The Udo Jingu Shinto shrine is dedicated to Yamasachihiko, the father of emperor Jimmu, the mythical first emperor of Japan. The shrine is famous for its unique construction. It is built inside a cave on a coastal cliff. There is a terrace overlooking the ocean outside the cave, which is a popular site for seeing the first sunrise of the year.
This amazing shrine is located on the Nichinan Coast some 40 kilometers south of Miyazaki City. The easiest way to go there is by rental car, if you have a drivers license. Alternatively there is a bus from Miyazaki Station. Just ask for it at the tourist information desk inside the station. The fare is about 1,500 yen and it takes a bit more than one hour.
My wife and I chose to rent a little Toyota. Rental is easy; just make sure you have your international drivers license with you, and check before to make sure that it is valid in Japan, as not all are: it depends on whether your country has a reciprocal agreement with Japan.
Around Miyazaki station there are several possibilities for renting a car. Going out the west exit of Miyazaki Station, there is a Nissan rent-a-car, just behind the police box (Koban). Alternatively turning left on the main road and walking some 300 meters, there is a Toyota rent-a-car. This is the one we used.
We paid 7,500 yen for a little Toyota, which was easy and pleasant to drive.To find your ways to Udo Jingu is easy too. Just follow the Aoshima, Nichinan street signs. Having the car for a full day we first visited Aoshima, reserving about 2 hours for that. After Aoshima there is a long tunnel on the bypass road. Don’t take that tunnel. Just before, keep left and take the road to Horikiri Kogen (pass). Stop there at the restaurant for half an hour and enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the Nichinan coast.
After that, drive straight down to Udo Jingu. Drive carefully, as there are many turns and the road is quite narrow sometimes. Arriving at the main parking lot and bus stop, it is a nearly 20 minute walk to the shrine as the path goes through a tunnel, involving a lot of stairs.
There is, however, a way to avoid the 20 minute walk, which a local explained to me, especially if you are driving. Arriving at Udo Jingu by car, as we did, you do not take the first parking on your left. Instead, drive further on for a few hundred meters until the street comes down close to sea level again. On your left you have to look out for a Tori (orange gate marking the entrance of a shrine). Drive slowly, as you might miss it otherwise. Go straight through the Tori. It is a narrow road, so go slowly and carefully. It will take you straight to the entrance gate of Udo Jingu. There is a parking lot there too.
It is not recommended that women visit Udo Jingu with high heels due to the terrain, and having a jacket with you can be a good idea as it might be quite windy. It is a shrine, so please be respectful, as It is a very special place to be.
Nevertheless, it is still a place you can have fun: buy 5 Undama (lucky stones) for 100 yen and then try to toss those into a depression on a rock down on the cliff below. Traditionally men do this with the left hand, women with the right hand. If one of the stones lands in the center, your wish will come true. A day at the Nichinan Coast will not be forgotten easily. My wife and I spent a beautiful day and enjoyed that trip very much.