After returning from a 3-day trip to Miyazaki, I told some of my Japanese friends and acquaintances where I'd been, they all said the same thing: “Miyazaki?! But there's nothing there!”
To catch you up: Miyazaki is a prefecture on the southeastern coast of Kyushu with borders to Oita, Kumamoto and Kagoshima. It seems like most other prefectures on the island are famous for something, whether that be hot springs, food, castles or volcanoes, but not Miyazaki. About 20 years ago it was known as a popular honeymoon resort area, until Hawaii, Guam and other exotic places became the new romantic getaway spots. The abundant green of the hills and mountains close to the shore give Miyazaki a kind of tropical paradise feel and did remind me of the landscapes of the Hawaiian islands. But now no one seems to know how special this place is – apart from the people who are actually from there. So this place is a true hidden gem for those wanting something a bit different.
Miyazaki is a treasure trove of amazing places and stories, especially for someone like me, who has studied Japanese history, culture and society at university – but definitely for anybody interested in Japanese legends and folktales. The prefecture calls itself Shinwa no Sato, the “Home of Myths”, and is said to be the mythological origin of what we call Japan today. It is the alleged birthplace of many of the gods and the backdrop for the Japanese creation myths.
If you decide to visit Miyazaki to check out those places of myths and legends for yourself, I recommend that the very first stop you make before starting your exploration is the tourist information center. You won't find many people around the prefecture, who speak English, but here they will give you all the information you need to get around. For navigating Miyazaki City and the neighboring areas the "Visit Miyazaki Bus Card" became my best friend: It is a one-day bus ticket for 1000 Yen that includes a map of all the different sightseeing spots in and around the city as well as detailed information on the individual bus stops and bus numbers.
Here are my favorite spots in Miyazaki that are not only beautiful to look at and experience, but also have a strong connection to Japanese myths: