We continue our ride southwards through the Miyazaki Prefecture, on the island of Kyushu.
We love the mountains in Miyazaki! So scenic! 12% of the land in this prefecture is devoted to National Parks!
Tokubetsuto Senmaida (rice terraces) in the background. Not as grand as the Maruyama Senmaida we saw a few days ago, but still very pretty!
The senmaida sit empty waiting for planting season, which will probably begin about 4-6 weeks from now. From here, we head towards the town of Takachiho, in the northern section of the Miyazaki Prefecture.
Drama in the parking lot of the the Ama-no-Iwato shrine.
There's a lot of mythology set in Takachiho. Although this angry dude looks like he's going to drop a rock on my head, he's actually one of the good guys.
Legend has it that the Goddess of the Sun, Ameterasu-omikami, was once driven into a cave because her brother, the God of Storms, was bullying her. Such a timeless tale! Anyway, her retreat into the cave deprived the land of light, which co-incidentally explained why there was a total eclipse of the sun at the time.
A bunch of other gods threw a party outside the cave to draw her out, and finally, the God of Strength and Power, Ame-no-tajikarao, lifted the rock blocking the cave entrance and the Goddess of the Sun came out again to grace the land with her light!
What did he do with that rock? He dropped it on a random motorcyclists' head!
So *not* a good guy in my books...
Higashihongu Shrine near the entrance. There was a guy dressed in traditional robes talking to everyone.
Not sure if he was a priest or a guide... I'm so ignorant!
Pale half-moon sits above the temple roof, paper cards with wishes written on them hang from a board outside the srhine.
As pretty as this temple is, it's actually not the main shrine
You have to walk into the forest a few hundred meters, past a river...
The path ends at Ama-no-Iwato, which means "Cave of the Sun Goddess". Hey, you mean the story is real?!?
The path leading to the cave and the cave floor itself is littered with rocks of varying sizes and visitors have built little inukshuks (I only know the Inuit word for stone people, not sure what the Japanese word is) all over the place.
Kids building an inukshuk on the path leading to Ama-no-Iwato
This is the real temple of the Sun Goddess!
We hike back to our bikes. It's going to be a very short ride to our next destination.
Zooming through the heavily forested mountains roads in the Miyazaki Prefecture. So awesome!
We really appreciate these mirrors posted up at each corner in the tight and twisty mountain roads, we make use of them all the time to see if there's any oncoming traffic.
Less than 15 minutes ride and we arrive at Takachiho Gorge.
Takachiho Gorge is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Miyazaki Prefecture. However, we're arriving so late in the afternoon that all the tour buses have already left. We park on the sidewalk next to a scooter and the parking lot attendant walks right by us and ignores our bikes. *shrug* Cool. Free parking once again!
Clear blue sky refected off a pond at Takachiho Gorge. Neda says the duck looks like a painted wooden statue! It was real.
The Gorge was carved out during the same lava flow that created Harajiri Falls that we visited earlier on, about 90,000 years ago when Mount Aso erupted.
A popular activity is to rent boats and take a leisurely ride beneath the small waterfalls
that flow into the gorge. Very pretty!
Our daylight hours are short enough as it is! The mountains are no help at all when the sun disappears below them at 4:30PM!
I can totally picture the lava cutting through the rock when I see these striations on the gorge walls
Beautiful reflections on the Gokase River's waters
We are one of the last people to leave the Gorge as we climb back onto our bikes. There's about 140 kms we still need to cover if we want to make it to the next populated centre further south.
So ironic that in the Land of the Rising Sun, it always feels like we are racing against the setting sun every evening.
Although the days have been getting noticeably longer since we arrived in Japan, this was quite a long riding day and we pulled into the city of Miyazaki well after sunset. We haven't booked any hotel or AirBnB yet, plus we are starving (!), having eaten nothing since a late breakfast.
Just as we cross into the city limits, we see a large lit sign by the side of the road with pictures of well-marbled red meat! Yes! We are totally in the mood for meat! Also, we can sit down in a warm restaurant and try to find a place to sleep tonight.
Usually we would have taken the time to search for a cheap Japanese chain restaurant, like a Yoshinoya or Coco Curryhouse, but today is a special day. It's Neda's birthday, so we are treating her to a nice dinner! Fifth birthday on the road! :D
Taking our shoes/boots off is a regular ritual before entering any building in Japan. Once we're in, we treat ourselves to a meat fest!
You can see Neda is straightening her chopsticks the proper Japanese way - with two hands. She is so nerdy that way...
Yakiniku is Japanese BBQ. It's heavily borrowed from the Korean BBQ restaraunts where they bring you plates of raw meat and you cook it yourself over a personal grill set in the middle of the table. It's not really traditional as Yakiniku only came to Japan after WWII, but it's very popular here, especially in Miyazaki because they are known for their Wagyu beef in this prefecture.
What is Wagyu beef? It's a special way of breeding cattle so they have lots of marbled fat in the meat. VERY TASTY! But very expensive. We only ordered a small plate to taste (it was delicious!), and had regular meat and seafood to fill ourselves up. I've heard Wagyu cattle get regular massages by Japanese women and then are fed a steady diet of beer to raise their fat content, but wikipedia says this is a myth. That's too bad, because massages and beer totally sounds like a place I could stay at for awhile. Um... minus the slaughter at the end of the stay, I guess...
During dinner, we hopped on the Internet and found a budget business hotel situated right in the centre of the city. So off we go! But as soon as we depart the restaurant, it's freezing once again because the sun has disappeared. Thankfully, it's a short ride into town at city speeds and traffic is sparse because it is so late at night. We circle around the deserted streets of Miyazaki in the dark, searching for the hotel.
Street parking in Miyazaki
The hotel doesn't have covered parking for our motorcycles. There's a paid parking lot across the street, but the staff just told us to park outside the front door. For the first time in Japan, we're just leaving the bikes out on the street! 8O
This doesn't concern us too much. Japan is probably the safest country we've ever visited. Really enjoying our travels through the Land of the Rising Sun!