Nature has long ruled Miyazaki Prefecture. Located in the southeast of Kyushu, Miyazaki is surrounded by mountains from three sides, which protect it from chilly mainland winds and give it a pleasantly warm climate. Combined with the fact that over 76% of Miyazaki is covered by woodland, the entire place starts to sound like something out of a dream, a veritable oasis of natural wonders and an enticing travel destination in these times of Japan’s new normal. The flight from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Miyazaki Bougainvillea Airport is less than two hours. Spend three days experiencing sustainable travel, the splendor of nature and overall wellness at this verdant land.
The Sobo, Katamuki and Okue Biosphere Reserve
This eco park on the border of Miyazaki and Oita prefectures is best accessed from the city of Nobeoka, your gateway to a world of unspoiled flora and fauna preserved through continuous conservation efforts. The sustainable coexistence of nature and human society is key here, so besides strolling through beautiful valleys or admiring native animals like the Japanese serow, visitors to the park can also go rock-climbing or canoeing.
Start your exploration with a hearty meal in Nobeoka. Especially recommended are chicken namban—sweet-and-sour fried chicken served with tartar sauce, which originated in Miyazaki—or charcoal-grilled jidori chicken (local, free-range chicken).
The Sobo, Katamuki and Okue Biosphere Reserve is designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve – one of nine regions in Japan given the distinction. Located within the biosphere’s transition region, the Forest Therapy Society in the town of Hinokage is focused on the Japanese science of forest therapy, also known as shinrin-yoku. Visitors are said to be able to improve their autonomic nervous system and reduce blood pressure by taking one of the six therapy roads carefully constructed by the Forest Therapy Society.
Also in Nobeoka, tackle the challenging climbing trail on Hokodake mountain to take photos in front of Pakkun Rock, a massive rock named for its resemblance to Pac-Man.
As part of the Takachihogo-Shiibayama Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS), Takachiho places great emphasis on preservation and maintaining biodiversity through the sustainable cultivation of such things as rice, tea and Miyazaki beef, considered on par with Kobe and Matsuzaka beef varieties.
Places of notice include the Takachiho Gorge, a V-shaped valley created by the eruption of Mount Aso. Its iconic layered appearance is the result of the cooling of lava and, together with many examples of scenic beauty like Manai waterfall, it has helped the gorge to become a designated natural monument in 1934. Takachiho also has a strong connection to Japan’s indigenous Shinto religion. An important center of the religious kagura dances, Amanoiwato Shrine is built near the cave where Amaterasu, the Shinto goddess of the Sun, is said to have once hidden herself away. The gorge and the shrine can be accessed from the Takachiho Bus Center.
Stay at the Sheraton Grande Ocean Resort
At the end of a long day of getting close to nature, you deserve to be pampered, so take the train to Miyazaki Station and spend a first-class night at the Sheraton Grande Ocean Resort overlooking the Pacific. Rest up in its hot spring area, have a cocktail at the Pacifica lounge or visit one of its many restaurants serving local Miyazaki specialties like Miyazaki beef. If there is still time in the day, golfing is also available.
More than 2,600 years old, the Miyazaki Jingu Shrine is dedicated to Jimmu, the legendary first emperor of Japan, making it one of the most important places of worship in the prefecture. The shrine’s simple and unadorned look gives it a sense of quiet majesty, and visitors have the exclusive to opportunity participate in a ritual purification ceremony.
Next to the shrine is the Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature and History, with a small open-air museum in the back exhibiting traditional Japanese farmhouses. Access via Miyazaki-Jingu Station.
Nichinan Coast Road Park and the Horikiri Pass
The picturesque southern coastline of Miyazaki is known as the Nichinan Coast. It has been designated as a national park boasting some of the most photogenic locations in all of Kyushu, from the Oni-no-sentakuita (“Devil’s washboard”) coastal formation in Aoshima to the wild horses and pastures of Cape Toi. Located along Japan National Route 220, the Horikiri Pass offers incredible views of the Pacific, overlooking a rocky coast and phoenix palm trees. Go farther and you will get to the Michi no eki Phoenix, where you can enjoy a variety of foods and snacks, including ice cream made with mangos and ashitaba leaves. Also be on the lookout for products made from the hyuganatsu, a local citrus fruit and another Miyazaki favorite.
Stay at: ANA Holiday Inn Resort Miyazaki
With an indoor pool, karaoke and some of the best surfing that Kyushu can offer (surfing lessons available), the Holiday Inn Resort Miyazaki truly has something for everyone. Whether you enjoy the outdoors or indoors, this hotel guarantees you a relaxing time right by the Pacific. Also be sure to check out one of its four restaurants. For Japanese dishes, visit Himuka Shizuka.
Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park
Shared between Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures, the Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park, one of Japan’s first national parks, is known for its volcanos, onsen hot springs and the fact that it was a filming location for the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice (1967). Fans of hiking and nature will want to start their exploration of the park at the educational Ebino Eco-museum Center, from where you can set off towards the summit of Mount Ebino. The observatory at the top of the mountain offers great views of Mount Sakurajima, a famous active volcano as well as a symbol of the area and the perfect way to mark the end of your exploration of one of the most enchanted parts of Kyushu.