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Explorations of a Mystical Land

Rich with history, nature, scenery, adventure and legends, Takachiho draws in 1 million Japanese visitors a year, but is still generally unknown to the foreign crowd.

Heavenly clouds

The god Niniginomikoto, descending to earth upon the orders of his grandmother, the sun goddess Amaterasu, was met with a thick layer of clouds enveloping the Takachiho Gorge. And should the right confluence of factors come together during your visit to Takachiho, you may be fortunate enough to glimpse this very same scenery.

Known as unkai (literally a “sea of clouds"), the phenomenon only occurs between mid-September through late November, on days when there is a large differential between the minimum and maximum temperatures. In addition, it requires traveling to the Kunimigaoka observation deck before dawn. Should you succeed in seeing this otherworldly landscape, however, you will thank yourself for making the effort.

Train ride

Taking you along the ridge of the gorge, this train – called the Takachiho Amaterasu Railway (TAR) – is a delightful way to experience the area's scenery.

This is a must-do experience for children – small and big ones alike – as the 5 km route following the tracks of the former Takachiho Railway takes in some of the area's most prominent landmarks.

Terraced rice fields

A drive through Takachiho includes atmospheric views of tanada (terraced rice paddies), which comprise a 500 km network of canals, and over 1,800 hectares of fields.

The cultivation of terraced rice paddies is one of the numerous local ecological initiatives presently underway for sustainable stewardship of the land, which also include special techniques for cultivating tea and shiitake mushrooms. Such efforts have helped earn the Takachihogo-Shiibayama region a placement within the United Nations-officiated Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS).

Buddhist influence

Although predominantly Shinto, Takachiho does also have a Buddhist presence. One fascinating place to explore the influence of the Buddhist religion in the town is the Pure Land temple Shonenji Temple.

Dating back 17 generations, Shonenji features gorgeous temple facilities, community activities (both religious and cultural), and a stylish lodge for overnight stays.For more highlights, see the article  Shonenji Temple in Takachiho: A fascinating past and present.

Photos by Solveig Boergen

Photos by Solveig Boergen

Solveig Boergen is a Tokyo-based photographer originally from Germany who has spent more than three decades living in Asia(Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand and Nepal). Her work aims to share human stories, and to show realities that might otherwise remain unseen.Besides travel photography, she specializes in portraits that convey deep emotion, such as newborn babies with their families.

Kimberly Hughes

Kimberly Hughes

Kimberly Hughes is a freelance writer, translator, and community organizer who is originally from the desert of the southwestern U.S. and has been based in Tokyo since 2001. She is somewhat addicted to global travel, and also loves cooking, gardening and reading.

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