Miyazaki: Japan’s Tropical Escape

When you hear the word “Miyazaki”, the first idea that pops into your head may be that of the prestigious, award-winning producer, director, and animator Hayao Miyazaki, who founded the animation film Studio Ghibli. Though Miyazaki is his last name, it also refers to two places; a Prefecture in Japan, and a city within that Prefecture. Being part of the southeastern tip of Japan, Miyazaki is home to a more tropical, relaxed environment. Miyazaki may be far from the capital of Tokyo, but it still reigns as a great vacation and tourist spot – for both locals and foreigners alike.

The History of Miyazaki in Japan

Found in an island of Japan named Kyushu, signs of life in Miyazaki has been successfully dated back to as far as 300,000 years ago, with precious bones animal bones having been excavated and studied. Teeth from an extinct elephant species named Palaeoloxodon naumanni were found here by archaeologists. Those elephants were supposedly alive up to hundreds of thousands of years ago. All kinds of earthenware, ancient graves, and shell heaps (mounds containing fossils) were found that dated back to the paleolithic era, Jomon period, and others.

Clan Wars Continue

As with the rest of Japan, Miyazaki was controlled by several clans and their daimyo (Japanese feudal warlords). During that period (the Kamakura period, 1185 onwards), Miyazaki was still referred to as Hyuga. Its neighboring areas were part of Kagoshima. The Shimazu samurai clan, as well as several other strongmen, ruled the country of Hyuga. During 1587, the notorious Toyotomi Hideyoshi took over. He then divided the land for his daimyo minions to rule over. Clans would continue to rule as several “hans” (warrior estates) would emerge during the Edo period. There were several hans that were powerful during the Edo period. They were namely the Shimazu Clan (Satsuma Han), Nobeoka Han, the Takanabe Han, the Sadowara Han, The Obi-Han, and the Itō Han.

The Shimazu Clan was the most powerful and governed a large chunk of Kagoshima. All the Hans except for the Sadowara Han and Satsuma Han ruled Miyazaki, but because it was an exclave, it was often confused as to whether it was still part of the Kagoshima Prefecture. It was made clear during the Meiji period in 1883 that Hyuga would divide; one part of it would go to Kagoshima, and a large area of it would be renamed as the Miyazaki Prefecture. Miyazaki city was established on April 1, 1924. Only in 2006 were Tano Town, Sadowara Town, and Takaoka Town considered a part of Miyazaki City. In 2010, Kiyotake was merged in as well.

A Statue; A Political Statement

Miyazaki is also supposedly the location of the dwelling of Japan’s first ever emperor; Emperor Jimmu – around 660 BC. A pillar named “Hakkō Ichiu” was erected in 1940 in where his palace supposedly was. Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe pushed the slogan that embodied the monument, supposedly translating to “all the world under one roof”. He believed firmly that the country of Japan had a divine right to rule the world. This radical idea and statue would be used to convey many nationalistic symbolisms and propaganda for during the Showa regime. Today, though, Heiwadai-koen peace park displays this historical centerpiece as a landmark of history.

Fast Facts About Miyazaki: Geography, Statistics, Symbols

Found on the island of Kyushu, Miyazaki has both beautiful mountaintops and warm, inviting seawaters because it’s stretched along an ocean coast. The core city of Miyazaki Prefecture is Miyazaki, also known as “Miyazaki-shi”. Data from 2010 says it has a total of 399,834 people as its population. It’s 286.96 square kilometers big, and its current mayor is Tadashi Tojiki. It has two symbols to represent its prefecture; a tree (camphorwood) and two flowers (the Japanese Iris, also called “Hanashobu”, and the Camellia, also known as “Tsubaki”.)

Broadening Reaches in Tourism in Japan, and Miyazaki

Without a doubt, Tokyo stands as the central tourist spot of Japan, despite there being many other prefectures and districts to visit. Tourists often miss the other parts of Japan that are just as much worth seeing, such as Miyazaki. Though it was a hot honeymoon spot in the 60’s and 70’s, Miyazaki’s visitor count had been steadily declining since. Efforts have now been placed to aid awareness about this beautiful beach city in Japan, especially thanks to the promotion of its enthusiastic ex-governor who was once a celebrity comedian; Higashikokubaru Hideo. This lead to a boom in interested those interested to travel here.

Those in charge of tourism in Miyazaki have created a website (search Miyazaki city tourism on your browser) that deals with sightseeing spots, transportation, and hotel options, as well as briefs on the kind of cuisine found at Miyazaki. In case you have any queries concerned your tour of the city of Miyazaki-Shi in general, you may visit the Miyazaki City Tourist Information center. Its address is JR Miyazaki Station (West Exit) 1-8 Nishikimachi Miyazaki-shi.

A Brief Tourist’s Guide To Miyazaki in Japan

While in Miyazaki, there are many places to see, activities to do, and dishes to try out. Here are a few recommendations for first-time visitors.

Visit Aoshima Island, Nichinan Coast and Horikiri Pass for a taste of the beach. Head to Aoshima Island for a scenic view of its interesting feature; rock formations named the “Devil’s Washboard”. The island measures a kilometer and a half wide and holds a lot of tropical nature; plants, trees, and flowers. Nichinan Coast is much like Aoshima; though here, you can take a relaxing walk or simply enjoy an excellent view of Miyazaki’s coast. Horikiri Pass, lastly, is also great to score another view of the sea (from another angle, of course) – as well as their interesting flavors of ice cream.

