Mountains and mangos in southeastern Kyushu
Miyazaki is a mountainous and mango-growing prefecture to rival Okinawa in the tropical paradise stakes.
A consistently warm climate makes Miyazaki prefecture a perfect year-round getaway; head to the stunning Nichinan coastline for great sun, sea and surfing, plus a few ancient shrines for good measure, or travel inland to the misty mountains of Takachiho to hear legends of the birth of Japan.
Miyazaki also has its own prefectural take on Japanese food, adding original dishes like chicken nanban and cheese manju, as well as locally grown mango, to the national recipe book. Rent a car if you can, and don’t forget your appetite.
Apparently blessed with the most hours of sunshine of any city in Japan, the prefectural capital of Miyazaki city is packed with (slightly retro) resort facilities facing out onto some of the best surfing conditions in the country. Along the coast between Miyazaki and Nichinan are endless scenic vistas; stop at palm-covered Aoshima island to visit Aoshima-jinja, a picturesque shrine that attracts couples looking for marriage blessings.
Further along towards Nichinan, you’ll find the Udo-jingu, a colorful shrine set in a cliff overlooking the ocean. The shrine is dedicated to the legendary first Emperor Jimmu of Japan – look out for the breast-shaped rocks which are supposed to have fed Jimmu at his birth. For a bit of luck in your love life, you can buy undama stones and try to throw them at a target in the rocks below the shrine.
The Sun Messe Nichinan is a quirky theme park that mimics Easter Island. It’s a memorable only in Japan stop as you continue to drive along the scenic Nichinan coast.
Hidden away in the mountains inland, Takachiho is a region where ancient Japanese mythology comes alive; legend has it that this is where the gods descended and made land on the top of Takachiho-yama – the beginnings of Japan. You can visit Takachiho Shrine to watch the traditional yokagura dances during which masked locals perform the stories of Japan’s unruly gods.
Takachiho-kyo is a breathtaking V-shaped gorge lined with sheer cliffs formed by a double volcanic eruption at volatile Mount Aso. You can view the chasm and the spectacular Manai waterfall from either above, along the walking trail, or from below in a traditional row boat.