Let’s face it. Most people who visit Japan, definitely come to Tokyo. Some stay in Tokyo the entire time.
Sure, Tokyo is nice – and I’ll show you some popular spots in this article.
But if you stay solely in Tokyo and then think you’ve experienced Japan, you’re wrong!
One region of Japan that might give you quite the contrast to Tokyo is Kyushu.
In this article I want to introduce one of Kyushu’s 7 prefectures in particular, namely Miyazaki.
I’ve been to Miyazaki before – and I really loved it there.
With the ocean and all the palm trees, you almost forget you’re in Japan. On the other hand, there are some impressive shrines and you can enjoy kagura dance performances.
I hope that below sample itinerary will give you some ideas what to do in Tokyo and especially in Miyazaki.
Day 1: Tokyo (Dec 5, 2017)
Tokyo is great. There are many things to do – even if you’ve been to Tokyo several times already.
Japanese-style gardens, shopping arcades, skyscrapers, traditional temples and shrines – Tokyo has it all.
Here’s one example what you can do in a day in Tokyo.
Tsukiji Fish Market (Outer Market)
My first Tokyo visit was in 2007 – and even 10 years later I had not yet been to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market! So, it was about time.
The fish market has been in the news a lot in recent years. It has been closed for tourists on and off due to several incidents.
Please note that it’ll be relocated in October 2018 to a new location in Toyosu.
If you want to visit the tuna auction, not only do you have to get up very(!) early, but you also have to hope that there aren’t many people. It’s limited to only 120 visitors per day!
It’s quite a hassle in my eyes – and I don’t think it’s worth it.
With the recent tourist boom, even the wholesale area of the inner market (which usually opens after 10 a.m. to the public) is extremely crowded.
And you’ll just end up being in the way of the people doing business there.
It’s a lot more relaxed if you just visit the outer market.
I’ve been to many fish markets in Japan (e.g. the Hakodate Fish Market), so I thought that despite of its fame, Tsukiji Fish Market wouldn’t be very impressive. But I have to admit that the huge variety of tableware, fresh vegetables, fruit, fish and other dishes indeed surprised me.
And while it was crowded, it wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be.
I can recommend visiting the outer fish market. Go with an empty stomach and try all the different dishes there!
Last but not least, you can also check out the tiny shrine next to the fish market.
The Namiyoke Inari Shrine is one of Japan’s many Inari Shrines – the most famous one is of course Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Only a short walk away from the fish market you’ll find Hama-Rikyu Gardens.
I’ve been there before in early December 2015 and really loved it.
The autumn colors, the Japanese-style garden with a teahouse and the skyscrapers of Shiodome in the background – such a bizarre yet beautiful sight!
If you have some time, stop by at the teahouse in the center of the garden.
They serve matcha with traditional Japanese sweets.
Lunch at Hibiki
Just a short walk away from Hama-Rikyu Gardens, I went for lunch at the Japanese restaurant “Hibiki” which is on the 46th floor of the Caretta Building in Shiodome.
It’s very bright with lots of windows and a modern atmosphere. They offer a great selection of different food, but as it’s close to Tsukiji fish market, you really should try sashimi when you go there.
Apart from the delicious food, you can also enjoy great views of the neighboring skyscrapers and Hama-Rikyu Gardens.
Asakusa: Sensoji Temple and Matcha Ice Cream
You can never go wrong with Asakusa. I’ve been to Asakusa many, many times.
Believe it or not, Asakusa never gets boring. There are so many things to do – and compared to my first visit in 2007, there’s now even Tokyo Sky Tree!
Sensoji Temple is a must-see if you haven’t been there yet. Be aware that the area around the temple is extremely touristy. If you intend to buy souvenirs, you have a great selection there, but it might not be the cheapest price.
Asakusa has a lot of nice little stores where you can go shopping. There’s even a Donki which is open 24/7.
The famous Kappabashi Street where you can find lots of tableware and the famous plastic food samples is also nearby.
