Kyushu's Scenic Coast
Experience Kyushu's natural beauty and power, as you drive down Miyazaki's coast road and on to Ibusuki on the southern tip of Kagoshima. Discover ancient legends, stop by historic samurai towns, hike beautiful forests and relax in the geothermal hot sands.
Miyazaki has lush greenery and beautiful beaches, but it is also home to many legends. This is the place where the gods were said to have first descended to earth, and where Japan's first emperor, Jimmu, was believed to have built his first capital. The lines between humans and deities blur each night during the Kagura festival in Takachiho, as townspeople dance as gods. Explore the depths Takachiho Gorge, or take a roadtrip down the Nichinan coast, past surf beaches and cliff-side shrines.
Takachiho Gorge is about 2 hours inland from the main city by car, but you can also reach the area by bus and train. The deep gorge, formed by a river cutting through volcanic basalt, is spectacular and you can hire row boats to ply the emerald waters below. Not far from the gorge, Amanoiwato Shrine is dedicated the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu Omikami. Near the shrine is the cave where she is said to have once retreated, taking the light of the world with her.
From Takachiho, it's a 2 hour drive to the city of Miyazaki. The Nichirin train line also covers most of the route, hugging the coastline. Just over 20 minutes drive south, you'll reach Aoshima, a small island, connected to the mainland by a footbridge. Here you can see the Devil's Washboard, an unusual rock formation that stretches for 8 kilometers along the coast. Aoshima Shrine on the island is marked by a striking red torii gate that stands out against the sea and sky.
Follow the coast down to Udo Jingu Shrine, built right into the cliff side, then head inland to Obi Castle Town. Built around the ruins of Obi Castle, it has streets of well-preserved samurai houses and elegant gardens. You can explore on foot, or relax on a rickshaw tour. An hour's drive south of Obi Castle Town is Cape Toi, the southernmost point in Miyazaki. Enjoy the bracing air and the views out to sea, and see wild horses, originally bred for samurai, that roam freely here.
Heading away from the coast, drive to Kirishima Jingu Shrine, in Kagoshima. This striking vermilion shrine surrounded by forest marks the area where Ninigi no Mikoto, grandson of the Sun Goddess, was supposed to have descended to earth, to rule over Japan. Not far from here is Ebino Plateau, part of the Kirishima Yaku National Park, with beautiful hiking trails around lakes and volcanoes. Art lovers should stop by Kirishima Art Forest, an innovative modern art museum with a sculpture garden.
Less than an hour and a half drive will get you to the center of Kagoshima, a city on a giant caldera, dominated by the active volcano Sakurajima. There are stunning views of Sakurajima all over the city, but one of the best is from Sengan-en, a historical house with sprawling gardens, built for the Shimazu family, who once ruled this area. Spend a day or two exploring the city and its sights, before you head to the beach-side hot spring resort, Ibusuki Onsen.
About an hour south of Kagoshima, Ibusuki Onsen is famous for sand bathing. There are several spots where you can change into a cotton yukata robe and lie on the beach as an attendant covers you in sand, warmed by underground geothermal springs. There are several luxurious hot spring resorts with sea views, where you can relax and unwind completely.
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