Day 8 in Japan: Takachiho and the ceremonial dance of Yokagura

The morning started with us strapping on our newly gifted Hanten (coats) and sitting down to a western style breakfast of eggs, toast, baked potato, fruit and yogurt, compliments of Chi Chi and Ka Ka. Oh and almost forgot the American oldies blasting on the record player again for us (we did attempt to turn it down at one stage but this just left Chi Chi confused and he proceeded to turn it back up). When in Rome! As we loaded up the car for a day of exploring, they came to see us out and snap a few pictures together.

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Our first destination was the town of Takachiho, popular for its breathtaking gorge and numerous waterfalls that can be taken in by means of a rental row boat. At least these were the pictures online that Viola fell in love with when she did her off the beaten path searching for places to visit in Japan.

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Unfortunately the usually crystal blue waters were brown with sediment from the heavy rain fall the region received prior to our visit, and due to the high water levels and fast moving current, the boat rentals were closed. Double whammy! Definitely disappointing.

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Don’t let the smiles fool you! We just wanted some darn row boats, okay, and blue water, row boats and blue water, not too much to ask?!

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Might as well leave our mark. This reminds me of the locks in Paris (that ultimately were cut off the bridge).

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Before leaving town we confirmed the location of Takachiho shrine, the performance site of Yokagura (more on this later), nestled between a set of old growth cedar trees.

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We continued our day of driving the countryside and made it to the coastal city of Hyuga, located on the opposite end of Kyushu from where we arrived yesterday in Kumamoto. With no specific destination or attraction in mind, we simply took in the natural beauty of the coastline (notice the cross formed by the rocks below at the Sea-Cruz: where wishes come true).

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Dinner was at a highly rated tonkatsu (pork cutlet) restaurant in town. Flaky and crisp breading, high quality tender pork with no fatty gristle, rich and thick katsu dipping sauce, Viola knew how to find a restaurant that would win Andrew and myself over! Meat!

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A sunset drive back to Takachiho to catch the evening performance of Yokagura.

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According to the programme for the evening, Yokagura is a national important intangible folk cultural property, whatever that means but sure sounds serious, comprised of 4 dances that give thanks for a good crop and pray for a huge harvest. The hour long performance was entrancing as various deities danced on stage to a repetitive and sometimes out of tune drum and flute beat. More impressive was seeing 200+ mainly middle aged to older Japanese, sitting on the floor (tatami mats), cross legged in suits and dresses, tightly packed in together and not fidgeting at all. We definitely stood out in this crowd!

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The performance ended around 9pm and with the hour drive back to our AirBnB we expected to be sneaking in to our beds quietly. Boy were we off, as Chi Chi and Ka Ka welcomed us back to their home with large slabs of roll cake and warm green tea! Sugar and caffeine before bed? Grandparents just love to spoil.

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