Transport yourself to the idyllic natural scenery of Miyazaki
Miyazaki Prefecture in southeast Kyushu is one of Japan's most appealing locations, with a wide variety of things to see and do. From alluring coastal scenery and nature to historic shrines and traditional Shinto music and dance, Miyazaki is an ideal place for a driving break or public transport-based adventure. Nichinan and Takachiho, in particular, offer myriad sightseeing spots, as well as festivals, events and fascinating local myths.
Nichinan—getting there is a pleasure in itself
Nichinan City, located in the south of Miyazaki, is easily accessible by car or train. Highlights include a shrine in a cave, an ancient castle, a park with replicas of Easter Island's famous Moai statues, and a quiet town dubbed the "Kyoto of Kyushu."
Getting to Nichinan is easy and pleasant; Miyazaki's coastal scenery is among the most attractive that Japan has to offer. To reach Nichinan by car takes around one hour from Miyazaki City on Route 220; the journey by bus takes about two hours. The train, meanwhile, takes approximately 75 minutes from Miyazaki Station to Nichinan Station on the JR Nichinan Line. Upon arrival in Nichinan, you can hire a car or ride one of the regular buses that run to the main attractions.
Be sure to visit the town of Obi, known as the "Kyoto of Kyushu" for its atmospheric, historic streets, Edo-period (1603–1867) merchant residences, and Obi Castle, which was completed in the 16th century. The castle is open every day to the public from 9:30 a.m.– 4:30 p.m., though closed from December 29-31. Buses run from Nichinan to Obi Station, which is around 15 minutes on foot from the castle.
Udo-jingu Shrine is another popular site. The shrine is dedicated to Ugayafukiaezu no mikoto, the father of Emperor Jimmu, Japan's legendary first emperor. The bright-red shrine is set in a cave and has excellent views across the ocean. Praying here is said to attract good fortune in various aspects of life.
Buses run from central Nichinan to Udo Jingu bus stop, followed by a 15-minute walk to the shrine. (Note that there is a steep staircase down to the shrine and no wheelchair access.)
After visiting Udo-jingu Shrine, take a five-minute bus ride to Sun Messe Nichinan park, which features excellent views of the Pacific Ocean and life-size reproductions of the Moai Statues of Easter Island. Other popular attractions include Aoshima Beach, Aoshima Island and numerous other points of interest along the Nichinan coastline, including the "Devil's Washboard" rock formations.
Visit the sheer-walled Takachiho Gorge
Takachiho, meanwhile, sits in the north of Miyazaki Prefecture and is rich in Japanese mythology. This is where, according to legend, the sun goddess Amaterasu (an important Shinto deity) hid in a cave, before being lured out by other deities.
The main draw here is Takachiho's famous gorge, though many people also come for the beautiful waterfalls, historic shrines and excellent panoramas.
Takachiho is best reached from Nobeoka Station, which is around one hour from Miyazaki Station using the JR Limited Express Nichirin service. From Nobeoka Station, a bus operated by Miyazaki Kotsu runs to Takachiho Bus Center in around 75 minutes.
The impressive sheer-walled Takachiho Gorge is a 5-minute bus ride—or a 30-minute walk—from Takachiho Bus Center. (If you opt for the walk, be sure to visit Takachiho-jinja Shrine, which has a history stretching back over 1,000 years. The shrine hosts performances of traditional Shinto sacred music and dance, known as Yokagura, each evening from 8 p.m.)
At the gorge, boats can be rented between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. It costs 3,000 yen to hire a boat, plus an additional 1,000 yen boarding fee for each person (500 yen for elementary schoolers and younger).
Venture to other attractions
Other points of interest in the Takachiho area include notable shrines such as Amano Iwato-jinja Shrine, hot springs, and the Amaterasu Railway, which offers exhilarating open-air rides through the countryside.
A shuttle bus operates between Takachiho's main attractions four times a day during weekends and public holidays. Takachiho can also easily be reached from such Kyushu travel hubs as Fukuoka and Kumamoto: A direct bus service runs from JR Hakata Station to Takachiho Gorge in around three and a half hours, while a three-hour bus service runs from Kumamoto Station.
Getting to and around Miyazaki Prefecture
Flying is the easiest way to reach to Miyazaki. Regular flights from Tokyo's Haneda and Narita airports take around two hours. There are no direct shinkansen services to the prefecture. Holders of a Japan Rail Pass—which allows travel on any JR train or bus service—can reach Miyazaki via Fukuoka (with a connection at Kagoshima Chuo Station). Shinkansen services also run between Tokyo and Hakata, though JR Rail Pass holders cannot use the Nozomi service and must make a change at Shin-Osaka station. You can also take the Kyushu Shinkansen to Shin-Yatsushiro Station, then transfer to a Miyazaki-bound highway bus.
JR also offers a Kyushu Rail Pass, allowing unlimited travel on local trains, limited express trains and shinkansen (between Hakata and Kagoshima Chuo Station). A three-day pass costs 15,280 yen (7,640 yen for children), and a five-day pass costs 18,330 yen (9,160 yen for children).
While in Miyazaki Prefecture, consider purchasing a Visit Miyazaki Bus Pass. This one-day pass costs 1,500 yen and is usable on most—though not all—routes within the prefecture. Note, however, that a passport and return flight ticket must be shown when purchasing these tickets. Check the English-language website for full details.
Miyazaki is a perfect base to explore other parts of southern Kyushu, and the SUNQ Southern Kyushu Pass is the ideal way to get around on a budget. The southern-area pass allows unlimited travel throughout southern Kyushu, enabling easy travel to and around Miyazaki, Kagoshima and Kumamoto prefectures. It costs 8,000 yen, is valid for three consecutive days, and covers city buses, highway buses and ferries. If you are keen to see more of Japan's most southern main island, a SUNQ Northern Pass (covering Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Oita, Kumamoto and Shimonoseki) and a Kyushu-wide pass are also available.
Miyazaki City offers a One-Coin Pass (500 yen) on weekends and public holidays. The pass, which can be purchased at convenience stores, allows unlimited bus travel within the city.
The Drive Japan website (drivejapan.co.jp) is an excellent resource for those keen to see Miyazaki by car. The site suggests various driving tours, ranging from one-day excursions to four-day visits with overnight stays.