Home > Pre-Japan > Miyazaki Prefecture: so close, so different

Miyazaki Prefecture: so close, so different

OK, update time! This weekend Cam, Georgia, Aine and I decided to drive down to Miyazaki prefecture! We had been talking about taking a trip down there for many months, but it was one of those things that never really materialized. We said: “We should definitely go to Miyazaki before we leave” and then never pursued it further. Finally, we got it together and planned the trip! It wasn’t easy considering our busy schedules, but we found this weekend wide open and screaming for some hot, sweaty beach action.

We enlisted the help of Tomo, Alex’s fiancé (have I introduced him yet? He’s a soon to be 5th year JET from Nakatsu. Here’s a picture: )


to make a reservation for a cabin on the beach in Northern Miyazaki. We searched the internet previously trying to figure out where to stay, but doing it in English yields extremely limited results, as expected. My Japanese is not good enough to comfortably search for things online in Japanese, so we outsourced. Tomo really came though, finding a fantastic cabin in a town called Kitaura, part of Nobeoka city, right on the Oita/Miyazaki border. It was literally feet away from Shimo-aso beach, one of Japan’s top 100. After leaving late thanks to Cam and Georgia’s inflexible work schedule, we arrived at the cabin at around 6:30pm on Saturday, and it was then that I realized I had been there before! In March for the JET charity Oita bike trip we biked right along this beach, and we even stopped to take pictures! At the time I did not realize the place had cabins as they were hidden from view.

We spent most of Saturday evening indoors playing Uno, with varying degrees of intensity. On Sunday we got up around 10 and lounged around the beach for a while. There’s really nothing better than waking up, having a lazy breakfast, and then literally walking out of your house onto the deserted beach and into the water. There were maybe 10 other people on this beach, which stretched for probably 1 km. The water was warm, it wasn’t too sunny, and as it was in a bay the waves were not a factor. All around it was an unbelievably pleasant experience.

Aine and Georgia, all alone on the beach


View from the beach

Obligatory self shot!

It wasn't super sunny all the time, which was actually kind of nice...

I actually quite like this picture

Quite a long beach!

Natural little river made by the ebb and flow of the tide

Around noon we packed up and headed into Nobeoka for lunch. Miyazaki prefecture is known for chicken. Astute readers may pipe up and exclaim that they thought that’s what Oita prefecture was known for as well! I would then have to applaud their astuticity and concede that it is indeed. The big difference is that Miyazaki is known for Chicken nanban, where as Oita is known for chicken karaage. One is fried, the other deep fried. Chicken nanban also has a sauce, you see, so really they are totally different. Anyway, we headed into Nobeoka to find a restaurant called 直ちゃん (naochan) which was highly recommended by the Miyazaki vacation magazine I purchased before hand. Apparently we were not the only ones, because when we arrived at 1:30pm there was a line out the door. We decided to go to a different restaurant we had seen, so unfortunately we were not able to consume chicken at that time. I did manage to acquire a chicken nanban map of Nobeoka for our future endeavors though!

A poster advertising the upcoming Nobeoka rap event. I enjoyed some of the DJ names

After lunch we took a trip back into Oita prefecture, to Ume town and the Totoro bus stop! “Totoro,” as some of you may know, is one of Hayao Miyazaki’s most famous animations. The film tells the story of two sisters who move with their father to a rurally situated house while their mother recovers in the city hospital from an illness. During their playing while their father works, the girls discover Totoro, a large, furry protector of the forest. Miyazaki’s films are well known for their uncannily accurate depictions of Japanese life, and Totoro is no exception. Thus, those of us living in Japan can watch a Miyazaki film and feel as if we are living it, even though it’s a cartoon. As much of Miyazaki’s inspiration comes from the area around Miyazaki prefecture (though I don’t believe his name and the prefecture’s name are related in any sense, nor do I think he uses it as inspiration because of the similarity,) those of us living in the area are really treated to living in Miyazaki’s world, so to speak. One of the more famous scenes in Totoro occurs at a bus stop while the girls are waiting for their father to come back from the city. He’s late, so bus after bus passes while the girls wait in the dark for their father. To compound their dilemma, it’s raining. Suddenly out from the forest appears Totoro, the big, furry protector. He just stands next to them with an amused expression on his face. One of the girls offers him her umbrella, which he takes. After teaching him what to do with it, Totoro holds it up to stop the rain. The image of this big, tubby Totoro holding a tiny umbrella to shield him from the rain is probably one of the cutest moments in the film.

