Miyazaki (tours from Aburatsu), Japan
Aburatsu stands around 30 miles or so from Miyazaki, in an area linked with the enigmatic Emperor Jimmu, the first emperor of Japan. The Miyazaki Shrine is dedicated to the emperor and his parents, and is believed to trace back to the start of Emperor Jimmu’s reign around 2,600 years ago. The cedar wood shrine stands in attractive gardens that include a 400-year-old wisteria.
Another site linked to the first emperor is Heiwadai Park. An excellent place for a stroll, its most notable landmark is the Peace Tower, which was built to mark the 2,600th anniversary of the mythological foundation of Japan. It may be something of an irony that the Peace Tower was built to symbolize a unified world, using stones from across Asia, in 1940 during the unparalleled conflict of World War II. At one end of the park the Haniwa Gardens are dotted with over 400 replica “haniwa” or burial statues arranged on mossy mounds. Depicting warriors, dancers, animals and houses, these types of clay figurines were once placed in burial mounds.
Another interesting spot is the Miyazaki Prefectural Art Museum, showcasing a number of local and national artists from the Edo Period (1603-1868) onward, as well as international works.
Miyazaki’s weather almost coaxes you into the fresh air, as its temperatures are among the warmest in the entire country. So too does Seagaia, a vast resort which grants most of your outdoor wishes along seven miles of pine-scented shore. You can play tennis or golf, go fishing, horse riding or cycling. For a dash more adrenaline, scuba diving, jet-skiing or paragliding might be on your to-do list.
You might devote an hour or two to the Miyazaki City Phoenix Zoo. It’s home to the largest flock of flamingos in Japan, as well as various animals from across Asia and Africa, including Indian elephants, chimpanzees, lions, giraffe and zebra.
Crossing over to Aoshima Island is highly recommended. Connected to the mainland by a bridge, the island is around a mile in circumference and fringed with white beaches. You’ll pass through a red Tori gate on the beach and discover a shrine in its center, tucked away amidst the subtropical jungle. If the tide’s out when you visit, you’ll also see a phenomenon known as the Devil’s Washboard, a naturally formed expanse of basalt rock that looks as though it’s been plowed in perfectly straight lines.