Surf, sun and sand!
This is probably not the first image that springs to mind when you think of Japan. Despite being an archipelago, Japan does not have a major beach culture. This is most likely due to the fact that the roughly 30,000 kilometres of coastline is largely made up of rocky shores and jagged cliffs.
However, this doesn’t mean coastal activities are completely nonexistent! Miyazaki prefecture in Kyushu is known as one of Japan’s best surfing spots. Many international surf competitions have been held here in the past.
Photo : Tsuyoshi Uda on Flickr
Aside from surfing, Miyazaki is well known for its scenic Nichinan coastline. For those who’d rather keep their toes out of the water, jump in a rental car and head south!
Photo :かがみ～ on Flickr
The first stop is Aoshima, a tiny subtropical island connected to the mainland by a short bridge. It’s just 1.5 kilometres in circumference, and is surrounded by white sand and a unique rock formation called the “Demon’s Washboard”. The basalt rock has been eroded by the sea and wind, leaving behind hundreds of fascinating rows and small rock pools visible at low tide.
The island is home to Aoshima Shrine. It’s a rare sight to see a Shinto shrine surrounded by palm trees! The shrine hosts two festivals a year, one in summer and the other in winter. During the winter festival, men show their bravery by jumping into the freezing waters wearing nothing but a small cloth!
Sun Messe Nichinan
Continuing down the coast, the next stop is Sun Messe Nichinan. Next to peacefully grazing cows and donkeys, here you’ll find seven stone giants, with their backs to the vast ocean, staring up at you.
At 4m tall and weighing around 18-20t, these statues are exact replicas of the mysterious Moai on Easter Island, one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. Permission was granted by the World Heritage organisation for these Moai to be constructed.
Their strange facial features are somewhat eerie but fascinating. Leaving a few yen in front of them will give you luck in work, health, love, total/whole, marriage, prosperity or academic success.
Not too further down the road is our third stop. Udo-jingu is an ancient Shinto shrine that sits inside a small cave in a cliff. As you pass through the red gates and work your way down the cliff, you feel the powerful energy of the sea around you.
Inside the cave are a few small buildings where priests carry out various rituals. Seawater seeps down from curious ‘breast stones’ and drinking the water from this shrine is popular among women, before, during or after childbirth.
Outside, the waves crash fiercely against the cliff face. With your left hand if you’re a man, or right hand for women, you can have a go at throwing ceramic balls onto a special rock below. It’s said that if you can get the balls inside the roped area, your prayers will be answered.
There are many more stunning locations all the way down to the cape and around into the bay. This coastal area of Japan is not on your typical tourist path, so there is a lot of unspoiled beauty and not a lot of crowds. On a sunny weekend, this is an amazing place to explore!