The eastern coast of Miyazaki prefecture (宮崎県, Miyazaki-ken) on the southern island of Kyushu is famed for its beaches, oceanside drives, and mild climate. This remote and less traveled part of Japan feels worlds away from the typical tourist hotspots and is ideal for exploration at a leisurely pace. Although public transportation by train and bus is available, their coverage and schedules are limited, so the best way to get around is by car. That way you can also take full advantage of the scenic drives.
The rugged coast is home to some of the most famous and scenic Shintō shrines in the country. Combined with the natural beauty of the region, these sacred places stand out in their subtle integration with the local environment, often highlighting the landscape’s natural features as a focal point of worship. On a recent tour of the southern Kyushu, we visited the three popular shrines of coastal Miyazaki.
Udo Shrine (鵜戸神宮, Udo-Jingū) is located on the Nichinan Coast about 40km south of Miyazaki City, and is dedicated to Yamasachihiko, the father of the first mythical emperor of Japan, Emperor Jimmu. The bright vermillion painted buildings stand in contrast to the lush surroundings, with the main shrine set in a cave on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This spectacular setting makes Udo one of the most popular attractions in the area, particularly for young couples, as praying here is said to benefit newlyweds, childbirth, and nursing mothers.
Aoshima-jinja (青島神社) is a shrine located on Aoshima Island, a small island off the coast of beach resorts just south of Miyazaki City. Connected to the mainland via a footbridge, the island is also the site of a curious geological feature called Oni-no-Sentakuita, or the “devil’s washboard”. During low tide, striations of basalt rock can be seen along the island, an entirely natural formation. The serene and colourful shrine is surrounded by thick subtropical forest and white sandy beaches.
Ōmi Jingū Shrine
Ōmi Shrine, near the city of Hyuga, is known for its celebration of the sun goddess Amaterasu, a key deity in Japanese creation mythology. Overlooking the ocean and built on top of a rugged cliff of volcanic pillar rocks, the typical subdued Ise-style construction blends into the landscape. A little from the main building, a path leads down to rock cave on the shore where another shrine marks the location of a special mystical ‘power point’. Stand in the right place and you’ll see a dragon rising!