Miyazaki #8: Aoshima Shrine (青島神社)

Tomorrow the new postcards are released into post offices across Japan, so to kick off that exciting event, here’s some information about Miyazaki’s newest postcard, featuring the amazing Aoshima Shrine. The shrine is located on the tiny sand- and tree-covered island of Aoshima, and is surrounded by a unique geological feature called the “Devil’s Washboard” which can be seen at low-tide. It’s definitely worth a trip!


Heading out to the island, the bridge is relatively new. These days, anyone can visit at anytime, but 100 years ago or so, the island was considered sacred, so normal people could only visit 2 weeks out of the year!


Around the back in the middle of a small grove of trees is the main shrine area.


Through a small path through the trees lined with ema…


You reach the tiny shrine in the true middle of the island. It’s so peaceful!


At low tide, you can see the interesting devil’s washboard rocks. They really look man-made up close, but they are a completely natural phenomenon!


Cool, huh?


The postcard shot… well, close enough!

During the We Love Japan Tour 2015, my southern blogger partner Emma visited this shrine, so I recommend checking out her blog post to read all about it, and its connections to the very first Emperor of Japan, Jimmu.

Don’t forget to pick up your new Miyazaki card tomorrow, and stay tuned for more posts about the new cards!

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Miyazaki #2: Prefectural Government Building (宮崎県庁舎)

Miyazaki’s second postcard features the prefectural government building in its unique style. It is built in the Neo-Gothic style which was based on castles and buildings in Europe. It was built in 1932 and is the fourth oldest government building in Japan still being used for its original purpose.

When I was in Miyazaki due to time constraints the only chance I had to visit was at night, so the picture isn’t terribly clear. It is also Miyazaki’s retired postcard, and I didn’t think to actually bring the postcard with me on the trip, so there’s no card in the picture either. Sorry!


Miyazaki prefectural government building

Next time I’ll go in the daytime, and remember to bring the postcard with me!

Miyazaki #3: Haniwa (はにわ)

Haniwa are terracotta figures buried with the dead during the Kofun period of Japanese history (3rd to 6th century AD). They range from humanoid type figures to animals to important objects like replicas of houses or carts. In Miyazaki City in the Heiwadai Park, you can visit 400 different examples of haniwa in the Haniwa Garden.

My visit to Miyazaki of course included the garden where I took lots of pictures!


Haniwa and postcard… there were a few similar, but this was the closest to the postcard I could find!


And another one


Haniwa Garden sign in Miyazaki City


Close up… there were so many different kinds!


A few more in the same vein

Haniwa can be seen and found all over Japan, but their usual setting these days is in museums. It was a really unique and interesting setting to see them all over the garden, and it was nice walking around finding so many different ones along each new path. I really enjoyed the Haniwa Garden a lot!

Also in Miyazaki (though not terribly near the garden) you can try your hand at actually making a haniwa. Check out this link and enjoy!

Miyazaki #6: Chicken Nanban (チキン南蛮)

Miyazaki’s 6th postcard is the popular local dish Chicken Nanban, fried chicken breast with a little vinegar and a tartare sauce topping. The exact ingredients tend to differ from eatery to eatery, so its pretty easy to find a version everybody likes. I had the chance to try the dish in Miyazaki City, and liked it a lot!


Dish and postcard


I totally got one of these pre-packedged sauces to take home, but it wasn’t very good…

There’s also lots of recipes floating around if you want to try making it yourself, without any pre-packaged stuff. My favorite Japanese recipe website, Just One Cookbook, has a recipe that I’m hoping to try soon. You can find it here, and if I end up making it I’ll report on how it was!

Miyazaki #5: Hyuuganatsu Fruits (日向夏)

Miyazaki is a prime producer of citrus along with its super-famous mangoes, and one type of citrus that seems to have been developed in Miyazaki is called the hyuuganatsu. Hyuuga is what the area of Miyazaki used to be called, and “natsu” means summer. However I have done a TON of research about this WINTER-growing citrus and why the heck it’s got summer in its name has completely escaped me. Seriously, I have no clue.

But anyway, confusing names aside, this is a sweetish fruit that is often eaten plain with sugar. Since I visited Miyazaki in, again, summer and this fruit despite the name grows in the winter (ugh), I couldn’t try the actual fruit itself. However its a popular flavor of all sorts of different sweets, including ice cream, so here are a few pictures.


I had to get help to take this picture!


These look like ripe hyuuganatsu, but they’re actually jelly.

I really enjoyed the ice cream, it was very refreshing. I’d love to try the citrus itself. And…you know, find out why it’s called hyuuganatsu (can you tell that really bothers me?).

Miyazaki #4: Legends of Old Japan (手力雄命)

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve been putting off making this post forever because it is going to be a LONG one! Most postcards on this blog are pretty easy to explain. They often represent a place like a shrine or temple, a food like fruit or vegetables, or a person famous from the area. However this particular postcard isn’t that easy because it takes a bit of background knowledge on Japanese history and legends to understand just who the guy on the postcard is, and why he was featured. But today, I’m rising to the challenge!

