Drive Through Kyushu: 3 Days of Nature and History in Nagasaki, Kumamoto, and Miyazaki
Kyushu is the third largest island in Japan. It has a long history, bountiful nature, and plenty of tourist attractions to explore. We were given an opportunity to explore this region, so we packed our bags and mapped a path for three iconic prefectures: Nagasaki, known for its plethora of iconic sightseeing spots, including Dejima; Kumamoto, home to one of the three most famous castles in the country, Kumamoto Castle; and Miyazaki, full of natural beauty and spiritual places like Takachiho Gorge. Read on to see just what you can do in this majestic region in three days with a rental car!
Dec 21 2020 (Feb 02 2021)
[Day 3: Miyazaki: One of the Most Spiritual Parts of Japan]
Though Miyazaki Prefecture isn’t well known within the international community, the Japanese flock to this area for its spirituality. With its plethora of mystical sites that appear in many Japanese myths and folklore, it is actually one of the most spiritual parts of Japan! We go into more detail on some of its most famous spiritual sites in another article, but on our trip, we covered just one spot.
Takachiho Gorge: An In-Depth Look Into the Beauty of Japan’s History
Within this incredibly spiritual prefecture lies Takachiho Gorge. Roughly two hours away by car from Kumamoto, this gorge is an especially mystical place, home to many important spots in Japanese mythology such as Onokoro-jima Island, said to be one of many spots where the deities Izanagi-no-Mikoto and Izanami-no-Mikoto created Japan. With just one visit, we had the opportunity to see multiple spiritual spots, which was why we chose it as our main destination in Miyazaki Prefecture.
▪️ Manai Falls: Best Admired by Rental Boat
One of the main attractions of Takachiho Gorge is Manai Falls. Ranked as one of the top 100 most beautiful waterfalls in Japan, this 17-meter waterfall can be seen up close via rental boat. So, that’s just what we did!
Though we had never rowed a boat before, we quickly picked it up and had a blast avoiding the water spray while taking amazing pictures. It was so sunny that day that rainbows shone through the water spray, and the rock walls that surrounded us were equally as gorgeous, with unique patterns formed over time through multiple volcanic eruptions from the distant Mt. Aso.
Even though it was a weekday, there were a few other people doing the same which was testament to how popular it was amongst the Japanese. If you want to avoid the crowd, come early in the morning before lunchtime!
▪️ Chiho no Ie: The Origin of Nagashi Somen
Takachiho Gorge is also famous for being the origin of nagashi somen, a fun dish wherein somen noodles (thin wheat noodles) are placed into a bamboo pipe with running water and captured with chopsticks at various strategic points as they flow down the pipe. In fact, the idea came from the locally famous Chiho no Ie, a large restaurant chain within Takachiho.
While we didn’t eat nagashi somen as we chose to visit their main restaurant location, they do have a store dedicated to nagashi somen right next to a souvenir shop. In any case, we ended up eating three of their set meals and every single one of them tasted amazing.
The set with the chicken nanban—a Miyazaki specialty consisting of a deep-fried chicken cutlet with tartar sauce—was surprisingly light and easy to eat, while the sashimi set showcased the local seafood in various delicious ways. However, the star was definitely the Takachiho beef set! The beef was extremely tender and juicy, and the paired sauce gave it a lovely umami flavor that had us craving for more. It came with a personal grill so that we could make sure the beef was done the way we liked.
▪️ There’s More to Takachiho Than Just the Gorge…
Although our article may make it seem like the only thing to do at Takachiho is eat food and ride a rental boat, there’s actually far more available to explore within the area. A strolling path will take you through a small garden where you’ll find the aforementioned Onokoro-jima Island, and going past there, down some steps, will take you along a sightseeing path that’ll introduce you to more wonders of Takachiho. If you have the time to take an extended stroll, we suggest going through the entire path and seeing just how expansive the Takachiho area really is!
Pamphlets that show you all the key sightseeing spots of Takachiho are available in both English and Japanese. You can download the English version here: http://takachiho-kanko.info/en/images/common/takachiho_guidebook.pdf
[Explore Kyushu by Car!]
As the third largest island of Japan, Kyushu holds a good chunk of some of Japan’s best attractions. Gorgeous nature, a deep history, fresh and delicious food… It truly has it all. However, some of Kyushu’s best attractions can be rather secluded, making it difficult for the ordinary traveler to visit. If you have a driver’s license, rent a car and go on a road trip to explore Kyushu! Even with just three days, we managed to have an amazing trip, and we have no doubt you’ll experience the same.
For more information about Kyushu, check out the Visit Kyushu official website: https://www.visit-kyushu.com/en/
If you want to give feedback on any of our articles, you have an idea that you'd really like to see come to life, or you just have a question on Japan, hit us up on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.