Surrounded by towering ancient cedar and cypress trees, Takachiho Shrine is said to have been built during the Heien Period over 1200 years ago. Among the 88 shrines scattered across the 18 districts of Takachiho, it’s considered the most important.
Takachiho is home to a famous Japanese myth, that of Amaterasu, the Shinto goddess of the Sun. Legend has it that, falling victim to her brother’s cruel pranks one too many times, she retreated into a nearby cave and the world plunged into darkness. Her fellow deities tried to comfort her, but their efforts were in vain. Only one goddess was able to coax her out of her sanctuary by performing a comical dance.
This story is now re-enacted every night at Takachiho Shrine in a series of 33 episodes, known as Yokagura, featuring masked dancers and employing the use of traditional Japanese instruments. Located just steps away from the main shrine building, it’s well worth watching.
Also famous along this part of the area is a pair of trees known as the “couple cedar”. Trunks fused together, their appearance bears a resemblance to a couple holding hands. If you walk around this cedar hand-in-hand with a loved one three times, you will be blessed with prosperity and safety.
Visiting from the nearby Takachiho Gorge? Taking the mountain path will bring you to the back of the shrine. Also, if you’re travelling by car it’s a good idea to check out the nearby Ama no Iwato Shrine located just eight kilometres from Takachiho.