National Route 445
Today we are making for Takachiho and its famous gorge. It is many, many years since we were last there. First, we have to cross the Kyushu Mountains. The highway is the easy but dull option, so we take Route 445. This is a national route, but the actuality makes this hard to credit.
Long sections of this road are far too narrow for two vehicles to pass, and it is very windy indeed. There is evidence of rockfalls, and road subsidence everywhere so considerable maintenance is essential. This in turn means construction traffic, so the possibility of meeting oncoming dump trucks is constant. As it was around lunchtime, we did not meet any but saw several in parking areas. We did follow a couple of large trucks carrying Sugi (Cedar) logs but they each, thoughtfully, pulled over to let us edge past when it was possible.
This was shortly before we reached the summit, Nihonsugi toge (pass), and began the long, narrow and extremely twisty decent. Just before this summit is an area to pull in and affix snow chains. The descent is on the north side, and you can meet unexpected snow as we discovered some years ago. On that occasion we negotiated the snow-covered course without chains or mishap but revisiting this road we were amazed by just how steep, tortuous and above all long this route is. Highly recommended.
No snow this time, well a few patches in the ditches, and we find ourselves at the bottom, paying a visit to Takachiho shrine which is of little interest. Then on to Takachiho gorge. We attempted to walk from the shrine to the gorge but found the road had no pavement after a short distance, so unpleasant. We picked up the car and drove the short distance.
Here we park in the free car park and walk the gorge back to the main area of shops and the boat hire quay. Taking this route means a long flight of steps down to the gorge level but provides a short, interesting wander through the gorge. The view of the cliffs above and the more recently eroded gorge is splendid. The eroded gorge and the contortions of the, probably basalt lava columns are quite a sight.
Soon, however, you reach the boat hire dock and discover the charge of 5000 yen for what you have seen is a short distance whereupon you, probably, retrace your steps.
This area is famous as part of the Japanese creation myths and has attracted tourist for a long time. It has to be said there are better places to visit.
Leaving Takachiho, we make for Kugino michi no eki (Road Station) for the night. This is a relatively new michi no eki in the south Aso area. It has a huge car park and an RV park. It is a good place to stay but, I suspect, in peak season very busy.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.