The emerald waters of Takachiho & the secret Kaeda Valley [Japan]

Article updated on May 12, 2020
Text & photos: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

Mount Aso’s massive volcanic eruptions have thrown out what is deep inside the Earth. Red hot lava flowing along the slopes and into the valleys leaving its traces. Dark ashes covering the landscape. Rocks formed under high pressures and temperatures shaped by erosion giving birth to the unique Canyon of Takachiho. Today crystal-clear waters flow as rapids, waterfalls and peaceful streams through this beautiful emerald gorge.

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Gorge with emerald water, a waterfall and green trees in Japan.

Next to the gorge one can find the serene Takachiho Shrine surrounded by century old cedars. The Takachiho area is of great religious importance for Shintoism, and is also assumed it is where the gods came down from heaven to establish the lineage of the Japanese emperors. From the shrine, a beautiful path of stairs leads down through the cedar forest to the upper part of the canyon where one the ancient path merges with the more touristy one. The second part of the trail takes runs parallel to the water with spectacular views on waterfalls in the lower part of the gorge. The water is inviting, but the only option is to rent a row boat as swimming in the Takachiho Canyon is not allowed.

With a high humidity and hot summer temperatures, a refreshing swim is possible in the less popular and more challenging to find Kaeda Gorge, a 3-hour drive from the Takachiho Canyon. In the surroundings of Miyazaki’s stunning coastal scenery, an 8-kilometre long trail follows the Kaeda River through a lively and diverse lush forest of papaya and cedar trees, and bamboos, populated by monkeys, wild boars and many birds and insects. The dense and humid forest is completely off the beaten path and provides a beautiful environment to cool down. Just watch out for spiders and cicadas which sometimes smash themselves into one’s forehead in a clumsy attempt at a flight!

Travel tips:

  • The Takachiho Gorge gets quite busy from 11 a.m. onwards with herds of Japanese tourists: go early!
  • Check out this interactive map (quick tutorial) for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area!

For everything about Japan, click here!

Or click on the images below for a selection in Kyushu:

Japan food series soba noodles displayed with their dippings. Japanese floats and people dressed up for their summer festivals. People playing the drums. Japanese man in a kimono walking on wet asphalt along traditional Japanese houses in Kurokawa, Buddha statue engraved in a rock with scent sticks in front of it and a red text on a white box saying: The Usuki Stone Buddhas, Japan's National Treasure Green hills with a road going through and a yellow signal with a cow. Japanese women in beautiful kimonos parading amongst pink lotus flowers in Usuki, Japan.

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Rocky summit of the sacred Ishizuchi san in Shikoku in the clouds. A hiker climbs the chains. Rocky peak of Mount Asahi-dake with blue skies, a person with backpack hiking a ridgeline, snow and colourful tents in the mountain. Mountains with clouds and smoke from volcanic activity in Hokkaido, Japan.Old vine bridge over a roaring river and green forest around in Japan. Blue pond in Hokkaido with dead trees. Woman riding a bicye on an empty road. Green fields. Wild salmon jumping up against a waterfall during its migration, Japan. Brown bear cub in the grass with white text, Japan. Emptpy street of the old Japense town Tsumago with traditional Japanese houses in the mountains.

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