Every time I visit Asakusa, I discover something new.
This time I got to try delicious matcha ice cream at “Suzukien“.
I did this trip together with a fellow German blogger, Tessa, who introduced me to it.
The special thing about this store is that they offer 7 different “flavor levels” from weak to strong (depending on how much matcha powder has been used). I tried number 4 and it was just about right. I got to try the highest level as well, but it was certainly too strong – at least for my taste. The brownish ice cream in the photo above was “Houjicha” flavor. They do offer other tea ice cream as well. Very delicious.
You can also buy matcha and other Japanese green tea for a decent price there.
Waterbus Tour: Asakusa – Odaiba
It’s so easy to travel within Tokyo e.g. via subway or train. But for certain destinations you might consider a different way of transportation.
As our next destination was Odaiba, we decided to take the waterbus.
I’ve accessed Odaiba via train and on foot, so this was new to me. It’s certainly the most picturesque way to get there.
But be aware that if you stay on the deck, you might have to go down on your knees whenever there’s a low bridge. It’s also quite windy up there, so on a cold day, you probably won’t be able to stay up there the entire trip (which takes about an hour).
However, if you do stay on the deck, you get to see Tokyo’s beautiful skyline, the rainbow bridge, Tokyo Tower and more.
Odaiba: Shopping, Giant Gundam, Rainbow Bridge
I simply love Odaiba. I sometimes go there for shopping. There are several nice department stores, so you can easily spend the whole day there just shopping to your heart’s content.
The first time I visited (2007) I only went there for the Fuji TV building (the spacey building in the background).
Odaiba is also where the giant Gundam can be found in front of Diver City. Please note that they’ve recently exchanged the old one (spring 2017) with this new one (autumn 2017).
You can see the Gundam’s transformation (like in the photo above) during several times a day at 11:00, 13:00, 15:00 and 17:00.
Later that day we had dinner at the restaurant “Oshima” which is located within Hotel Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba. The staff wears traditional clothes and it’s a very fancy place. The food is being presented in a beautiful way as you can see in above photo. I especially recommend the delicious sashimi and tempura.
My favorite part of Odaiba is the night view of Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower. I can never get enough of this. I generally like bridges that are lit up at night. My favorite bridge in Japan is probably the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge (near Kobe).
For the night I stayed in a hotel near Odaiba, in case you’re wondering. It’s the Tokyo Bay Ariake Washington Hotel. It was a comfortable hotel with a very delicious buffet-style breakfast. Please note that it’s a bit far away from other popular areas in Tokyo such as Ikebukuro, Harajuku etc., but for our itinerary it was convenient.
Day 2: Miyazaki (Dec 6, 2017)
If you visit Tokyo, but also want to explore a completely different region of Japan, Kyushu is a good choice.
We went to Miyazaki Prefecture which is one of Kyushu’s 7 prefectures. As I’ve been to all of Japan’s 47 prefectures already, it goes without saying that it wasn’t my first time there. But as I enjoyed my previous stay a lot, I was really looking forward to it.
We left our hotel in Tokyo early in the morning, headed to Haneda Airport to get to Kumamoto Airport. While Kumamoto is located in another prefecture, it’s actually convenient if you want to visit Takachiho:
I’ve been to Takachiho before (also in December) and was impressed by the landscape nature has created there.
The most famous spot in Takachiho is without a doubt Takachiho Gorge. It was created by a volcanic eruption a very long time ago. After all Kyushu houses a lot of volcanoes! For more details you can refer to above mentioned blog article.
Definitely take a boat tour through the gorge. The views are stunning and you can get very close to the waterfall and the rock formations.
Lunch at Takachihoya
For lunch we went to a relatively new (2017) restaurant called “Takachihoya“. It’s on the main street between the Takachiho Bus Center and Takachiho Shrine, so it’s easy to spot. I was very curious as this wasn’t around when I visited last time in 2011.
