You’d be forgiven if you’d never heard of Miyazaki Prefecture in Japan. I did a poll on my Instagram stories and 95% of people said they didn’t know where it was and I have a sneaking suspicion that the 5% who did know about Miyazaki were the friends I told in the pub the night before!
Miyazaki Prefecture is in the south of Japan on Kyushu Island. It’s a 90 minute flight from Tokyo and is famed for its beautiful, mountainous landscapes and gorgeous coastline. The reason I was in Miyazaki was due to a project with Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau to promote the lesser-known areas of Japan that are an easy hop, skip and a jump from Tokyo; meaning they’re great places for a short trip from Tokyo if you’re already visiting the bustling capital.
I loved my time in Tokyo but I’m more of an outdoors girl than a city girl so my short trip to Miyazaki was a dream!
Here’s what I got up to with 3 days in Miyazaki Prefecture in Japan.
Day 1 in Miyazaki Prefecture
I took an early flight from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to Miyazaki with Japanese Airlines. I was met at the airport by a guide, but you could easily hire a car from the airport to complete this Miyazaki itinerary yourself. There are discounts for tourists hiring cars and driving in Japan would be incredibly easy. The Japanese are calm and patient, they drive on the left and the roads in Miyazaki aren’t too busy. It would be very similar to driving in a suburban town in the UK.
Kirishima Factory Garden
Our first stop was Kirishima Factory Garden, a brewery making Shochu which is a Japanese spirit made with sweet potatoes. The tour was in Japanese so unless you speak Japanese, have a translator or you’re really interested in factory equipment then I’d suggest heading straight for the shop where you can try some samples!
We had lunch at the restaurant and it was absolutely delicious, as is the café which bakes bread and cakes using the waste product from the shochu. I’m not going to lie, I was fully prepared for this to be hideous but it was delicious. Both the bread and cakes were soft and fluffy, sweet and tasty so I highly recommend visiting! We finished the tour with a shochu flavoured ice cream which was surprisingly delicious!
Japanese home stay
From the factory, we briefly visited some farmers to see how they plough up the sweet potatoes for the shochu before heading to our accommodation for the evening – a Japanese home stay!
The Japanese homestay was one of the highlights from my whole trip as it was such a unique and authentic experience. It was a little bit difficult and awkward at times due to the language barrier but it’s a stay I’ll never forget. Japanese culture is so different to that in the UK and this was an incredible way to experience it first-hand. When you visit somewhere new, tourists will usually only interact with local people who work in hospitality so it was a wonderful opportunity to see what Japanese life is really like.
The family I stayed with had a beautiful home and many rooms had the traditional tatami mats on the floor and the traditional room dividers. The family didn’t speak a lot of English and I don’t speak Japanese but we managed to get by and had a delicious dinner. It was a sort-of hotpot cooked over an outdoor fire.
After dinner we were welcomed to partake in a tea ceremony. I was dressed in a beautiful kimono and with hand gestures we made it through the strict ceremony. It was beautiful and highlighted how different our cultures are. There are rules to a tea ceremony that must be abided to and it’s a very formulaic process.
Day 2 in Miyazaki Prefecture
The next morning I was woken at 6am to enjoy an early morning walk through the stunning countryside. My host papa (yes, he asked me to call him that) told me he takes a long walk every morning and he likes to keep fit and active. This is something I’m going to come back to in my next blog post because Japanese people are so healthy! It was a beautiful walk and the only thing drawing us back to the house were our rumbling bellies.
We were greeted with a breakfast feast of rice and salmon and 6-7 tiny side dishes. We ate it at a low table with our legs crossed beneath but this table was the best. It had a heated table cloth covering it that draped over our legs like a heated blanket. I could have sat there all day tucking into Japanese food and enjoying the cosy atmosphere in the house.
Kendo equipment workshop
Our first visit for the day was to a Kendo equipment workshop where they made the outfits the popular Japanese sport of Kendo. Each part of the protective costume is hand-made and made to order. We had a quick demonstration of what Kendo is (it’s much more than just hitting people on the head with a stick!) before heading to Saitobaru Tombs.
This historic burial site is a must visit for anyone in Miyazaki Prefecture. There are 319 underground tombs dating back to the 3rd century. They appear like raised mounds coming out of the ground and are surrounded by stunning fields of colourful flowers which change depending on the season; in spring you’ll see the gorgeous, pink cherry blossom, in summer it’s the golden yellow rape blossom and in the autumn you’ll see the pretty pink cosmos flowers.
We had a cycling tour around the tombs, lunch within the café/gift shop and even had a quick shimenawa making lesson. Shimenawa is a hemp rope with religious significance and, unfortunately, I am not a natural when it comes to twisting it into shape. I thought it would be a lot like braiding a plait but it’s much more difficult and I felt like I needed an extra 4-6 arms to make it work!
Our next stop was a trip to Ayanoteruhaotsuri Bridge, an incredible suspension bridge spanning 250 metres across the Aya River Valley. It’s much more than a bridge as it leads you over a spectacular evergreen forest that is so lush and dense it reminded me of something from Jurassic Park. It was glorious and if the bridge didn’t turn my knees to jelly I could have stood in the middle all day looking out of the beautiful scenery.
Once you cross the bridge there are a few well-signposted hikes you can do. We opted for a short hike to a waterfall but it was the end of the summer (early November) and the waterfall was more of a trickle!
Sheraton Grande Ocean Resort
From the suspension bridge we drove to our hotel for our final night, the Sheraton Grande Ocean Resort. This couldn’t have been further from our homestay the previous evening!
The Sheraton Grande Ocean Resort is a huge, family-friendly resort. It’s the kind of place where you could happily spend 2-3 days without even leaving the resort. The restaurants, pools, onsen and activities would definitely keep you busy!
That evening we had dinner at Ushinomiya, an onsite restaurant specialising in Japan’s finest Miyazaki beef. The restaurant has just six seats so it’s more like a private teppanyaki experience where you’re treated to the best beef in Japan, cooked in more ways than you can imagine. Two talented chefs stood before us and cooked up an incredible beef feast. It was absolutely incredible and I lost count of how much I’d eaten after about 15 courses!
Day 3 in Miyazaki Prefecture
The following morning we had some time to relax around the resort. There are so many little areas and spaces around the hotel and I happily stumbled upon the ‘Letter Writing Room’ where I spent rather a lot of time crafting postcards to send home to the boys. They have a very clever letter box where you can post letters like normal, then there’s one that acts like a time capsule and it post your letter at some point in the future. There’s another one where you’ll post your hopes and dreams.
I loved the gorgeous pool area and the fire pits where you can toast marshmallows but especially loved the hotel’s potter who will help you create your own pot. I had a (terrible!) attempt at making a cup. It was so much fun and thankfully the potter managed to salvage my cup and the hotel will post it to me soon! I’m hoping it will arrive in time for Christmas. I love souvenirs like this, it’ll bring back such special memories but is also something I can use everyday.
We reluctantly checked out of the hotel and headed to our final stop on the Mikyazaki itinerary; Aoshima.
Aoshima is a tiny island connected to the mainland by a bridge. It has white sandy beaches and a subtropical jungle at the center and you could easily walk around the shore of the island. We walked under Torii Gate and through the dense trees into the centre to find Aoshima Jinja, a beautiful and colourful shine. It was fairly busy on the little island but the peaceful silence in the trees was intense. Stepping into the forest was like walking through a doorway into a different room and the door shutting behind you. The trees instantly blocked the noise of the crashing waves and the buzz of people all around.
This incredible trip to Tokyo and Miyazaki was a press trip with Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau
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