Best Things to Do in Miyazaki Prefecture – Tucked away in a corner of Southern Japan, and without high-speed rail access, Miyazaki Prefecture is often overlooked by international visitors.
This is a huge pity. Apart from a pleasant climate and several beach resorts, Miyazaki is also the heartland of Japanese Shinto mythology. In other words, home to some of the most important and interesting sites of Japan’s native faith, and full of unusual things to do and see.
Not to mention, it is also where Takachiho Gorge is. If you’ve ever seen pictures of it, you will surely agree this is one of Japan’s most spectacular natural attractions.
1. Miyazaki City
A sunny and modern city with breezy riverside walks, the city is also home to the Heiwadai Park. Other than an unusual stupa-like stone tower that commemorates the 2600th anniversary of Japan’s imperial founding, this spacious park contains a “Haniwa” section. If you’re fascinated by these mysterious icons of Japan’s Kofun Age, there are few better places in the country to visit.
Of note, Heiwadai Park’s tower has attracted criticism in the past as it was built at the height of World War II. If that disturbs you, you could instead visit the Miyazaki Prefectural Government Office. This nostalgic building has a selfie-perfect façade and is near the main downtown district.
2. Phoenix Seagaia Resort
The sizeable Phoenix Seagaia Resort is located 25 minutes by bus from Miyazaki Station and is a mini paradise for visitors looking for a relaxing holiday. Surrounded by attractions such as golf courses, a botanic garden, parks, even a mini zoo, this is one attraction perfect for enjoying the pleasant, sub-tropical weather of Miyazaki. A convenient base for those interested in checking out the beaches of the prefecture too.
The actual resort has a variety of accommodation options, lovely pools, and a splendid hot-spring surrounded by pine groves too. Before exploring the must-see attractions of Miyazaki, Phoenix Seagaia is a splendid spot to energize yourself at. Naturally, it is also a great place to rejuvenate after day trips to more remote attractions.
Aoshima is a small island connected to the mainland by the Yayoi Bridge, located half-an-hour by train from Miyazaki City. Lush and surrounded by beautiful beaches, the island is home to the visually striking Aoshima Shrine and considered one of the must-visit spots of Miyazaki Prefecture. The shrine itself venerates Hoori, one of the mythical ancestors of the Japanese royal family, and is a popular destination for married couples.
Apart from the verdant sub-tropical ambiance, Aoshima is also where the “Devil’s Washboard” is, this unusual natural feature known in Japanese as the Oni no Sentakuita. These rows of basalt rock, visible at low tide, appear manmade but are completely natural. Under the right lighting, one could easily imagine a mythological hero meeting his eternal love while hovering over these strange rocks.
4. Udo Shrine
Shinto shrines are renowned worldwide for their tranquil, verdant environments. At Udo Shrine, however, serene forests are replaced by craggy cliffs and breathtaking ocean panoramas. Not only is the main shrine set within a cliff-side cavern, even the steps leading down to the cavern are in full view of the Pacific Ocean.
Dedicated to the ancestors of Japan’s legendary first emperor, Udo Shrine is also immensely popular with young Japanese couples seeking a good marriage and easy childbirth, and comes with two unusual attractions. Within the cavern of the main shrine, water dripping from a stone is believed to be the same divine fluid that the father of Japan’s first emperor once drank. Today, the shrine sells a candy made from this water.
And on the rocky crags outside the cavern, a target marked by rope beckons. For a small fee, you can buy a “lucky ball” from the shrine to have a go at throwing the ball into this target, the success of which will bring you luck. Just remember to use your left hand if you’re male and your right if you’re female when trying.
Location: Udo Shrine is located between Miyazaki City and Nichinan. For access information, please refer to the next entry.
5. Sun Messe Nichinan
Here’s one of the most unusual attractions in the whole of Japan!
A short car ride away from Udo Shrine is Sun Messe Nichinan, where seven full-size Moai statue replicas tower beside the sea. Built in 1996, these statues are the only authorized replicas by Easter Island throughout the world. In other words, here’s one attraction you will find nowhere else outside of Easter Island.
Enigmatic and majestic, the statues are surrounded by a park full of uplifting sea views and photo spots too. With its proximity to Udo Shrine, it is best to visit both attractions on the same day. With some planning, you can even include Aoshima. The same bus service from Miyazaki Station stops by all three attractions.
Aoshima, Sun Messe Nichinan, and Udo Shrine Within a Day.
Bus service 965 from Miyazaki Station stops by all three attractions. (As of January 2021, the 36th, 55th, and 56th stops respectively. Time table in Japanese here) The second last stop of the service is also Obi Station, the gateway for Obi Castle Town.
From Obi Station, you can then hop onto the JR Nichinan Line rail service to return to Miyazaki Station. (79 minutes ride)
In all, it takes around 90 minutes to reach Udo Shrine, and 30 minutes to reach Obi Station from Udo Shrine. On the plus side, the coastal route taken is considered one of the most attractive drives in Southern Japan. In other words, an attraction in itself.
