You then hit the coast of Miyazaki prefecture. OH...WOW... Didn't hurt that we had absolutely perfect weather! After leaving Sakurajima, we travelled towards the coast and then drove up it to Miyazaki. It was all blue skies, pounding surf, amazing coastlines. Wow.
Our first stop was at Undo-Jingu, a shrine that is built on the coast, inside a cave. This was a really incredible sight. Jeff and I walked up a gazillion stairs to get to the shrine (we realized later after watching the tour groups that the exertion had been completely unnecessary...there was a tunnel to facilitate us!). Once up the stairs, the remaining path to the shrine was literally right along the coast...it was so gorgeous. The orange of the shrine tori contrasting with the deep blue of the sea...and the palm trees swaying all around us (well, the ones that hadn't been mercilessly HACKED, that is!) It was truly fantastic.
The shrine was, yes, in a large cave. Outside of the cave was a path along the edge of the rocky coast. Looking down below, there were apparently two rocks that were supposed to represent some emperor's mother's breasts. Admittedly, the one rock DID look like a boob, nipple and all. Well, we've realized that when the Japanese like something (consider it sacred) they tie a rope around it and find a way for it to give you "good fortune". In this case, people buy five round stones from the shrine and try to toss the stones somewhere inside the rope. Men have to throw with their left hand, and women with their right. If you land a stone within the ring of rope, good fortune is yours! With this shrine, the good fortune generally has to do with marriage and fertility, which seems somehow appropriate since you're tossing stones at rocks resembling an emperor's mother's boobs! It was kind of comical, really.
After leaving the shrine, we continued along the coast, stopping next at Aoshima. Aoshima is a small island covered in betel nut palm trees. It is connected to the mainland by a small causeway, and it's a very popular hangout in the summer. Since we were there out of season, it was just us and a couple of tour groups.
One thing that is unique about Aoshima is that it is surrounded by "washboard rock". And from far away, it really does look like a MASSIVE washboard! But on closer inspection, we found a number of neat patterns. Some rocks actually looked like stone waves, whereas others were fit together like giant puzzle pieces. Some pieces were even loose, so you could move them around. And many of the rocks looked like they had fingerprints in them. We kept saying that it was like God's playground... He fingerprinted the rocks; He made puzzles of the stones...
The one side of the island was incredibly windy, but as we rounded the bend to the other side, it became much more calm. Jeff roamed around taking pictures of the rock formations while I lounged around by the palm trees.
I ended our time there by testing out the waters. Because of the tides, the ocean around Aoshima is remarkably warm. Our guidebook said that you don't get to experience such warm water unless you go as south as Okinawa. And yes, it was wonderfully warm.
We finally reached our destination of Miyazaki city that night. It was a city we both agreed we would be very comfortable in. The streets and sidewalks were wide, and palm trees lined many of the main roads. And of course, the ocean is only ever a few minutes away. Not a bad life, I think.