I was honestly going to wait until the end of my time in Japan to write about Miyazaki Prefecture. I live in Miyazaki, and so I know a lot about it, but I will also continue to learn more the longer that I live here. But, my sister came out to visit me in Miyazaki at the end of March for our Spring breaks (that kind of aligned with one another...). So, I figured it was a great time to write about Miyazaki and all the places that I took her to while she was in town. It might give you a good idea of what you can expect if you do end up visiting me in rural Japan.
To be honest, I was worried that my sister was going to come to Miyazaki and I wouldn't have enough ideas of where to show her, and most importantly restaurants to take her to, since she is a vegetarian. Miyazaki is known for their meat industry: beef (wagyu from Miyazaki routinely wins awards), pork and chicken. So as you can imagine, there is an entire meat culture in Miyazaki and it is basically impossible to find vegetarian and vegan options. Additionally, in Japan, and many other countries, it is a huge taboo to modify food orders from what the restaurant has on their menu. Which is one thing that I do miss about the United States.
This was my sister's first time out of the country. She flew into the Haneda airport in Tokyo, went through customs all on her own, and then transferred to her connecting flight that flew into Kagoshima. Kagoshima is the neighboring prefecture to Miyazaki. The city that I live in, in Miyazaki is a border city so I am equal distance from the Kagoshima airport and the Miyazaki airport. It is super convenient because I am able to check both airports and go with whatever flight is the cheapest.
I picked her up from the airport with an obnoxious sign I made and then drove her back to my place in Miyazaki. She was immediately surprised with the narrow streets and driving on the left side of the road. I bought her some conbini snacks to enjoy on the car ride home and that is where she discovered her love for onigiri. Onigiri is a snack that is made of rice and sometimes filled with vegetables or fish and is often wrapped with dried seaweed. Once we got to my apartment, she slept for the rest of the day.
The following day was her real first day and thankfully the sun was shining! Miyazaki gets the most amount of sun in the country, and, up until her visit it had been extremely sunny. Unfortunately, it rained for the remaining days she was in Miyazaki. I took her to the South Eastern point of the prefecture to a place called Cape Toi. There are wild horses that roam, a shrine you can visit, and a lighthouse you can enter. This was my second time visiting Cape Toi, the first time I visited, there were no horses, but this time around we got to see many horses. We also stopped by the shrine, and ended our time at the lighthouse. Unfortunately, the lighthouse was closed. But it was still a beautiful day and we had a great time. Cape Toi ended up being her favorite spot that we visited in Miyazaki. We then ended the day eating Indian curry with my friends at the Aeon Mall.
The next day, I had work, but fortunately, I get off of work at four so I was able to take her to a cool spot before the sun set! I took her to the popular waterfall in my area called Sekinoo Falls. Unfortunately the bridge that goes down to the base of the falls and the path that goes around the area were closed. She did however get to see it from a cool viewing point and we got in an honorary picture.
The next day was a holiday in Japan, or Vernal Equinox. So, I ended up taking her to Miyazaki city where we enjoyed lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant in Japan: Mr. Perez's Kitchen. The owners are a married couple. Mr. Perez is from Mexico but has lived and worked in various places around the world, while his wife Mrs. Perez is a Japanese woman who has lived in the United States. They ended up meeting and falling in love in New York City. The two of them moved to Japan where they got married and created the restaurant. They currently work out of their home, but are in the process of moving to a new location downtown where they will have a multiple story restaurant. They speak Japanese, English, and Spanish and have created an environment that is welcoming to all people. They also do a great job of spreading Mexican culture down here in rural Japan through events such as Día de Muertos.
After we had our meal we headed down the coast a bit to a place called Sun Messe in Nichinan. Sun Messe is home to the world's only replicas of the Moai statues in Easter Island. The seven statues all represent something different: good health, money, love, marriage, a successful business, leisure, and academic goals. Unlike the real Moai statues you are free to touch them. There is also a museum that tells the history of the statues and they also have a collection of MASSIVE bugs from around the world.
On the fourth day, I had work again, but afterwards I took her to Takachiho Farm. Even though it was raining, and we made it close to closing time, we were able to see early blooming cherry blossoms, cows, goats, sheep, and we also enjoyed some ice cream made at the farm. As a side note, our timing for the cherry blossoms was terrible. We were in Miyazaki while Tokyo was in full bloom, and when we were in Tokyo, Miyazaki was in full bloom. But we still enjoyed the farm. We even met an old man who spoke English and he introduced us to a baby goat who had a heart pattern on it's head.
The final day I took her for a drive to see a Totoro statue. This Totoro was constructed by an older woman and her husband for their grandchildren who are fans of Studio Ghibli. It has since become a tourist destination in Miyazaki. It is on the grandparents private property, so it is important to be mindful. But, they welcome visitors from the hours 8am-5pm on a daily basis for free! This was the perfect ending to our time in Miyazaki because we had watched the Studio Ghibli movie Totoro earlier in the week. On our way back we stopped to view the lake in the area called Lake Miike. Lake Miike has paddle boats for rent and is a popular camping destination in the area. We then ended the day eating Japanese curry and rice for dinner with our good friend.
If we had more time in Miyazaki, here are some other things that I wish I could have done with my sister (including several places that I have not been to):
Miyakonojo History Museum: it is my absolute favorite building in my town and it has history dating back to ancient times. It was built on top of the area that Miyakonojo Castle once stood and there is also a shrine on the property.
Obi: A preserved samurai town that dates back to the 15th century. It seems like a very picturesque area of Japan and is like taking a step back into history.
Kojima Island: Kojima Island is relatively close to Cape Toi. We decide against going out there after Cape Toi because we had dinner plans in the evening. It is inhabited by monkeys who swim in the ocean for fun.
Coca Cola Plant Tour: Located in Ebino, Miyazaki is one of six Coca Cola Plants in Japan. You can take the tour to see how Cola is packaged and take pictures in various Coca Cola themed rooms.
Takachiho Gorge: A big gulf with water on the bottom that several waterfalls pour into. You can rent a boat and enjoy the beautiful scenery there. There is also a famous somen restaurant nearby which are noodles that are made from wheat flour. They are placed on a bamboo shoot with water and you have to catch it with your chopsticks as it floats by.
For others who eat meat, I have many good restaurants I would also like to take you to! So what do you say, is it time for a trip to Miyazaki yet?