Yet another lesser known prefecture in Japan, Miyazaki has an abundance of natural sights and mouthwatering local flavours to savour! Opt for an unconventional holiday by planning a trip to this scenic wonderland!
Takachiho Town (高千穂町)
This town is most notable for the majestic cliffs at Takachiho Gorge (高千穂峡), formed when cool waters cut across the boiling lava that erupted from Mount Aso. The narrow opening between the towering cliffs makes the place magical, as sunlight reflects off Manai Falls (真名井の滝). Check it out LIVE even before your trip!
Access: From JR Nobeoka Station (延岡駅), transfer to a Miyazaki Kanko bus to Takachiho Bus Center.
Strongly connected to the sun goddess, Amaterasu, visitors can check out Amano Iwato Shrine (天岩戸神社), which houses the cave where Amaterasu hid in retaliation to her brother’s (the storm god Susanoo) bullying, plunging the world into darkness. Nearby lies the impressive Amano Yasugawara (天安河原), which is filled with thousands of rocks piled up over the years by devoted pilgrims. while the air is heavy with spiritual energy.
Access: From Takachiho Bus Center, take a local bus to the shrine.
This legendary tale is further reenacted in the famous Takachiho Yokagura (高千穂神楽) or Night Kagura. The entire collection of 33 sacred ritual dances are performed overnight several times from November to February. However, the average visitor can catch hourly performances at Takachiho Shrine (高千穂神社) every night.
Access: 10 mins walk from Amano Iwato Shrine.
Kunimigaoka (国見ケ丘) is popular for offering a great vantage point that overlook the town, as well as the surreal “sea of cloud” or unkai (雲海). This unique view is seen only during specific conditions – “weather is fine with no breeze from mid-September to late November when the maximum and minimum temperature difference is large”. (Quote taken from Ikidane Nippon)
If you are looking for somewhere more “hipster”, why not opt for a open-air Super Cart ride on defunct Takachiho Amaterasu Railway (高千穂あまてらす鉄道) for an equally amazing view of the town instead! *Check the website (in Japanese) for availability, as the railway may be closed in bad weather.*
Access: From Takachiho Bus Center, walk 10 mins to Takachiho Amaterasu Railway or take a 15 mins taxi ride to Kunimigaoka.
Shiiba Village (椎葉村)
This remote village is largely forested with towering cedar trees and teeming with wildlife. As such, you can expect gorgeous nature scenes and soul-cleansing tranquility. The main attraction here is the Heike Festival (平家祭り), which depicts the tragic love story between lovebirds from rival clans – Princess Tsurutomi Hime and General Daihachiro Nasu (similar to Romeo and Juliet, no?)
Constructed in the typical Shiiba style, Nasu Residence (那須家住宅), also known as Tsurutomi Mansion (鶴富屋敷), is thought to be the place where the events unfolded. Spend a night at the adjacent ryokan (or other accommodations) for an unforgettable experience in this charming village.
Access: From JR Hyūgashi Station (日向市駅), take a local bus to Shiiba Village.
Miyazaki City (宮崎市)
Take a stroll around the serene Peace Tower Park (和台公園; Heiwadai Kōen), named after its famed Peace Tower, which was originally a mark of Japanese imperialism-turned-peace symbol. Don’t be surprised to find replicas of over 400 terracotta statues known as haniwa, which were excavated from the area.
Access: Take a bus from the city bound for Heiwadai, alight at Heiwadai stop.
This tiny island is off the coast of Miyazaki City and house a variety of sub-tropical plants not seen elsewhere in Miyazaki. The shallow waters around Aoshima results in a natural, unique phenomenon known as the “Devil’s Washboard” (鬼の洗濯板 Oni no Sentakuita). Only at low tide do these uniform rows of basalt rock formation become visible, and you can visit them on mini taxis similar to Thailand’s tuk-tuk.
The main sight to visit here is Aoshima Shrine (青島神社), a bright red shrine complex that stands in contrast to the thick jungles all over the island. Dedicated to Hiko hohodemi no mikoto (the god of hunting) from the legend of Umisachi and Yamasachi, married couples are said to have good luck after visiting the shrine.
Aoshima Shrine is also famous for one other thing, the Aoshima Hadaka Mairi Festival (青島裸参り). Held yearly on the 2nd Sunday in January, which is the Coming of Age Day (成人の日) in Japan. Men and boys in loincloths (while women are dressed in white robes) will plunge into the cold waters for a refreshing purification ceremony. Participants then end off the day by drinking tea, bath in onsen and pound mochi!
