Just 30 minutes from the center of Miyazaki, you will find the Aoshima resort area, where you can get a good taste of what the Nichinan coast has to offer in the way of stunning scenery, hot springs, bathing, surfing and more. Located at the northernmost point of the Nichinan-Kaigan Quasi National Park, Aoshima is still within the confines of Miyazaki city, but you would hardly know it. Because of its proximity to the city center, the area attracts its share of local sun and surf lovers, but it is also popular with families because of the amusement park known as Kodomo no Kuni that sits just north of Aoshima itself.
Kodomo no kuni has various animal-themed rides targeting young children, and it also offers a mini golf range and beautiful views of the ocean. Many kids love the swan boats that you can paddle around the small lake inside the park.
Because the Aoshima area enjoys a sub-tropical micro-climate, you will see trees and plants that you will not see in other areas of Miyazaki. Kodomo no Kuni is also adjacent to the Palm Beach Hotel, one of the nicer hotels in the area, and one of several that offer reasonable spa (onsen) facilities to non-guests, the others being the Aoshima Kanko Hotel, the Aoshima Grand Hotel and the Aoshima Cinqmale. Ask at any of these hotels for their legendary spa package or Aoshima Densetu no yu.
If you are looking for something fancier than the fare available at Kodomo no Kuni, the Palm Beach Hotel also has several restaurants, and the Japanese restaurant on the second floor, often boasting regional fish and vegetables, is a particularly good deal at lunch. Assuming you have not thrown away your entrance tickets, you can get back into the amusement park following lunch. Or visit the Activity Center on the ground floor to inquire about surfing lessons or even courses in woodcraft.
Continuing south another 25 minutes from the Palm Beach Hotel, you will come to Aoshima island itself, just a short walk from the main road. Once an extremely popular honeymoon spot, Aoshima has clearly seen better days, and you will probably see the owners of souvenir stands also holding signs offering parking for 500 yen. (Try the mango ice-cream or uiro, made from rice flower and brown sugar, by the way.)
Just before you come to the island, you will pass a botanical gardens complete with glass houses holding countless varieties of tropical plants. Many of the plants on display are from South East Asia and the Indian sub-continent, but the island itself offers such a stunning variety of sub-tropical plants, that you may find it a bit ironic. Still, a lovely place, and the last time I went, I was give four potted marigold plants as a thank you gift.
Once on the island, you can walk around it in about 20 minutes, but do take time to see Aoshima Shrine set into the surrounding jungle. The shrine is considered a lucky place to visit if you are planning to get married. All around the island you will see the impressive natural rock formations known as Oni no Sentakuita or devil’s washboard.
For Kodomo No Kuni, there is a 400-yen admission charge, except during the stunningly beautiful Flower Festa that runs for one month from late April, when it is 800 yen. Rides and attractions are extra.
It costs 200 yen to enter the botanical gardens near Aoshima. There is no charge to walk around Aoshima or enter the shrine.
Perhaps the best way to see the area is to take a bus from Miyazaki train station. Most buses going to Obi, Aoshima, Aburatsu station and other areas in the Nichinan region will take you where you want to go, but if in doubt, you can always ask at the helpful multi-lingual tourist information desk. They can also provide you with details on purchasing one of several all-day passes, some even for locals and other Japan residents and others for foreign tourists. Alternatively, a train will take you to both Kodomo no Kuni and Aoshima, which also happen to be the names of the bus and train stops. Buses tend to be slightly more frequent. It is only a 20-25 minute walk between Kodomo no Kuni and Aoshima.
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I first came to Japan in 1979, where I have taught mainly at the secondary and tertiary levels. In early 2012, my wife (a native of Miyazaki) and I decided to move from Tokyo to Miyazaki city with our 3 cats. In addition to my work with Japan Tourist, I teach English to senior citizens and nurses, write and perform folk music ,and volunteer with homeless and disability support groups. I am currently working on a project with organic farmers in the town of Aya to invite kids from Fukushima to participate in summer camps. As if that were not enough, we are planning on opening up an organic cafe/wine bar that will feature products made by local people with disabilities. I hope that I can help many of you discover the warmth of the people in Miyazaki and southern Kyushu.