The Shiibayama region of the Takachiho district in Miyazaki Prefecture offers traditional Shinto rituals and activities that get you out in nature.【PR】

The Takachiho-Shiibayama Site is certified as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS). The people here make the most of the mountainous environment with a multifaceted approach to agriculture and forestry, log-cultivating shiitake mushrooms, creating terraced rice fields, raising Miyazaki beef, and more. The abundant natural region is also known for its traditional kagura Shinto rituals–dances dedicated to the gods. Visitors can enjoy delicious cuisine made with local ingredients or immerse themselves in nature with cycling or other outdoor activities. They can also experience Japanese events shrouded in mystery. Read on to learn more about the rich culinary, recreational, and cultural variety that a trip to this area offers.

The traditional heritage of this area has been globally recognized for its long and intimate ties to nature.

View from the large ginkgo observation deck in the Shiibayama region

Miyazaki will be the site of players’ camps for athletes of team Japan and team England when the Rugby World Cup is held here starting in September 2019. The rich natural beauty of the Takachiho gorge and Shiibayama region of Miyazaki was recognized as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS)* in 2015.

The local people live surrounded by forests, which they use for a variety of agricultural and forestry pursuits. Lumber is cut from coniferous trees, shiitake mushrooms are cultivated on broadleaf logs, rice is grown on terraced mountainside fields, and more. There is also Miyazaki beef and river fishing amidst the natural abundance here, and the area leads Japan in the production of pan-fried kamairicha tea.

*Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) are recognized by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations for their valuable and traditional agricultural practices.

Enjoy mountain activities and traditional Shinto dances

Try some relaxed mountain yoga amidst lush greenery at one of the traditional farmhouses in an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings

If you come to the Takachiho-Shiibayama district, the highlights of your trip are sure to be food, nature, and Shinto rituals.

To kick things off, take an experiential tour that lets you harvest and cook mountain vegetables with the local residents in the Shiibayama district. Hyugashiiba Lake is created by an arch dam, and offers a delightful cycling course around the perimeter that traverses 35 kilometers and has an elevation change of nearly 600 meters.

Activities like mountain yoga let you experience the splendor of the mountainous outdoors at a traditional farmhouse, and is just one example of the rich variety of activities here that showcase the region’s food, natural surroundings, and culture.

The Manai waterfall is a symbol of the Takachiho gorge. Rent a boat and get even closer!

Another highlight of this area is the Takachiho gorge, an area that appears in mythic legends and is believed to be a “vortex” of intense natural energy. Water plummets for nearly 17 meters at the Manai waterfall, and there are also several scenic areas such as the amano iwato cave, which legend says is the hideout of Amaterasu Omikami, Japan’s highest-ranking ancient deity.

The region has also long held sacred Shinto kagura dances to pray for a bumper crop and other blessings, and these aspects of traditional culture are still revered and carried on to this day. The kagura dances tell stories rooted in myth, with performances that are open to the public. Watch as performers in masks dance to the sounds of flutes and taiko drums and let your imagination play as you conjure up meanings for each scene.

Find a good souvenir as a memento of this special place

There are also activities that allow you to paint a kagura mask. What better souvenir to remember your trip?

The closest airport to the Takachiho gorge/Shiibayama district is Kumamoto Airport. Catch a flight there from Haneda, Narita, or Kansai International Airport. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Kumamoto Airport to the Takachiho gorge. The Shiibayama district is located about two hours and thirty minutes away. There are ways to get here using public transportation, but it’s better to just rent a car at the Kumamoto Airport so that you’re free to move around and can use your time as you please. (see note)

Check out the trip platform site Odyssey Japan to find the perfect local experiential package. One hands-on package lets you paint and take home a mask like the ones used in a Takachiho kagura dance performance called Tajikarao, for example–a precious experience to last a lifetime.

Delight in dishes made with local ingredients, play in the great outdoors, and encounter mysterious cultural traditions on your exciting trip to the Takachiho gorge/Shiibayama district.

Note: By bus, it takes three hours and thirty minutes to get to the Takachiho gorge from Fukuoka (Hakata Station), three hours from Kumamoto Station. If you use both the JR lines and a bus, you can get there in three hours and thirty minutes from Oita Station and in two hours thirty minutes from Miyazaki Station.