned as one of the most uniquely, beautiful scenic spots in Kyushu.  Explore Kumamoto’s Takachiho Gorge tour visits this natural wonder and also some of the key shrines and locations connected with the founding myths of Japan.

Why take a tour?

Takachiho Gorge is a must see location, the gorge is geologically unique and unforgettably beautiful. Difficult to reach by public transport, by taking a private tour you can get to Takachiho and back within the day from Kumamoto or Aso and have plenty of time to see the sights. Boating on the gorge is a very popular activity and by taking a personal tour it is possible to get an early start, beat the crowds of bus tourists and avoid lengthy queues. The tour includes your own dedicated private transport and an English speaking guide / translator. The tour can be customised to fit in with your interests and schedule. Here are a couple of reviews from our guests:

My husband and I joined Explore Kumamoto on a day trip to Takachiho Gorge. It was a wonderful and memorable experience for us. The autumn view of the gorge is marvellous. Most importantly, Helen did a great job of explaining the myths and culture behind the things we saw. She was also responsive to my emails and requests prior to the trip. The day trip really maximized our time spent there. It was a great experience.  Kexin and Cedric Nov 2015


“We only had a day to spend in Kumamoto so we maximised our time by joining the explore Kumamoto Takachiho gorge tour.  This proved to be a great decision as Helen was a fantastic guide.  She was able to impart interesting facts about the mythology of the place and witty anecdotes about Japanese culture.
The gorge didn’t disappoint and was stunning in Autumn.  Its actually not easy to get to so we highly recommend this tour if you’re after a memorable experience!” Joe & Daniel Nov 2015

Read more tour reviews here

Pick up and drop off point at either Higo Ozu Station* (about 30 mins from Kumamoto station) or in the Aso area. *We prefer not to pick up from within Kumamoto City as we lose so much valuable tour time driving in and out of the city, there will be an extra charge for a Kumamoto City pickup. By meeting our customers at Higo Ozu station we can add valuable sightseeing time into the day.

Tour Duration: 1 Day ( 8.5 hours)

Maximum Number of People: 9

Price: From 6,000 Yen per person plus transport* (this is for a Higo Ozu pick up)

*Transport costs are shared between the number of people on the tour, this allows us to run tours even for small numbers of people like single travellers, please contact us for details.

Children up to the age of 16 are half price.
Tour Highlights:

takachiho jinjaTakachiho Shrine – The solemnly peaceful 1800 year old shrine is set in a wonderful grove of towering Japanese Cryptomeria trees, the oldest said to be around 800 years old. The most famous of the trees are the ‘Couple tree’ actually two gigantic trees growing side by side. The ritual for couples is to make a wish, then walk around the trees together clockwise three times, to ensure the wish will be granted.


TakachihoTakachiho Gorge Walk –  Designated as a a National Natural Treasure, the gorge has been pulling in visitors for centuries. We take a relaxing walk along the side of the gorge towards the village centre passing  fascinating rock formations, many with legendary tales attached and offering stunning photographic opportunities.



Takachiho boatingBoating on the GorgeA boat ride has to be the best way to appreciate the Gorge. 3 people can ride in a boat and the river is easy to navigate, the rowing boats can be rented out for 30 minutes at a time and you don’t need any special skill to row one. The view from the boat looking directly up to the 17-meter Manai Falls is truly memorable, just make sure you don’t get too close! Keep rowing up past the falls to the far end and you can have the gorge all to yourself. On weekends and during peak season there can be lengthy queues so we advise getting to the gorge early.

Cost per boat: ¥2000 for 30 minutes
Boat capacity: 3 people per boat or 4 if two passengers are under 6 years old.
Boat rental hours: 8:30 ~ 16:30 daily Summer: 07:30 ~ 18:00

ama no iwato shrineAma No Iwato Shrine – This shrine, about 20 minutes drive from Takachiho town venerates the nearby site of the Amanoiwato or “holy rock cave” one of the most important sites in Japanese mythology and a place so sacred it is forbidden to enter. The shrine is in a peaceful setting, in the darkness of the main temple a copy of the mirror that tempted Amaterasu out of her cave is displayed glowing brightly.


Ama no yasukawaraAma no Yasukawara– From the shrine we take a 10-minute walk along the Iwato River, past many delicious looking icecream stalls,  descending into the river valley we come to a huge cavern by the river where, according to legend, all the gods and goddesses met to discuss how to get the sun goddesss Amaterasu to come out of the rock cave and end the darkness of the world.

The cavern is a mysterious place as over the years the custom has begun for visiting pilgrims to carry stones to the site and arrange them in small piles as prayer that their wishes may be answered. The immense array of stone piles now standing in the cave and on the Amayasu riverbank adds a truly mystical and sacred feeling to the site.

Nagashi SoumenNagashi Soumen Noodles Takachiho is not only famous for its gorge, it is also the creator of ‘Nagashi Soumen’ – ‘flowing noodles’ just about the most fun way to eat noodles ever! This simple and refreshing summer dish is made of super thin wheat flour noodles, plunged into ice cold water eaten with a very tasty dipping sauce and chives. Though it is a summer dish, Takachiho is the only place in Japan where you can sample Nagashi Soumen all year round!



Shirakawa sourceShirakawa Source – if we have time on the return journey we will visit another sacred spot, this one in the south of Aso where the mighty Shirakawa river is born from a wonderful crystal clear pool, the mineral water can be bottled and is said to have rejuvenating powers.


Customise your tour:

1000 sakuraIf you would like to customise your tour, please let us know, for example if you are planning on spending the night at Takachiho it’s possible to arrange visit to extra places on the way.

If you are visiting from late March to early April, we will take the route past the 1000 sakura from Takamori town.

Tour Inclusions:

The tour price includes the guide fee plus all transport costs for the day.

Tour Exclusions:

Rowing boat rental and lunch are not included as standard. (We do not include rowing as after heavy rain the river level can rise quickly which means rowing can be cancelled at short notice).

Please notify us of any special dietary or budgetary preferences when booking so we can advise what and where to eat lunch.

Contact Explore Kumamoto now to make a booking or ask a question.