Monday, 30 October 2017

Takachiho Gorge

A couple of days ago I did a very foolish thing. Sick of the stress of packing up (and other bad news), I impulsively decided to rent a car and drive to Takachiho Gorge. In my defense, I did google it and according to Google, it was a 3.5-hour drive, which sounded doable. Plus there were quite a few articles from people who drove there and back.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take into account that those people drove from Fukuoka. From Fukuoka, it's a little over two hours. But it takes another two hours to drive from Sasebo to Fukuoka. Which made it a 4 plus hour drive. And since I went alone, it meant that I had to drive there and back by myself, which is definitely not a good idea (please don't learn from me).

But, I have absolutely no regrets. Takachiho Gorge is gorgeous!

Let's start from the beginning. I got lost on the way to the gorge because the car navigation system led me down a closed road in Kumamoto. In the end, I had to ignore the navigation and just follow the signs for Minami-Aso and Takamori and managed to get the system to fix itself (while using Google maps as a backup). While Takachiho Gorge is in Miyazaki, it's actually pretty near Kumamoto, as my long detour will attest.

the road in
When I reached there, I was directed to a car park where I had to pay 500 yen for parking (other car parks seemed to be full)

The car park was pretty scenic, so I felt really happy just looking at it. Or perhaps I was just glad that the long, long drive was over.

To get to the entrance of the trail, I had to cross a small bridge which had really gorgeous views.

According to the map, the boat rental was here (about 2000 yen for 30 min) but the boat rental was unavailable due to the weather. And if I'm being honest, I wouldn't have rented the boat since I was by myself.

Other side of the bridge:

And this is the entrance to the trail! It's a 1km walk and takes about 30 minutes if you're walking slowly and taking photos. There are a lot of steps, but according to the map, there's a barrier-free course as well!

Walking in, I saw a little pond.

According to the sign there, this is called Onokoro Island. Long ago, there was a shrine located here and the sacred birds served the shrine. During the Takachiho Shrine Spring Festival, an omikoshi is carried around the pond three times for purification.

Just a little further away, I saw this:

Apparently, visitors can buy a heart and write their wishes on it.

The board next to it was filled with hearts!

And then I started on the trail! The map points out locations of interest, but to be honest I didn't really look at it. I was basically looking at the scenery, so I might have missed a few things.

Here comes the photo spam:

I saw little waterfalls here and there!

I feel like the next photo is the one that everyone takes when they come to Takachiho

I thought the following cliff was interesting.

Random shot of the path:

I'm not sure what happened, but there were lots of signs warning people not to go to the sandy or the rocky areas beause they were dangerous.

And this little rest house marks the end of the trail! I didn't take a close look but it seems like they sell both drinks and food. I also saw a carpark here.

To get back to the start of the trail, you basically have to retrace your footsteps. It sounds a bit boring, but actually I got to see everything from a different angle, which I really enjoyed.

Near the start of the trail there are a few restaurants and shops. Since I was feeling hungry, I decided to check them out:

I saw this shop, which sells nagashi somen. And according to them, they're the shop that invented the dish!

Plus they had delicious looking dango (350 yen for one) which is supposed to be a local speciality.

For nagashi somen, they basically let noodles flow down a bamboo trough and you have to try and pick it out of the water. Trying to get it out is half the fun.

I got the nagashi somen set (1000 yen). If you've got a bigger appetite than me, you can pay 500 yen more and get grilled fish added to the set meal.

I remember trying nagashi somen at Shiroito Waterfall during my first year at Kyudai. That year, I missed most of the noodles. This time was better, and I caught about 80% of the noodles, which means that my chopstick skills have finally improved!

By the way, they'll give you the noodles you didn't catch, so there's no need to worry about wasting food. The noodle tsuyu has ginger in it, which I liked quite a lot, and there was a nice yuzu-miso sauce on the konnyaku too!

Of course, the dango was delicious! I wish I could have eaten more but I was stuffed! 

After my meal, I decided to visit the aquarium next to the car park! According to the sign outside, the aquarium features fishes that used to be plentiful in Japan (quote says "I used to catch and eat these fish when I was young") and local fishes. Entry was only 300 yen so I decided to just take a look!

The aquarium is small but I saw a lot of interesting looking fish (and other aquatic animals)!

They even have a doctor fish corner, although I didn't try that.

All in all, I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected (for such a small place) and I think that it's worth going if you're at Takachiho and you like marine life.

With a time limit for the rental car, I made my way back to Sasebo. I was originally planning to drop by the Amano Iwato shrine because of its connection to the Shinto myths, but I wanted to play it safe. And it's a good thing I did because I made it back with only five minutes to spare!

I did see Bambi's father on the way back, though, which has to count for something! I also realised that I get sleepy on long drives, which is fine if you're in the passenger seat but definitely not good if you're the one driving. So I had to stop once (which is probably why I barely made it back in time), stretch my legs and then turn the aircon to the coldest setting before setting off again. I may have frozen my fingers by the time I reached back but at least I wasn't sleepy again!

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