As for religious sites, Aoshima Shrine is #2 on top places to visit in Japan. It is located in Aoshima Island – you might as well give it a visit if you’re on the island. Not only is it scenic, but it’s also quite the historical piece, having roots all the way back to the year 820. There are several deities enshrined here – one of them a princess deemed the “daughter of the god of the sea”. Her real name was Toyotama-hime. Next is Miyazaki Shinto Shrine. This is a very special shrine because this is where the first ever emperor of Japan (Emperor Jimmu) was enshrined.

Heiwadai Park is a great place to walk around and at the miniature statues, they scattered around the area. You can visit the aforementioned tower that was built in the early 1940’s, or just relax in the peaceful atmosphere and have a picnic. The Miyazaki Prefectural Art museum is also a wonderful place to go if you love art. It has worked from artists all over the Miyazaki Prefecture, as well as originals from the greats such as Picasso and Magritte. Being a fusion of both Western and Japanese arts, tourists from around the world flock to this museum, and have given it a rating of 4.4 out of 5 on Google reviews.

What to Eat in Miyazaki

Miyazaki specializes in a whole array of food. Even though it may seem common all over the country, they take pride in their beef and charcoal grilled chicken, as they cultivate their livestock with utmost care. The locals also make an amazing udon, which should be easily available around Miyazaki. Lettuce rolls are a unique dish that originates from this island. It’s basically a sushi roll with lettuce, mayonnaise, and shrimp inside instead of the usual rice. For your dessert, you may enjoy their ripe, orange mangoes that grow here because of the warm climate. Don’t forget to try their famous cheese Manju dumplings too.

Surfing in Japan: Catch Some Waves in Miyazaki

Aoshima beach is where you want to be if you’re looking to surf in the area. Swimming, sunbathing, sailing, and boating are among different activities you may enjoy here during a sunny day. It’s best to go during the summer months, as the beach is only open from early June to late August. During July, there’s a sea crossing festival that you may want to partake in, followed by an International Beer Festival towards the latter part of August. If you walk around the area during these warmer months, you’re likely to bump into the locals (and perhaps some foreigners as well) who are into surfing themselves.

Exploring Miyazaki? It’s Always Helpful to Have A Map When in Japan

No matter what country you go to, having a map of the area you are traveling in is essential. There are all kinds of maps to have, really, but the most important of them all – especially for a well-developed country like Japan, is the map of the railing system, as well as where the different lines connect to. It would also be extremely helpful to print out a walking map of Miyazaki, which is available online.

Miyazaki is served by the JR Kyushu Nichinan Line, which connects to many stations in Nichinan, Kushima, Shibushi, and Miyazaki itself. Its only connection to the Shibushi prefecture are through two stations; Shibushi and Osumi-Natsui.

Visiting Miyazaki Soon? Learn How its Climate Compares to The Rest of Japan

The climate in Miyazaki is quite humid, and a lot warmer compared to the rest of Japan. Because it’s so far down the southeastern side of Japan, Miyazaki has noticeably different weather compared to that of Tokyo. The reason it’s much hotter than its northern neighboring islands is because it’s equator. How hot? Well, the hottest average temperature during the peak of summer (August) is 31 degrees. Its coolest average temperature during its coldest month (January) is 2.6 degrees. Temperatures here during winter rarely go lower below 0. Precipitation is prevalent in this part of Japan, and it is also more susceptible to getting hit by typhoons with strong wind. Best to have an umbrella with you to prepare for the possible rain.

What to Wear for The Weather When Visiting Miyazaki, Japan

So you’ve bought your ticket and decided to go. It’s time to pack your things, but you’re unsure of what clothes you should bring. There are two things you should consider; first, it is a humid, warm area. Second, which time of the year are you going? Design your wardrobe towards cooler clothes if you plan to go during any other season of the year except for late November or December onwards – a.k.a., winter time. Shirts, shorts, jeans, and slippers or normal sneakers are otherwise okay. Spring during March also calls for comfortable weather – no need to bundle up.

However, winter time can itself be quite cold, so if you’re visiting during those months, bring a sweater and/or a scarf to keep warm in case of temperatures drop. Thick socks are always helpful to have as well. Just a word of advice – Miyazaki is a place you’d want to visit during its hotter months so you can enjoy its lovely beaches. They’re practically deserted during the colder season.

Going to School In Japan? Consider the University of Miyazaki

Though it wasn’t a university yet back then, University of Miyazaki (a.k.a. Miyazaki Daigaku in Japanese) was founded way back in 1884. It gained university status in 2003. It’s well-known for its graduate programs, namely in agriculture, medicine, and engineering. It’s open for international students to join, though its yearly applications finished last February 22. Details on tuition, scholarships, courses, and others can be found on their website.

Explore More of Japan

Japan really does have so much to offer, in this case, in terms of tourism. It isn’t news that people see Tokyo and think that they’ve seen the rest of the country. They really haven’t. Each prefecture has its own special side to it, and same goes for even each district in that prefecture. Miyazaki is no exception to this. From proudly carrying the honor of having the shrine of Japan’s first emperor, to having great beaches for partying and swimming, it’s a place that should be given more thought to learning about. It’s a place that should be worth seeing.