Getting back to reality, this bus stop is real. I am unsure which came first, the movie or the bus stop, but there is a totoro bus stop in Ume town, Oita. Nearby to capitalize on the movie’s success they have also build a big wooden cutout of a cat bus, another “character” which appears in the film. You can take pictures in the bus stop, and on the cat bus. We arrived at totoro and would you know it, it began to rain! Luckily we had an umbrella in the car, and we were able to take some wonderful imitating shots of us, totoro like, under the umbrella. The bus stop is a bit off the beaten path, and not something everyone knows about, which makes the experience there even more special, I think. I knew about the bus stop because on the bike trip we took a little detour and biked past it.

Aine and Georgia waitin' for the cat bus

Cam and I, contemplating

The cat bus came! And we're in it!

The surrounding area

Mr. Crab enjoying the sudden torrential downpour

Just like Totoro!

Still chucking rain, we drove back and grabbed an ice cream at a local shop! They have tons of flavors, and it’s very tasty.

Nothing says: "It's raining!" like eating some soft serve!

All of their flavors. The one on the bottom right is "Corn Pottage" whatever the heck that is.

Then, back to Nobeoka to do some shopping for a BBQ dinner and then headed back to the cabin. We spent the rest of Sunday evening sitting outside, BBQing, then moving inside to play yet another vigorous and highly contested game of Uno. “Uno: Tearing friendships apart since last weekend.” I jest, of course.

Here are some pictures of the cabin:

It was quite tiny and quaint

Nice shape, nice cabin.

On Monday, having taken the day off, I woke up at 3:30am to watch the World Cup Final. I spent the next three hours trying my best to stay awake throughout that most boring of games, and then spent the next twenty minutes wishing I was not Dutch because I didn’t want to have to be ashamed of my country’s soccer team. The game was a truly disgusting display which they deservedly lost. What with DeJong drop kicking a Spanish defender in the chest and then pleading with the referee when he received yellow even though everyone and their pet rock knew he deserved red, Robben not only missing a wide open chance to score but running around the pitch whining about every little touch of the hairs on his arms, and the rest of the team basically sitting on the sidelines, I now wonder whether I’ll be able to support this team next time since it’s young and will undoubtedly be together for the next few European and World Cups. (Seven line sentence for the win! And I don’t think it’s a run-on either…) Sigh. The benefits of waking up early though were an early morning stroll on the beach, and a dip in the sea! I spent the hour from 6:30 to 7:30 envisioning waking up like this every day of my life and came to the conclusion that I would not necessarily complain if I were to land in such a situation.

Fog over the mountains

After some tasty breakfast and some fastidious cleaning we packed up the car and began the journey home. In all my infinite wisdom I suggested we take the pretty seaside road back home. Sure it would take a little longer, but I felt the drive would be worth it. Indeed, the views of the sea were quite pretty. The half lane mountain road we had to go up and down in order to get to those views, though, were deathly horrifying. Imagine the most narrow road you’ve ever been on, and then add hundred meter drops on either side, rocks littering the road and chunks of pavement missing, having found a sticky resting place in a ravine. Oh yeah, it was rainy and foggy too.


Our ride up and down the mountain was a bundle of nerves, but we made it down in one piece and can now say we’ve had that experience! But wait, our day was not over yet! Oh no. While on the highway headed back to Nakatsu, we missed the split which takes us into our town and instead ended up on the road headed to Hita and Fukuoka city. “No problem! We’ll just take the next exit, loop around and correct!” I said. 25km later and we were still on this blasted road. After the Nakatsu split, the nearest exit was in Yufuin, about 30k away. Looping back around would have been silly, so we continued to drive until we could get off at a smaller road which would take us back to Nakatsu. While we were doing our best to get back to Nakatsu before midnight, God lost control of his bladder. It rained buckets and buckets and buckets of water for an hour or more, literally creating rivers of running water down the road we were on. All throughout this ordeal Cam, our fearless driver, trooped on. Finally a good six and a half hours after we left our cabin in Nobeoka, we arrived home in Nakatsu. The trip back was stressful and unnecessarily long, but overall that doesn’t take away from the really fun time we had in Miyazaki! I certainly know I’m ready to go back, though maybe this time we’ll stick to main roads, and pay attention to the signage more…


Categories: Pre-Japan
  1. Stu
    July 16, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    ha, astuticity.

    And no, you should never again support a Dutch team. I forgive you for making that mistake this one time, but if you ever do it again…shame on you, sir.

  2. mindy
    July 22, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    nice pic(the fence) its artistic enough to frame/sell

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