Miyazaki : from Aoshima island to Udo shrine

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It's been a week since Kumamoto and Oita earthquakes.
It's difficult to know when it's the right time to blog normally again after a disaster but Bene no Fukuoka ! is a cheerful and positive blog. I want to move forward , continue to show you the beauty of my island Kyushu.

I will talk longer about the the consequences of the earthquakes on the local tourism and my fears about this in my monthly daily life article but for now I'll finish the story of my journey to Miyazaki last month.
I left you when we were in Takachiho. Around 3pm, we took the bus bound for Miyazaki city, much further south than our current location.

Undama, Udo shrine, Miyazaki
The famous undama, lucky balls
I had already been in Miyazaki city once during my trip in 2011. I had stayed less than 48 hours because of the time and I was depressed by this city where I thought there was nothing . I will not repeat the whole story but it is with the apprehension of finding a city with no atmosphere that I got off the bus.

The difference with 5 years ago I was immediately struck me : Miyazaki is a great bustling city ! I just didn't go to the right areas. This time we stayed in the downtown. After dropping our bags at the Toyoko Inn hotel (which had the most unfriendly staff ever), we went for a walk to the station. I found the souvenir shops which we there 5 years ago. How nostalgic ! Nothing has changed.
At night I really wanted to eat a chicken nanban, tartar sauce chicken dish. I took my mom to the restaurant famous for being the one which created the dish but it was full to we went ot another place. Despite a long wait it was delicious.

But this is not about Miyazaki city that I want to talk today, but about two gems that are part of the places that are the hallmark of the region.

Chicken nanban, one of the most famous dish of Miyazaki
Chicken nanban, one of the most famous dish of Miyazaki
Miyazaki station
Miyazaki station
Hello Kitty socks, Miyazaki
Of course I bought my Hello Kitty regional socks ! Miyazaki ones were pretty cute and colorful.
For me, Miyazaki is all about palm trees, sea, citrus and sun. After Okinawa, this is THE quintessential Japanese seaside area and I couldn't go there without going to the ocean. Good thing since the two places I had planned on our last day were at the edge of the water.

In the morning we took a bus bound to the small island of Aoshima (青島). After checking the tide timetable in internet, we discovered that the best time to visit it was before 10am so we made it quite early . If I speak about tides, it's because the point of the island is only visible at low tide (so if you go you better check the tide timetable beforehand!).
Indeed, Aoshima is famous for its straight lines stones. They are called devil's washboard or  Oni no Sentakuita in Japanese (鬼の洗濯板). One might think that this was done by man but it is a natural geological phenomenon. We can also observe the same formations all along the coast.

The island is connected to Kyushu by a small bridge, there are shellfish beaches and a jungle in the middle where is a shrine. It is delightful : it looks like a delicately placed gem in a green and there is plenty of things to look at : an arch made ​​of ema wooden tablet,very cute amulets, trees, and of course the shrine itself. I loved the arch, it was the first time I saw something like this in Japan.

One of the best thing about Aoshima is that it could have become a great tourist spot with a botanical garden in the middle (just like on Yubu island in Okinawa) but no, the botanical garden is on the other side of bridge, there is just the shrine and nothing else (there are a few stalls selling stones thought). I walked around the island which tookless than 10 minutes. I walked on the beach and then a little way above the coast. This is the best place to see the Devil's washboard. I enjoyed the walk even though I regret that the tide wasn't low enough to reach byfoot lighthouse (I LOVE lighthouses).

Aoshima shrine, Miyazaki

Aoshima, Miyazaki
In Aoshima, beaches are made of thousands of shells
Aoshima, Miyazaki

Bene no Fukuoka ! in Miyazaki

Aoshima, Miyazaki

Aoshima, Miyazaki

Aoshima shrine, Miyazaki

Aoshima shrine, Miyazaki

Aoshima shrine, Miyazaki

Devil's washboard, Oni no Sentakuita, Aoshima
Devil's washboard, Oni no Sentakuita
Then we took the bus again. It would take us 35 km south to Udo Shrine (鵜戸神宮). Almost immediately, after the bus left the Aoshima bus stop, the bus takes the route 220 along the coast. This road is known as the most beautiful one in Japan because of its stunning coastline views. I wish I could get off the bus to take pictures many times and even wlak along the road for few meters but as we had our bus to Fukuoka in the afternoon, it was impossible to dawdle.

Since few months ago, the bus stops to the first parking lot of the shrine which is way much more convenient than before because it prevents to wlak countless steps. However, to go to the shrine there is still a lot of stairs but the effort is worthly : the shrine is beautiful, all orange, along a sparkling blue sea that flows over rocks creating long streaks of white foam.It was beyond my expectations. 

Down the stairs, there is a small building selling a set of five ceramics balls (運玉, undama, lucky balls) for 500 yens. Speaking of, 運 symbol means "luck". The goal is to throw the balls inside a circle made from a sacred rope, placed on the rock in the sea. Women throw with their right hand and men with their left one.
Let's try ! Out of 5 balls, I managed to place two in the circle ! I bought another set and out of 5, I throw 3 balls, all landed in the sea andd keep the other 2 as a souvenir. 

The shrine itself is located a bit off in the depths of a cave. This prevails a rather intimate atmosphere and after a quick look on internet I understood why: people pray the god of marriage! It's true that I thought there were a lot of couples there. Couples queue to bless their union. A marriage in that place must be exceptional (and exceptionally expensive too ...). Too bad there wasn't one that day.
Women can also drink water that trickles down the rocks to the cave. It is said that this would have an impact to have a good pregnancy, a good birth giving and encourage procreation. 
Besides there is in the cave in the rock shaped like breasts. Legend says that it would have helped feed the father of the first emperor of Japan (Ugayafukiaezu) when her mother returned to the ocean. Yeah, why not.
But frankly this time the I didn't care much about the legend and historyas the landscape really is the highlight of this unique place.

Udo shrine, Miyazaki

Udo shrine, Miyazaki
I really liked this lanternes with the moon hole on them. 
Udo shrine, Miyazaki

Udo shrine, Miyazaki
Udo shrine, Miyazaki
Udo shrine, Miyazaki
Do you see the rope ? We had to throw the balls inside it.
Ema, Sanctuaire Udo, Miyazaki
Cute rabbit-shapped ema (small wooden plaques on which Shinto worshippers write their wishes)
I was conquered by Miyazaki, to the point of really considering going again this July, but it is better to vary a bit right? It is sure that I'd return, even if only to drive the 220 ​​road car and stop wherever I want. The second largest prefecture of Kyushu has much to offer but did you know about Miyazaki ?

Access and useful informations

Udo jingû (鵜戸神宮) Aoshima (青島

Access from Miyazaki :
Take the bus in front of the Miyazaki station (wait before the "西1" mark). Get off at Aoshima (for the island, 28 minutes for ) and Udo Jinja (for the shrine, 1:30 for 1,480 yens).
The Miyawaki Kotsu Bus company offers for sale a one-day pass which allows unlimited travel on its routes. The pass costs 1800 yens and is on sale at the Miyazaki station bus terminal.

Bus timetable (april 2016)

Miyazaki stationAoshimaMichi no eki PhoenixUdo shrine
Udo shrineMichi no eki PhoenixAoshimaMiyazaki station

Udo shrine opening hours :
From 6am to 7pm (April to September) and 7am to 6pm (October to March).  

How about this posts?