Access: From Miyazaki Station, take a local or rapid train on the JR Nichinan Line (日南線) to Aoshima Station.
Shintomi Town (新富町)
You may not have heard of Shintomi Town, but some of you may have seen this article that highlighted the touching story of Mr and Mrs Kuroki. The senior Mr Kuroki set about to surround his farm with shibazakura or moss phlox, so that his wife could smile again after she lost her sight. Visit the Kuroki residence (黒木敏幸さん宅) during spring (late Mar – late Apr) and be surrounded by a sea of beautiful pink flowers!
Video source: https://youtu.be/aVXpBqj67BY
Access: 15 mins drive from JR Hyūgashintomi Station (日向新富駅).
There is a surprising number of blooms throughout the year in this small town, so you will have something to view in every season!
Miyakonojō City (都城市)
Yet another of Japan’s top 100 waterfalls can be found in Miyakonojo City, the Sekino-o Falls (関之尾の滝). Go on a refreshing journey to the falls, surrounded by lush greenery and some of the world’s largest portholes known as Oketsugun (甌穴群), which is a rare geological wonder. Spring is also a great time to visit the falls, located within the famous sakura viewing spot – Mochio Sekino-o Prefectural Park (母智丘・関之尾県立自然公園).
Access: From Nishi Miyakonojo Station (西都城駅), take the bus bound for Sekino-o, Takano or Kirishima Shrine and alight at Sekino-o Falls stop.
For those who want a more rustic experience, why not get your hands “flour-y” and learn to make soba from in a traditional soba restaurant, Gamakōan (がまこう庵)? This two hour workshop is well worth the time and you can enjoy delicious soba! They offer a miso making workshop and sells other healthy homemade products as well.
Access: 10 mins by taxi from Kirishima-Jingū Station Station (霧島神宮駅).
Nichinan City (日南市)
Near the tip of Miyazaki prefecture is the city of Nichinan, famous for an unusual shrine found in a cave. Lovingly known as “Udo-san” to the locals, Udo Shrine (鵜戸神宮) is located on Cape Udo (鵜戸埼) and popular with couples seeking blessing for a blissful marriage. Choose either the more challenging “pilgrim’s path” or the normal route to ascend to the main shrine, accompanied by breathtaking views along the way.
Have your turn at Undama Throwing (運玉投げ), where you try to toss the “good luck ball” into the center of the kameishi (亀石) or “Turtle Rock” to receive good fortune! Females must throw with their right hand, and vice versa for men.
In addition, expectant mothers are welcome to buy candy that is said to have come from breast-shaped rocks behind the cave, known as Ochichi-iwa (お乳岩), so as to ensure an easy childbirth.
Access: From Miyazaki Station, take the local bound for Nichinan, Obi or Toimisaki and alight at Udo Shrine stop. The entrance is a 10 mins walk away.
Another must-see spot is Sun Messe Nichinan (サンメッセ日南), which is like a miniature Easter Island. Apart from having the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop, this is the ONLY place where replicas of the iconic Moai statues are allowed. Each of the seven statues offer blessing in a specific area – business, health, love, leisure, marriage, money, and academics.
Access: From Miyazaki Station, take the local bus bound for Nichinan and alight at Sun Messe Nichinan.
This prefecture is applauded for its chicken dishes, as its prized Miyazaki Jitokko (宮崎地頭鶏) free-range breed has a low fat-to-meat ratio and a chewy texture. The top dish is Chicken Nanban (チキン南蛮), developed by a local restaurant called Ogura Honten (おぐら本店) in 1960s. Similar to karaage, small chunks of chicken meat are deep fried to crispness and served with a healthy dose of vinegar and tartar sauce.
Access: 15mins walk from JR Miyazaki Station (宮崎駅), West Exit. The restaurant is located in the alley behind Yamakataya department store.
Other ways to prepare the chicken include sumibiyaki 炭火焼 [char-grilled chicken seasoned with salt and yuzukoshō (柚子胡椒)], to tsukune つくね (skewered chicken meatball), sashimi 刺身 (raw, thinly sliced chicken), tataki たたき (seared chicken slices that are raw on the inside) and tebasaki 手羽先 (deep fried chicken wings with bones).