You can feel that they put a lot of effort into the interior design. It’s creates a very comfortable atmosphere. Not only the interior, but also the food is displayed with a lot of love for details. You can get a delicious and filling lunch set for about 1000 yen.
Power Spot: Amano Yasugawara
The Amano Yasugawara near Amanoiwato Shrine was one of my highlights last time. It’s a famous power spot with an interesting legend featuring Amaterasu, the sun goddess. She was hiding in a nearby cave, so the world got dark.
In order to receive power, you can create a pile of stone at above shrine or along the river near that very cave.
Dinner: Miyazaki Beef
You’ve probably heard of “Kobe beef” before. I think this is still the most famous among Japan’s expensive wagyu options. And Kobe beef was also the first one I ever got to try. However, there are many other regions in Japan with equally good and pricy beef e.g. Matsusaka beef (Mie Prefecture).
Miyazaki certainly can compete with its juicy beef that literally melts on your tongue. Just be aware that it’s very fatty and you can’t eat much of it.
We enjoyed our Miyazaki beef at a restaurant famous for wagyu called “Nagomi“.
Kagura Dance Performance at Takachiho Shrine
Last time I watched the kagura dance performance at Takachiho Shrine on New Year’s Eve.
It was really impressive, especially because it was during the last hours of the year.
The dance performances change throughout the year, but unfortunately I got to see the exact same dances as last time. Probably because I came yet again in December.
It’s certainly a great way to experience Japanese culture at its best, so make sure to stay in Takachiho for one night. Otherwise you won’t be able to enjoy the dance performance which takes place in the late evening. A lot of hotels offer free shuttle buses, so you might want to check that beforehand.
You can find a full description of the dances and even videos in my Takachiho article.
If you’re looking for a hotel in Takachiho, you have quite a few options. Last time I stayed in a business hotel which was close to the Takachiho Bus Center, but a tiny bit far from the other attractions. This time I stayed at “Hotel Takachiho” which is very close to Takachiho Shrine – and thus great if you want to enjoy the kagura dance performance at night.
The hotel offers Western-style and Japanese-style rooms. There’s also a nice hot spa and the buffet-style breakfast is amazing.
Day 3: Miyazaki (Dec 7, 2017)
I admit it’s really hard to find places I still haven’t been to in Japan. In fact, there are so many places I’ve been to a million times already (esp. when showing around family and friends). So, I naturally get excited if I get to discover new things. My second day in Miyazaki was luckily full of new sights!
I already fell in love with the ocean and the coast of Miyazaki during my last visit. The entire Nichinan coastline (e.g. Sunmesse Nichinan) offers stunning views.
I’m a fan of islands, ocean views and rock formations – and usually capes are a great place for this. I mean, I’ve been to the capes marking the outermost spots of Japan – and it’s just insanely beautiful.
Cape Hyuga is part of the Nippo-Kaigan Quasi-National Park.
The highlight – and a must-visit is “Umagase“, which is Japan’s largest cliff of pillar-like rocks. It’s very narrow with only 10 m, but stretches out into the ocean for 200 m. The pillars are up to 70 m high. Quite an impressive view.
Not too far from the cape is the “Sea-cruz” where your wishes may come true. In fact, that rock formation forms a cross, but if viewed from above it looks like the kanji for “kanau” (叶) which means “fulfill (a dream / wish)”.
Public transportation is available. Get off at JR Hyuga-shi Station. The closest bus stop from the station is probably no. 49. Get off at “Mihokogaura Park” which is number 65. There’s a tourist information inside Hyuga Station, so maybe confirm with them first! Of course going by car or taxi is also an option. Free parking is available.
Lunch at “Amimoto”
The ocean does not only offer stunning views, but also extremely yummy seafood.
At a restaurant called “Amimoto” near Aoshima Shrine we got to eat extremely delicious sashimi. The seafood in Miyazaki is fresh and there’s a great variety you can choose from. In above photo you see the “Aoshima saizen-don”. At least I think that was the name. Highly recommended!
