TAKACHIHO GORGE – MOST BEAUTIFUL WATERFALL IN JAPAN
Takachiho Gorge is one of the most incredible natural attractions on Kyushu Island, Japan. In the forest of Miyazaki, the Gokase River runs through a gorge comprised of volcanic basalt columns where the 17-meter high Minainotaki Waterfall pours down on the awe-struck tourists below who are paddling the iconic rowboats through the narrow chasm.
HOW TO GET TO TAKACHIHO GORGE
Takachiho Gorge is in the Miyazaki Prefecture on Kyushu Island, Japan. While you can base yourself in Miyazaki, it’s much more common to be based in Fukuoka (biggest city of Kyushu) or Kumamoto. If you are based in either of those two cities it is best to rent a car for the day or as I did, rent a car for your entire trip throughout Kyushu Island. Having the car made it super easy to visit all of the epic natural attractions and there just wasn’t too much in the way of public transports aside from the lines to and from the major cities. Getting to remote waterfalls or volcanoes is either done on a tour or in a car for the most part.
Takachiho Gorge from Fukuoka: From Fukuoka City to Takachiho Gorge it is a 178km journey taking 2 hours and 40 minutes. There are a few stops you could make along the way to break the journey up but it is inevitably a long journey. An alternative to driving all that way is to take the train to Kumamoto but then you will need to join a tour from there.
Takachiho Gorge from Kumamoto: Kumamoto is about the best spot to base for your visit to Takachiho Gorge. It’s a 77km journey that will take you 1 hour and 40 minutes from Kumamoto by car.
TAKACHIHO GORGE MAP LOCATION
BEST TIME TO VISIT TAKACHIHO GORGE
Kyushu Island is beautiful in the summer and the fall, which are the most popular times for tourists. In the fall you get the beautiful tinged orange and different colors on the trees and in the summer you are blessed with the best weather. I visited in the winter, which was not the prettiest time as lots of the leaves were dead so there were plenty of sparse trees. However, Takachiho Gorge was at a lower elevation and in a spot that was still beautiful and green in the winter. The conclusion is pretty much that it is a year-round attraction, which will only differ slightly at various times throughout the year.
The time of day that you visit is actually the most important factor rather than the time of year which you visit. This is because the light flows down onto the waterfall creating a golden flow for a brief hour-spell. I arrived at 10 am and then around 11 am the waterfall began to glow as the sun was in the right spot. This was the best time for photographs and just to enjoy the gorge in the best lighting whether you have a camera or not. Try and get there mid-morning and hang out for a while giving you time to set-up and get your row-boat or find a nice spot to take in the gorge.
ENTRY FEES AND BOAT FEES AT TAKACHIHO GORGE
- There is a 1000 Yen entry fee and the area is open from 8 am to 9 pm every day other than special occasions where the opening times may differ.
- The fee to rent a boat has risen dramatically recently and as of February 2020 the price to have a 30-minute paddle in a row boat is 3000 Yen.
MY EXPERIENCE AT TAKACHIHO GORGE
When I visited Takachiho Gorge I was based in Fukuoka but I highly advise visiting while based in Miyazaki, Beppu or Kumamoto to make the journey much shorter. I caught the train to Kumamoto and then met my tour guide from the Klook Tour I had booked. Helen our driver met us at the train station and off we went in her tour van to Takachiho Gorge. We made some other stops throughout the day but the main focus of the day was to visit Takachiho, which is the most popular attraction on Kyushu.
You don’t necessarily need a guide but it was handy as guides always are. Helen was super chill and helped us get there at the right time for the best lighting and told us how to rent the boats, where to go at specific times for the golden light on the waterfall and provided some background info on the waterfall and the gorge. The transit to and from Kumamoto station was also super handy. So, getting a guide isn’t necessary but definitely handy and if you have a big group it could make things easier.
We arrived at Takachiho Gorge at around 10 am, which proved to be perfect timing. The golden lighting hit the waterfall about 45-minutes later so we were in the prime time for photos once we were in the boats and on the viewing platform. We straight away headed down to the dock area where all the rental boats are. On the way down you will pass a magnificent waterfall, which is overshadowed by the famous Minainotaki Waterfall, which is the star of the show in the gorge.
I was a little bit shocked to find out the price of renting a boat for 3000 Yen, which at the time I visited equated to about to $30 USD or $50 AUD. It seemed a bit steep for a 30-minute wooden rowboat paddle but it’s always booked out and very popular so the demand is there. If you are on a budget, you can just see it all from the platforms and still have a great experience without coughing up $50 Aussie dollars for the boat rental, which isn’t included in the Klook Tour.
We began the very short paddle into the gorge to visit the waterfall. I’ve heard on bus days it is hectic with boats left, right and center but when we went it was just before the Corona Virus outbreak and during winter so crowds were very low and only a few boats were on the water.
The paddle is quite easy and takes just a few minutes to get right up close and personal with the waterfall. In total, you will only have to paddle about 200m one-way and then back to see the entire gorge. It’s a very relaxing and great family activity. First, you will paddle underneath the stone bridge and then alongside the Minainotaki Waterfall. It sprayed us a little but mostly we just enjoyed the stunning gorge, which is made of volcanic basalt columns. The columns are said to resemble the scales of a dragon where the stones were twisted when the river flowed in the formation of the gorge.
The second way to enjoy the Takachiho Gorge is from one of the many viewing points. My two favorites were the bridge and the lower (most popular) viewpoint. The bridge gives you a very elevated view of the boats and the waterfall below, framed nicely by the overhanging trees and the walls of the gorge.
The lower viewpoint is said to be incredibly crowded during popular times of the year but we had it mostly to ourselves. This was when the light really hit the waterfall making it seem like a golden flow down into the river of the gorge. This was my favorite moment out of our entire visit to Takachiho Gorge and I was stoked on the photos I captured as well.
The final little spot we visited was taking a walk further down the gorge where you can get a close-up look of the basalt columns and even cross a few more bridges that look directly down into the chasm below. This entire region is amazing with a surprise around every corner.
Make sure you try the noodle shops beside the river that deliver your noodles in quite a unique way. They use tubes of bamboo to float your noodles down the table along to you and you need to scoop them up with chopsticks. The stores use naturally cooled water from the waterfall to keep the noodles at the right temperature (yes… cold noodles). It’s a great experience and capped off a beautiful little adventure day for us.