Your Guide to Miyazaki Prefecture in Japan
What it's like Living There
It's a slow paced, agricultural, and conservative region in southern Japan. There are plenty of things to do in Miyazaki - as long as you're a fan of nature and outdoor sports like surfing.
Those with other interests might find life a bit harder, though still really pleasant overall. Once famous as a honeymoon spot for Japanese newlyweds, modern day Miyazaki faces challenges typical of countryside areas - namely depopulation and economic depression.
Many foreigners will become familiar with the prefecture through English teaching job placements like with the JET Program and Interac; others come as exchange students to the prefecture's universities, like Miyazaki International College.
This means most foreigners in Miyazaki are quite young - and for people in their 20s and 30s the culture shock can be felt much more strongly. The prefecture consists mainly of small rural towns and villages. The capitol and largest city has only around 400,000 residents. Trains are slow, expensive, and only really cover the eastern side. Nightlife in the prefecture is sparse, and mainly focused around Ichibangai, the downtown area of Miyazaki City.
People in Miyazaki are friendly, but somewhat shyer and more cautious around foreigners than other parts of Japan; they are a bit guarded even towards Japanese from other parts of the country.
They're also very conservative, and tend to live simpler lives than their big city Japanese counterparts, with many marrying and starting families before they reach their mid-twenties.
Young people in the prefecture leave to go to university and start careers - and few return. Many who stay behind start careers in more working class professions such as nursing. The educated people I met who have been abroad before were largely older - which makes sense, as they were able to start careers in their hometowns while Miyazaki was still prosperous.
Miyazaki is one of the most economically depressed prefectures in Japan, and it's easy to see in many of its towns and cities - buildings are incredibly old and worn down.
Still its selling points make it worth it, either for tourism or living. The weather is absolutely beautiful, even during the colder seasons - winter days in Miyazaki feel like spring anywhere else. The food is delicious, you get to see amazing beaches and scenery, and will have a new perspective on Japan after seeing a different side of it.
Getting There - Work, Travel, and Study
Finding work in Miyazaki is difficult. The prefecture has very few non-teaching jobs, and even ESL positions are scarce compared to other parts of Japan - and likely taken by expats who have lived there many years.
Most foreigners end up in Miyazaki through the JET Program or Interac. There are plenty of placements available in the prefecture, making it an excellent choice for those who want to see another side of Japanese life.
Travel is of course easier, but it is still out of the way compared to other parts of Kyushu. Still, Miyazaki Airport has routes from other major cities, and in Kyushu itself you shouldn't pay more than 10,000 yen roundtrip for train fare from most places. Hotels are also quite easy to book and reasonably priced.
There are several Universities, such as Miyazaki International College, with study abroad programs as well.
Japan's Former Honeymoon Spot
Miyazaki used to be a famous spot for newly married couples to on on their honeymoons, before Japanese started traveling overseas more. Even now much of the prefecture's tourism is, somewhat understandably, focused on its beaches, nature, and tropical climate.
From the 1960s to the mid-70s, it was probably the most popular honeymoon spot in the entire country, with nearly half of couples going there in 1974. There was a major downturn in the 1980s, however, and these days few Japanese go there for their honeymoons, opting to go elsewhere or overseas instead (as one of my acquaintances did, going to Hawaii with his wife).
The lack of honeymooners is just one thing that represents Miyazaki's economic downturn.
Purely anecdotal, but I found many Japanese and expats alike frustrated with the lack of proper tourism efforts and PR in the prefecture. The infamous Seagaia Ocean Dome, opened in the 90s and closed in 2007, was something of a running joke among people I knew. People in and outside of Miyazaki always brought it up with a tone of amusement.
Aging Demographics and Other Rural Challenges
Rural Japan in general has a major demographic crisis, and it's even more noticeable here. It's one of the grayest prefectures in the entire country, with nearly twice as many senior citizens as twenty year olds.
Downtown Miyazaki City, the most urban area in the prefecture with more options for nightlife and shopping than anywhere else, still had large amounts of elderly Japanese walking the streets, and a very slow pace of life for a mid-sized city.
Beaches in Miyazaki
Most tourist spots in the prefecture are beaches and other natural scenery. There are also a number of traditional shrines and temples - Miyazaki is known as the birthplace of Japanese legends, and many of these sites have mythological significance.
Hyuga and Nobeoka (in the north)
Hyuga is one of the more famous spots for beaches in the prefecture. It is well known even among foreign sufers and tourists, and holds several surfing competitions each year. As one of the more modern cities in Miyazaki, it's probably the best place to go for hassle free surfing. Many of Hyuga's beaches are a short drive from its downtown area. Nobeoka, 30 minutes from Hyuga, also has several good beaches.
Miyazaki's capitol is most famous for Aoshima, consisting of both a beach and an island off its coast containing a local shrine. It's a beautiful and unique tourist spot, but a bit difficult to reach, with limited trains and buses from Miyazaki station. The city also has a few other beaches with varying levels of access.
Nichinan (in the south)
A bit farther away than other beach cities in the prefecture, Nichinan nevertheless has some really good sites that are worth the time it takes to get there.
At the end of this article is a map showing the locations of many of the prefecture's best beaches for surfing and leisure.