Iconic waterfalls, untouched nature, and Shinto legends: this is all known about Miyazaki Prefecture. Thanks to its tropical location and warm seas, this oasis on the east coast of Kyushu is also a surfer’s paradise known for the best waves in Japan.
Miyazaki’s sunny weather also makes it a sought-after location as a training camp for professional sports teams and Olympic athletes. Tokyo’s Olympic and Paralympics triathlon pre-training camp will be held here. Also, teams from nine countries, for six sports ranging from boxing to women’s football, are expected to arrive in Miyazaki.
Throw into the mix the prefecture’s burgeoning reputation as a hotspot for martial arts aficionados and what you get is more than a peaceful and beautiful tourist destination.
Miyazaki ranks third among Japan’s prefectures in terms of average temperature and sunlight hours. Its waters are a warm 20 degree Celsius all year round, making them ideal for surfing even in winter. Stretching approximately 400km, its coastline offers a wide range of conditions for surfers of all levels.
For those who can’t wait to suit up, look no further than Kisakihama Beach, about 10 minutes away from Miyazaki Airport by car. It has hosted many international competitions, including the 2019 ISA World Surfing Games and the qualifying rounds for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Aoshima Beach is another popular spot on the Nichinan Coast. This shallow beach’s gentle waves are suitable for beginners. Non-surfers can enjoy other beach activities at the ANA Holiday Inn Resort Miyazaki, or check out the famous Oni-no-Sentakuita (devil’s washboard) coastal rock formation.
Okuragahama Beach is a 4km-long, pine tree-covered, white sand beach. Officially recognized as one of Japan’s 100 best beaches, it was the first Asian venue for the ISA World Junior Surf Championships in 2017.
Advanced surfers adore Kyushu’s southernmost beach, Koigaura Beach, for its uncrowded, ultramarine waters. Meanwhile, the waves roll onto shore at a slower pace at Kaguchihama Beach in Takanabe, making it an ideal spot for beginners.
Takanabe is also the hometown of skateboarder Sky Brown, who at 12 years old (as of June 2021), is set to become the UK’s youngest ever Summer Olympian after being listed as one of 20 women’s qualifiers for the Tokyo Games. Brown is also a pro surfer who picked up the sport when she was two. “Miyazaki’s my favorite place on the planet,” she previously told TW. “The weather’s usually warm and the waves are great all year.”
Martial Arts Mecca
Miyazaki is increasingly coming under the spotlight as a Mecca for Japanese martial arts, to which it has been linked in ancient folklore. It is said that a divine revelation at the vermilion-colored Udo Jingu Shrine on the Nichinan Coast at the end of the 15th century led to the creation of kage ryu, one of Japan’s original schools of swordsmanship. It’s no coincidence, perhaps, that Japan’s top-ranking swordsmith today resides in Miyazaki.
While you’ll be hard-pressed to find real swordplay today, a form of budo (Japanese martial arts) called kendo is thriving in Miyazaki. Descended from swordsmanship, practitioners dress in protective armor and spar with each other using bamboo swords.
Miyazaki is a center for the production of kendo equipment and many kendo dojos can be found here. For visitors who want to dip their toes into the kendo world, check out Feel Samurai Tours, which has a wide lineup of curated experiences, including a tea ceremony, to convey a holistic experience of the samurai spirit. (Due to the pandemic, the tour is currently available only for Miyazaki residents.)
Kyudo is the Japanese martial art of archery, and is also embedded in the history of Miyazaki. England’s rugby team tried their hand at kyudo while holding training camp in Miyazaki ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Craftsmen in the city of Miyakonojo established a manufacturing method of archery bows in the early Edo Era, and at its peak 20 to 30 artisans made 200 to 300 handmade, two-meter-long, bamboo bows per day. Four Miyakonojo bow masters continue to operate workshops in this bucolic region of Miyazaki.
Judo, another form of budo, is also synonymous with Miyazaki. Introduced as an Olympic sport for men at the 1964 Tokyo Games, judo is practically a part of Miyazaki’s DNA, and prefectural tournaments are held here annually. Kosei Inoue, who won gold in the men’s under-100kg class at the 2000 Summer Olympics by winning every single match with ippon (the equivalent of a knock-out punch), is a Miyazaki native.
Inoue is one of four men to win three golds at the World and All Japan Championships. The celebrated Olympian is now Japan’s national judo team coach, and will deliver the Olympic Oath on behalf of coaches at the Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremony.
Back to Nature
Miyazaki is also a great place to hit the trail, or boat, and explore rugged nature. A must-see is the famous Takachiho Gorge. The sheer cliffs and distinctive rock layers rise from the Gokase River, forming a stunning background for the dramatic Manainotaki waterfall. This designated natural monument is also known as a “power spot” of spiritual energy.
Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park, one of Japan’s first national parks, is believed to be where sun goddess Amaterasu’s grandson first made his entry into Japan. Volcanic mountain ranges, caldera lakes and hiking trails, the park is a paradise for avid hikers. Start exploring from the educational Ebino Eco Museum Center, where you can set off toward the summit of Mount Ebino. The observatory at the top of the mountain offers great views of Kagoshima’s famous Mount Sakurajima.
Afterwards, head straight to Maruo Onsen – the largest hot spring town on the lower slopes of Kirishima – and soak up Miyazaki’s goodness. Located nearby on the Ebino Plateau, Hotel Pico Lanai recently reopened after a renewal project. You could use some pampering after all that surfing, martial arts and outdoor adventure.
Access: At JR Miyazaki Airport Station purchase a JR Kyushu Rail Pass
More info: visitmiyazaki.com