6. Obi Castle Town
Medieval, historical structures are markedly missing from this list, aren’t they?
Well, Miyazaki Prefecture was known as Hyuga in the past and was ruled by several nobles during the Tokugawa Shogunate. Today, a hint of these feudalistic times could be experienced at Obi Castle Town, located about an hour’s drive from Miyazaki City.
A collection of samurai homes, museums, and gardens, the well-preserved exhibits are both atmospheric and educational. A sheer delight for visitors curious about the years of the Edo Period, or just looking for wonderful photo backdrops.
Needless to say, the verdant grounds of the castle are also resplendent with pink during cherry blossom viewing season. In short, Obi Castle Town is an absolute time-traveling experience for any visitor. One of the best day trips to enjoy in the whole of Southern Japan too.
7. Takachiho Gorge
Even before the closure of its only railway station, small Takachiho town requires much effort to get to. Today, the easiest access is still a three-hour bus ride from Kumamoto City.
Take the effort, though, and you’d be rewarded by what is widely regarded as one of the most stunning natural sights in Kyushu. Formed by the Gokase River, the dark basalt rock walls of this gorge are near vertical at some points. Making the sight even more otherworldly is the 17-meter tall Minaiotaki Waterfall at the most picturesque part of it.
What’s more, there are two distinctively ways to enjoying this natural wonder. You can rent a boat at the southern end of the gorge and leisurely paddle upstream; the waters are calm and serene. Or, you could opt for a slow walk alongside the top edge.
Whichever your choice, you will be returning to your hotel with lots of lovely memories. Naturally, lots of Instagram-perfect pictures too.
8. Amano Iwato Shrine
Ever wonder why Japan is called the Land of the Rising Sun?
According to Shinto creation myths, Japanese emperors are direct descendants of Sun Goddess Amaterasu, the goddess herself the most important divinity in the Shinto pantheon.
Amaterasu also has an unusual story associated with her, one that involves the goddess staging an “industrial action.” After a particularly unpleasant tiff with her brother i.e. Susanoo the Storm God, Amaterasu retreated into a cave, thus plunging the world into freezing darkness. She only emerged after the rest of the Shinto gods put up a raucous show outside the cave to lure her out.
Today, the cave where this episode supposedly happened could be viewed from Amano Iwato Shrine. While the actual sacred grounds are out of bounds for all visitors, the shrine itself is rustic and surrounded by ancient trees, making any visit a relaxing excursion. For many, the visit would be a spiritual one too.
Travel Tip: With its proximity to Takachiho Gorge, both attractions are best enjoyed as part of a guided tour too. If you opt to stay overnight in Takachiho town, you can also enjoy a Kagura dance performance. This ritualistic dance, starkly unlike other classic Japanese art forms, reenacts the key events of the myth.
The “foggy island” is both a city and a volcano range in Southern Kyushu, with the latter containing one of the most active volcanoes in Kyushu. (Shinmoedake)
When at peace, though, the national park surrounding Kirishima Range is a spectacular collection of treks featuring unforgettable highland and mountain views. Kirishima Onsen is also widely regarded as one of the best hot-springs town in Kyushu, full of bathing facilities both modern and rustic to enjoy.
Last but not least, the Kirishima range is supposedly where the grandson of the Shinto Sun Goddess descended to Earth to establish the Japanese royal lineage. At the summit of Mount Takachiho-no-mine, an enigmatic spear marks and commemorates this mythical event.
10. Miyazaki Cuisine
Like many other Japanese prefectures, Miyazaki has its own signature local delicacies. For international visitors, the must-try would be Miyazaki Beef and Nanban Chicken.
A consecutive champion at Japanese competitions, Miyazaki beef is considered by many Japanese to be the best Wagyu beef. Within Miyazaki prefecture, you can also enjoy this culinary gen in a variety of ways, be it teppanyaki, shabu-shabu, or as a steak.
Nanban Chicken resembles Chicken Kaarage but comes with a yummy twist. Before frying, the battered meat is dipped in a vinegar-based sweet and sour sauce. Thanks to this additional step, each bite carries with it a distinctive tangy taste. Particularly wonderful when eaten with copious amounts of tartar sauce.
Outside of these two delights, the warm climate of Miyazaki Prefecture makes it’s a paradise for fruit cultivation too. After feasting on beef or chicken, consider having a dessert made from Miyazaki mangoes. There are few epilogues as refreshing as these.
A Serene Sub Tropical Paradise
The greatest attraction of Miyazaki Prefecture is perhaps its location away from the usual tourism routes. Other than the busiest of days, most attractions are free of crowds.
The pleasant weather furthermore makes the key attractions comfortable to enjoy even in winter. If you are intrigued by classic Japanese mythology, this corner of Japan is doubly a must-visit. After all, this was where the descendants of the sun came to live among mortals.