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* (a 35 min train ride from Kumamoto station) or in the Minami Aso area.

Availability: Monday to Friday, we do not visit Takachiho on National holidays because it is too crowded.

Tour Duration: 1 Day ( 8.5 hours)

Maximum Number of People: 9

Price: From 6,000 Yen per person plus transport*

*Transport costs vary according to the group size, please contact us for details.

Family discounts available. (Please contact us with your children’s ages to find out more)

Activity level: Moderate, the tour involves some walking up and down hill and on steps.

A percentage of all tour profits will go towards helping the Kumamoto and Aso regions recover from the Kumamoto Earthquakes.

Takachiho Tour Model Itinerary:

Your tour starts with a scenic 90 minute journey through the Minami Aso caldera and over the Miyazaki border to Takachiho. On the way we will stop off at a couple of viewpoints to take in the views of Mount Aso, Japan’s most active volcano.




Takachiho boatingArriving in Takachiho we will head straight down into the Gorge :
Boating on the Gorge
A 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! Cost per boat: ¥2000 for 30 minutes
Boat capacity: 3 people per boat or 4 if two passengers are under 6 years old.

Takachiho Gorge Walk
–  Designated as a a National Natural Treasure, the gorge has been attracting visitors for centuries. A photographer’s dream, we take a relaxing walk up and down the gorge passing  fascinating rock formations and the famed views of the Manai waterfall.



We then have time for lunch and souvenir shopping, there are several restaurants to choose from in the gorge but hands down the most popular dish is:Nagashi Soumen
Nagashi Soumen Noodles:  Takachiho invented this way of chilling their noodles back in the 1950’s and these ‘flowing noodles’ are a lot of fun to eat! The simple and refreshing summer dish is made of super thin wheat flour noodles, plunged into ice cold water and sent down a long bamboo pipe running with fresh spring water, you scoop up your noodles with your chopsticks, and dip into  a tasty sauce and quickly eat before the next portion comes down. Though it is a summer dish, Takachiho is one of the few places in Japan where you can sample Nagashi Soumen all year round.


takachiho jinjaAfter lunch we take a short drive out of the gorge up to the Takachiho 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 1000 years old. The most famous of the trees are the ‘Meoto Sugi tree’ actually two gigantic trees growing side by side who are said to be married. The ritual for couples is to make a wish for their relationship, then walk around the trees together clockwise three times, to ensure the wish will be granted. Here we will also pay a short visit to the Yokagura theatre where you will hear the myth of the Sun goddess Amaterasu and the cave.


ama no iwato shrineWe then take a 10 minute drive out of Takachiho Town through some beautiful countryside to the tiny village of  Iwato the famed location for the two caves associated with the Amaterasu Myth. Our first stop is Ama No Iwato Shrine – This shrine, about 20 minutes drive from Takachiho town venerates the nearby site the 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 lovely 10-minute walk along the Iwato River, past a couple of delicious looking ice cream stalls. Descending into the narrow 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 trick the sun goddesss Amaterasu 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 prayers that their wishes may be answered. The immense array of stone piles now standing in the cave and on the riverbank adds a truly mystical and sacred feeling to the site.

Heading back we usually have time for an icecream or drink in Iwato before heading back to Higo Ozu Station. there is also usually a chance to stop off at the Takachiho Tunnel Roadstop, a souvenir and alcohol shop next to a 1 km long disused railway tunnel packed full of Shochu (a distilled and very alcoholic spirit), here they offer a free shochu tasting for anyone brave enough to try!

We usually arrive back at Higo Ozu Station before 17:30



1000 sakura

If you are visiting in early to mid April and teh sakura is in bloom we can take the scenic route past the 1000 sakura from Takamori town.



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)

If rowing is not possible we will usually fit in an extra stop into your tour such as the Kunimigaoka viewpoint, a 10 minute drive from the Gorge offering panoramic views of the surrounding mountain scenery.

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