Scenic town in the mountains: Takachiho

I left Kumamoto with the morning bus heading to Takachiho and Takamori. The plan was to spend the day sightseeing in Takamori then take the second and last bus of the day to Takachiho and sleep there overnight.

Unfortunately it was raining quite strongly and my shoes weren’t made to hold so much water: I didn’t really want to spend six hours outside walking with soaked shoes in the rain, with my backpack! I decided to stay on the bus and go straight to Takachiho instead, wishing the weather was better so I could’ve visited Takamori.

But my disappointment washed away as soon as I arrived to my destination… Takachiho is so beautiful! I dropped my backpack off at my minshuku, where I’d be sleeping two nights, and started my sightseeing right away. The mountains were covered in mist and the other visitors were hiding, so it was a very silent day.

I knew a restaurant I wanted to try so that’s where I was heading. I soon found myself high above the valley with some gorgeous views!

When I reached the restaurant they told me they weren’t taking orders anymore, the kitchen was closed for the day, so I decided to have some lunch at the end of the gorge instead. Luck really wasn’t on my side that day. Either way, it was a beautiful walk to the restaurant so I had no complaints.

It seemed like they’d had a full house!

Takachiho is famous for its gorge, where visitors can rent row boats and paddle around the river below the waterfalls. It’s a very scenic image that you’ve probably seen a few times if you’re planning a trip to Kyushu. The town’s main road takes a left turn at one point and then zig zags down the valley until the start of a small walking trail by the river.

The restaurant where I did eventually have lunch, in the photo above, is known for «nagashi somen» or «fast noodles». The restaurant has a long bamboo, cut open in half, with water running down from one end to the other. They will then let some noodles go at the start and they will fly down the bamboo together with the water. We’re supposed to catch the noodles with our chopsticks before they reach the end! It’s very fun to try out and, don’t worry, whatever you don’t manage to catch the owner of the restaurant will bring back to you.

I’m not skilled enough to take photos and catch noodles with my chopsticks at the same time, so I asked a Korean couple in front of me if I could take some photos of them trying it out. Here’s his attempt:

In the white basket are the noodles I didn’t catch… and some more dishes to eat after the game.

They also had some hot dango which I was more than happy to sample.

After a few hours around the gorge, it was starting to get a bit too cold to stay outside and I headed back to my accommodation. It was a simple minshuku, a family-run inn, but quite cosy.

And the views from my room’s window were great!

I ended my day with a visit to Takachiho Shrine. Every evening they do «kagura» performances, a specific type of Japanese folk dance that is dedicated to entertaining the gods. Kagura dances are said to have been the first Japanese dance, precursor to kabuki, and were born here in Takachiho. Specifically, at a cave I visited the next day.

The rain picked up again as I left the shrine so I was glad to be back in my room shortly after.

Read part two, my second day in Takachiho!

 

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