Tropical palms and prize-winning jitokko chicken
Miyazaki is located on the southeastern coast of Kyushu, with parts of it enjoying a subtropical climate. The first thing you will notice when your plane lands is palm trees, and although many of these were planted decades ago to encourage honeymooners to visit (it was once one of the premier honeymoon spots in the pre-international travel days), there are pockets enjoying a warmer microclimate with native species, one of the most famous being Aoshima, a small island to the south of Miyazaki city that was once a major tourist destination and which still holds a certain charm.
Miyazaki natives sometimes call themselves the Latinos of Japan, owing both to the warm climate as well as their easy-going nature. To be tege-tege in Miyazaki dialect means to take things as they come, and not worry a great deal if you can’t get things done on time. Life in Miyazaki is, in some ways, about stepping back and enjoying life and all that nature has to offer. This makes it the perfect vacation spot, especially if you are looking to get away from the fast pace of cities like Tokyo or Osaka.
Miyazaki food tastes sweeter than Kansai cuisine and sweeter still than food from Kanto and Tohoku. Being an agricultural prefecture with relatively little industry, food products are one of the delights of Miyazaki, and often the food in local restaurants will be extremely fresh and locally sourced. Much of the chicken is free range, and you can enjoy it in many forms, such as jidori, a specially bred species originating along the Nichinan coast, most commonly served charcoal broiled. Another not-to-be missed dish is chicken nanban, marinated in a sweet and sour sauce and then deep-fried. Also popular is obi-ten, a sweeter version of the deep-fried minced fish-cake originating in Kagoshima known as satsuma-age. The “ten” in the term obiten actually refers to tempura, and often the word tempura itself can refer either to the dish most people are familiar with or satsuma-age and its many variants.
To many, Miyazaki is synonymous with shochu, a form of distilled spirits common throughout Japan. At about 20 percent alcohol or more, and with a strong smell, Miyazaki shochu is primarily made from sweet potatoes, unlike shochu from other regions made from barley, brown sugar, rice, chestnuts, or even sesame. As in other parts of Kyushu, one does not add a salted plum known as ume-boshi, something fairly common in Tokyo. Shochu here is often called sake, which can lead to confusion by people expecting the more subtle rice-based drink known both as sake and nihonshu in other parts of Japan. it is probably best, therefore to be specific and order either nihonshu or shochu to avoid any misunderstandings. One of the best places to drink locally made shochu, by the way, is in the town of Aya, renowned for a number of popular brands because of the purity of its water. Aya is also famed for its organic produce, pottery, weaving and woodworking, and is only about an hour outside Miyazaki city.
Getting There and Getting Around
Most visitors to Miyazaki enter by air from Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka or Hiroshima. There are also flights to and from Okinawa, as well as Korea and China. One of the more popular golf resorts is adjacent to the former Sea Gaia ocean park north of the city, and is reportedly popular with foreign golfers. The complex also boasts a 42-storey Sheraton hotel with enormous rooms, many bigger than a standard Tokyo 2-room apartment.
No matter how you arrive, you will probably find Miyazaki city a good base from which to explore the rest of the prefecture, or at least the nearest towns and villages. There is a tourist information booth right at the airport with staff conversant in English as well as Korean and Chinese. A short train ride from the airport is Miyazaki station, where just inside the main entrance, you will find another multi-lingual information booth with friendly staff eager to help you find a hotel or book train and bus trips locally and to other areas of the prefecture. In fact, they sell a reasonable bus card valid for one day that will allow you to visit numerous tourist spots such as Aoshima or Udo shine. The cost is only 1,000 yen, or 500 yen on weekends for a slightly more limited itinerary. Both of these are limited to foreign tourists who can present a passport. Conveniently, many of the local and long distance buses stop at Miyazaki station or at the nearby Miyako City terminal. For venturing farther a-field, there is another pass that costs 1,800 yen. Of course, you may opt to base yourself in other areas of the prefecture, closer to the neighboring prefectures of Kumamoto, Kagoshima, or Oita, and again, the helpful staff at the tourist offices, particularly the one at Miyazaki station, are a tremendous resource in helping you plan your trip.
Some helpful information:
Miyazaki City Tourist Association (branch inside Miyazaki train station)
1-8 Nishimachi, Miyazaki City 880-0811
Go to their website to download a brochure to help you get started planning trips both within the city and throughout the prefecture: