VIDEO: Miyazaki’s Takachiho Town home to some of Japan’s many myths, legends

VIDEO: Miyazaki’s Takachiho Town home to some of Japan’s many myths, legends

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

Blessed with myths and legends, Takachiho Town in Miyazaki Prefecture boasts of unique quiet, mysterious atmosphere with thick green forests, a steep gorge with a cascading waterfall and impressive rice terraces.

According to Japan’s earliest history book Kojiki (712), Amaterasu, goddess of the sun and the queen of the celestial sphere, sent her grandson, Ninigi, to Takachiho. Ninigi then became a great-grandfather of Emperor Jinmu, which is the originator Japan’s imperial family.

Due to this legend and others, Takachiho used to be home to over 500 Shinto shrines. Today, you will only find a few remaining.

Takachiho Jinja, founded about 1,900 years ago, is one of the shrines you can still visit today. The Shinto shrine is surrounded by cedar forest and is very popular due to it being considered an auspicious power spot for better luck in the agricultural industries, matchmaking and family peace.

In the shrine field, check out the two large cedars, known as meotosugi due to their massive, interconnected trunks known. A shrine legend says that your love will be fulfilled if you and your loved one would walk hand in hand around the meotosugi cedar trees three times.

The town is also home to two beautiful rice terraces. The Tochimata and Odonokuchi rice terraces are on the right and left side of the Iwato River and both were selected as part of the 100 most beautiful rice terraces in Japan. Don’t miss the celestial view of the vast rice terraces spreading towards the majestic Mount Sobo.

After harvesting the rice terraces around October or November, locals in each district gather to perform “Yokagura” night dancing (yo means night and kagura is sacred Shinto music and dancing). Takachiho Yokagura is theatrical dancing and music and was designated as an intangible folk cultural asset in 1978.

The Yokagura tradition has continued for nearly 1000 years, Hideki Sato, a Takachiho local and chairman of a Kagura preservation association, said.

Thank to Sato and other members, I was able to enjoy a part of Act 3, which describes a local deity who descended through a cedar tree to the earth and going back to the sky after playing in this world for a while.

It was an overwhelming and sacred experience to see their performance on the sacred kagura stage. During the act, two priests in white ritual attire danced, rang bells before a masked mythical deity danced onstage and twirled a baton to the sounds of the flute and taiko drum.

Takachiho’s natural beauty and dedication to preserving its cultural traditions gives it the touch of old Japan you won’t find anywhere else.


Takachiho Town


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