If you ask Miyazaki tour operators which attractions are the most famous in this southeastern Kyushu prefecture, you can guarantee that Aoshima will be one of the first named, along with Takachiho. Every day, from the time the roaring sun climbs high above the horizon of the Pacific Ocean until it descends behind the soft blue mountains of Kaeda Valley, hundreds of people in tour groups visit Aoshima. The island of Aoshima is indeed a place of great spiritual value, and its seaside shrine and great red shrine gate are unmistakable icons. However, the area of Aoshima has more than just its idyllic island shrine and ragged volcanic rock shapes.
Unbeknownst to most visitors to Miyazaki, and many locals as well, there is a beautiful Japanese garden tucked away from the eyes of those on highway buses and rapid tours. It has all of the features that people love about Japanese gardens, including bonsai trees, a pond full of vividly coloured carp, quaint bridges that reflect serenely across the water, and a waterfall that offers soothing sounds as you take in the treasures on offer. It is so quiet that in the 6 years I have been going there, I have never seen more than 4-5 people there at any time.
In the fall, the changing leaves provide a kaleidoscope of colours that bounce off the pond’s glassy surface. At any time of day during this season, you can stroll along the carefully manicured paths or rest inside the bamboo pergola and be transported to a different world where you might imagine Basho writing haiku amid the sounds of the koto or shamisen. It is at this time of year that the garden is best to photograph, and if you are lucky, you might see couples bedecked in traditional kimono and hakama taking their wedding photos. When you combine the graceful beauty of traditional Japanese dress with the stunning surrounds of this Japanese garden, you realize what a special place Japan can be.
The garden, called Hyuga Keishu-en, is located inside Miyazaki Undo-koen. There is no entry fee, and it is accessible during daylight hours throughout the year. Miyazaki Undo-koen is a huge sporting area filled with baseball stadiums, soccer fields, a velodrome, athletics tracks and recreational areas. The garden is just south of the track and field stadium. One might think that with so many sporting grounds nearby, the garden would hardly be a place of quietude and refuge. However, this is not the case at all.