Let’s start at the beginning.

The oldest books in Japanese history are the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki, in which the myths and legends of Japan are written. It is said that Izanagi and Izanami, after creating Japan (and I guess the rest of the world), created three children as well: Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun; Tsukuyomi, the god of the moon; and Susanoo, the ocean and storm god.

Amaterasu didn’t exactly get along with her siblings, but in her defense, Susanoo especially seems like he was a bratty little brother, even throwing a flayed horse at her while she sat quietly weaving. In a rage (and probably in defense as well), she hid herself in a cave, denying the world of her light. The other gods and goddesses were concerned as the earth began to die, but no amount of pleading could bring Amaterasu out from her cave. Finally, the goddess of laughter, Ama-no-Uzeme started dancing wildly, and the other gods and goddesses laughter finally brought the curious Amaterasu peaking out of her cave. The god of strength, Tajikara Onomikoto, took the giant rock used to block the cave, and threw it all the way to what is now Nagano Prefecture, where you can see it today somewhere near Zenkouji. (Look, that’s the legend okay, I just report it how it is).

So in Takachiho we’ve allegedly got the cave where Amaterasu hid herself, the cave where the other gods and goddesses met to discuss what to do, and the origin-place of a rock that is now in Nagano.


Tajikara Onomikoto’s statue in front of the Amano Iwato Shrine


A bit clearer of a picture


The ema of Amano Iwato Shrine showing Amaterasu emerging from the cave.

The Amano Iwato Shrine’s inner shrine is actually the cave where Amaterasu hid. You can ask the priests at the temple for a view of it, and they will explain the legend and take you to the look out area to spot the cave, but no pictures are allowed of the viewing platform or the cave itself, which you can’t actually go in. However you can see the cave where all the gods met, which is down a river path about 5-10 minutes from the shrine.


The cave in which the meeting was held by the other gods to discuss what to do about Amaterasu

At the Takachiho Shrine, nightly Yokagura dances are held to explain the story. There are actually 33 dances, but the whole story is only performed on weekends in winter. During the rest of the year, a shortened version of the story is performed.


The goddess’s dance which made the other gods and goddesses laugh, and Amaterasu curious


Tachigara Onomikoto about to move the giant rock from the cave


The shrine during the day is a really beautiful place as well

So there’s the story. Around Takachiho there are many statues and sacred places, and I wish I had had more time to explore, but it was informative in even the short time we stayed. It is a bit difficult of a place to get to, but you can check here for some options.

Whew!

Miyazaki #1: Mangoes (マンゴー)

The production of mangoes, Miyazaki’s first postcard, started in 1985 but took several years to show success. Miyazaki has a sub-tropical climate and lots of sun and rain, which is good for mangoes. I love these yummy fruits, but the Miyazaki brand-name ones come at a VERY dear price in my cold corner of Japan. The best of the best can go for 300000 yen! Wow! Even the more moderately priced mangoes at my local supermarket are still more expensive than most fruits, so I don’t get to eat them often. Still, there are lots of mango-flavored products for sale in Japan, so even if the fresh fruit is too expensive, there are other ways to eat it.

We brought home some mango-flavored jellies from our Kyushu trip which were delicious.


Real mangoes for sale, 1800 yen for one!


More reasonable-priced mango flavored goods for sale at Miyazaki Station


Mango ice cream, yum!

Have you eaten a mango today?

Miyazaki #7 – Cape Toi (都井岬)

Howdy! Long time no post, right? I’ve just gotten back from a wonderful trip to the Southern Kyushu prefectures of Kagoshima, Miyazaki, and Kumamoto, and had a ton of fun! …and of course, bought postcards! I’d like to start off my posting spree with my favorite of the entire set I bought: Miyazaki Prefecture’s 7th postcard Cape Toi, and the wild horses that inhabit this rural and beautiful area!

These horses, called Misaki-uma, are thought to be the wild descendants of army horses that were left to graze and became wild over time. “Wild” being a rather strong word of course… when walking through the horses, they basically treat humans as a tree or a bird and give no care that you’re there taking pictures! Because of that, it’s easy to get up pretty close to them! They have officially been designated a National Monument and are protected. Entering Cape Toi requires a “donation” of 400 yen, which goes to the upkeep of the horses and their environment.


Horses!


I crept a bit closer, but this is as far as the horse would go when it came to posing!

The cape area was truly, truly beautiful and the highlight of the trip. Besides the wild horses, there were dozens and dozens of hawks and birds spinning through the air, and the green hills were something right out of The Sound of Music! I may or may not have started singing at one point.

When visiting the Cape, don’t feed the horses any people food (yes, even carrots or apples are a no), and be careful when going through the horses in case they kick!

Cape Toi is pretty far and is best reached by rental car. You can read more about it and how to get there here.

Also around the Cape area is a lighthouse you can enter, a shrine built into the rocks right by the ocean, and some distance away a small island full of wild monkeys you can take a ferry to. It’s a wonderful area, and well worth a visit!