From the restaurant it’s about a 15-min walk to Aoshima Shrine.
I’m so glad I got to visit Aoshima Shrine again. I can’t describe it well, but I just like the atmosphere. I guess I like shrines and temples on islands in general. The atmosphere is a bit similar to the famous Miyajima, but here you can actually walk to the shrine. No ferry needed.
And while you walk towards the red shrine gate, you can enjoy the demon’s washboard (rock formations) along the shore.
Insider tip: Aoshima Shrine has really lovely seal books. I got one of mine there in 2011. It was my second book back then. I’m on my 5th book or so now.
Soft Cream at Roadside Station Phoenix
Just like everywhere in Japan, you can find various “Michi-no-eki” (roadside stations) on the way.
At the Roadside Station “Phoenix” I tried soft cream in the flavor “hyuga-natsu“, a Japanese citrus fruit. That was probably one of the best ones I’ve ever tried! Apart from that I was amazed by the ocean views I could enjoy while eating.
A castle – and one that I haven’t been to yet! Yes, I was very excited.
Unfortunately Obi Castle doesn’t have a main tower anymore, but one of the gates, parts of the massive castle walls, the inner and outer moat are still there. The outer moat is actually a river, so they chose the location of the castle wisely.
While there is no castle tower anymore, the center of the castle ground is now home to an elementary school. That’s actually quite unique. And I’m envious! How cool is it if you walk through a massive castle gate, climbing up stone stairs along the castle walls to get to your school?
The castle is located in Nichinan City. It’s about 1 km from JR Obi Station, but there’s also a local bus. There’s an entrance fee of 600 yen for the castle museum, but it also includes entrance to nearby Matsu-no-maru and Yoshokan.
Make sure to stroll around Obi Town as well. It’s a lovely small castle town with tiny canals where you can discover koi fish.
I’ll write a more detailed post about this. Please stay tuned for more information.
Dinner at an izakaya: “Sandaime-Manryo”
If you want to try a lot of different food, an izakaya is always a good idea. You can order everything you like and share with each other. So everybody gets to try everything. At “Sandaime-Manryo” we got to eat all of Miyazaki’s most famous food such as “Chicken Nanban”, “lettuce maki” or beef onigiri (displayed in above photo). The food was extremely delicious and I had a hard time choosing my favorite dish. They also served Takachiho umeshu which is probably the best I’ve ever tried.
Day 4: Miyazaki (Dec 8, 2017)
For our last night in Miyazaki we stayed in a hotel with a breathtaking view of the ocean.
The “Prince Hotel Nango” was almost empty at that time, but I can imagine it’s fully booked and also a lot more expensive during summer time. There’s also a private beach, an outdoor pool and a rotenburo. The rooms are spacious and with that awesome view I could have stayed there for weeks.
It’s located along the “Nichinan Coast”, so if you plan to visit any sights there, this might be an accommodation option for you.
On our last day in Miyazaki we visited yet another cape.
Cape Toi is located in Kushima City at the southernmost tip of the Nichinan Coastline.
You can find wild animals there such as wild boars. The main attraction are around 70 wild horses called “Misaki-uma”. You can observe them with beautiful ocean views in the background. This sight reminded me very much of Yonaguni (Japan’s westernmost island in Okinawa).
There’s also a lighthouse, the only one open to public in all of Kyushu. Lighthouses you can enter are quite rare in Japan. The one at Cape Toi has been selected as one of “Japan’s Best 50 Lighthouses“. On a clear day you can see all the way to the Osumi Peninsula of Kagoshima Prefecture.
At the outer tip of the cape you’ll find Misaki Shrine where people pray to be spared from sea disasters. The previous shrine (seen in the upper left of the photo) is no longer accessible, so a newer shrine has been built.
If you have some time, stroll around. The cape is huge and you can enjoy nature to its fullest. Not only will you run into more wild horses, but there are also thousands of cycad trees.
