Ah, the dog days of summer. Yup, it’s STILL hot here. This is not my favorite time of year in Japan. The heat is one thing (temperatures have been in the high 80s and low 90s for the second half of this month) but it’s the humidity that really saps you.
Still, as much as I love my air conditioner, it’s hard to stay cooped up in one’s house for two straight months. That’s why when Umi no Hi rolled around last weekend, we jumped in our car and headed east to neighboring Miyazaki Prefecture.
Miyazaki isn’t on a lot of people’s radars. Strung out along the eastern coast of Kyushu (the southernmost of the Big 4 islands of Japan and my current home) it’s not very easily accessible to those without a car and if you do make it here, there isn’t much to see that rivals the wonders of old Kyoto or the modern marvels of Tokyo or Osaka. The sites that are there are obscure, or hard to get to, or just can’t compare with other places. But it’s a beautiful prefecture, blessed with both mountains (sizable ones, too) and a coastline.
For our weekend away, we started by hiking in Kirishima National Park. From there, we drove east and spent the night in the unexciting though exceedingly friendly city of Miyakonojo. We must have been some of the first foreigners to ever roll through there, and we were treated like royalty all around town. (Hurts to say it, but really don’t bother with Miyakonojo. Nothing to do.)
The following morning we headed east some more and ended up driving through the city of Nichinan. On the outskirts of Nichinan sits the district of Obi, what was once its own castle town. The tourist board here likens Obi to a little Kyoto and while that’s a bit of a stretch, it’s actually a surprisingly beautiful little town. The castle is mostly gone, but the walls have been reconstructed and many of the surrounding buildings (residences, a samurai school, etc) are still intact and in great shape. The picture below is from the Yoshokan, the residence of the lord of the Itoh clan, the family that once ruled this area. Dating from 1869, the building itself is impressive, but I was more interested in the garden. This uniquely sculpted tree, with a view through the home’s windows to the front of the garden, was my favorite shot of the weekend.