While it’s recommended to travel there by car, public transportation is available. From JR Kushima Station (串間駅) take the bus bound for “Toi-Misaki” (都井岬). It’ll take about 45 minutes to get there. As the cape is quite spacious, be prepared to walk a lot. They do offer rental bicycles at the visitor center – which is close to the bus stop.
Tripadvisor’s Number 1: Nango Michi-no-Eki
We hit yet another roadside station to take a rest. But this one is special as it has been chosen as “Number 1 Roadside Station in Japan in 2017” by Tripadvisor!
Needless to say that the soft cream there was delicious, but the view from there is just indescribable. Not only that, but the beautiful emerald color of the ocean reminded me of Okinawa.
Lunch at “Bibin-ya”
Before we hit our final destination for the day, we went for lunch at a small, but lovely restaurant called “Bibin-ya“.
Located right next to the ocean they had a nice selection of fresh seafood. I went for katsuo (skipjack tuna) – as I love this so much. But I’ve never eaten it as “ochazuke” (pour hot green tea into your bowl of rice). Very delicious!
Another highlight of my first visit in Miyazaki was Udo Jingu. Thanks to all of your comments I know that many of you went there and enjoyed it just as much. I’m so thankful that I got to go again.
Udo Shrine is located inside a cave of the massive rock formations right next to the ocean.
The location surprises with breathtaking views. That alone would be worth a visit. But Udo Jingu offers a lot more.
I’m always amazed at the huge selection of omamori (lucky charms) there. Needless to say that I bought a few – yet again.
At Udo Shrine you can throw clay balls called “undama“. You get 5 tries.
There’s a sacred rock below in the ocean and you gotta hit into a small hole. I failed. To my defense, women have to use their right hand when throwing – and I’m left-handed. Not fair!
If you’re unlucky as me, you can still change your fate by buying a lucky charm that contains one of these “undama” that actually hit the hole in the rock.
Back to Tokyo
Udo Shrine was unfortunately our last stop in Miyazaki. Although it has been my second time visiting, there’s still so much I want to see. Aya Castle, the Ebino Plateau or Kojima (which is not too far from Cape Toi). So, there will be a third time for sure!
We headed to Miyazaki Airport. The bus that runs along the Nichinan Coast and stops at the major sightseeing spots (e.g. Udo Shrine, Aoshima Shrine, Sunmesse Nichinan) also stops at the airport. And we were off to Haneda Airport in Tokyo.
All my flights this time (international and domestic) were with JAL. I especially liked the domestic flights, because you fly so low that you can actually enjoy Japan from above, guessing where you currently are. There’s even free Wi-Fi on board. They offer free drinks. I couldn’t get enough of the coffee. It was really good!
As for food during the flight, “Soraben” is a good option. The word consists of “sora” (sky) and “ben” (short for “bento”). At most domestic airports you can find these. They have a huge variety to choose from at a decent price.
And this concludes my short trip from Tokyo to Miyazaki.
Why You Should Choose Miyazaki as a Short Trip from Tokyo?
Kyushu is quite far away from Tokyo, so it might sound crazy to suggest it as a short trip from Tokyo.
But sometimes there are really cheap flights and in this article you saw how much you can actually cover in only 3 days!
Kyushu in general, but Miyazaki in particular, is a great choice if you want to explore a different region in Japan that offers a good contrast to Tokyo. Most first-time visitors to Japan stick to the typical itinerary which mainly consists of “Tokyo-Kyoto-Hiroshima“.
If you’ve already seen that or if you don’t want to do the same as everyone else, but still experience the “real Japan”, I’m sure you won’t go wrong with above choice. Furthermore, Miyazaki is a famous surfing spot.
Needless to say that Japan has a lot of great regions to explore and it eventually depends on your interests.
Personally I’m a big fan of Kyushu. It offers interesting landscapes thanks to its many volcanoes. That’s also why you’ll find many great onsen there. The food is very delicious. There are many nice castles, beautiful flower gardens and haunted (?) islands. And there’s even a cat island!!