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Miyazaki Shrine & Environs

The most important shrine in town is Miyazaki Shrine (Miyazaki Jingu), 2-4-1 Jingu (tel. 0985/27-4004), located about a 10-minute walk west of JR Miyazaki Jingu Station. It's dedicated to the first emperor of Japan, Emperor Jimmu, a somewhat mythical figure who established the Yamato Court in 660 B.C. and is believed to be the ancestor of every reigning emperor since. Although the shrine is thought to have originated around the time of Emperor Jimmu's reign some 2,600 years ago, either on a mountaintop or near present-day Heiwadai Park, its ancient history remains shrouded in mystery, much like the emperor himself. Peacefully surrounded by natural woods and majestic cedar, the shrine is built from cedar and is austerely plain. The grounds of the shrine are always open and there's no charge for admission. If you don't want to walk to the shrine, you can take a bus bound for Miyazaki Jingu (the name of the stop for Miyazaki Shrine) from Tachibana-dori Avenue (in the center of town).

From the shrine, head back south and take a left after passing the first torii gate (there's a map of the area here) and walk around the shrine to the east. Four 150- to 200-year-old, thatched-roof Japanese homes have been moved to the park for preservation. You can walk around them and enter some. Admission is free. North of Miyazaki Shrine on shrine grounds is the Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature and History (Miyazaki-ken Sogo Hakubutsukan), 2-4-4 Jingu (tel. 0985/24-2071; Wed-Mon 9am-5pm; Tues mid-July to Aug; closed the day following a national holiday). It does an excellent job of presenting the prefecture's animal and plant life, its history, and its folklore with well-designed displays and a wealth of information -- what a shame explanations are in Japanese only. Those of you who studied Latin can put it to practice here, as plant and animal specimens are identified in Latin, but for the rest of us there's an English-language pamphlet. In any case, it's worth spending an hour here because there's plenty to look at, from dinosaur bones to replica burial tombs. Very enlightening is a replica of a home with a wood-burning stove and a bathtub heated with wood -- the home dates from the 1950s. Admission is free. The closest bus stop is Hakubutsukan-mae in front of the museum; to reach it, board any bus bound for Aya, Kunitomi, or Heiwagaoka from Tachibana-dori.

West of Miyazaki Shine, about a 10-minute walk away, is the Miyazaki Prefectural Art Museum (Miyazaki-kenritsu Bijutsukan), 3-210 Funatsuka (tel. 0985/20-3792; Tues-Sun 10am-6pm; closed the day following a national holiday). This very modern building presents works of Miyazaki artists from the Edo Period onward, those who illustrate recent artistic trends in Japan, and artists from around the world. Most famous of the local artists is probably Ei-Kyu (1911-60), an avant-garde pioneer whose last works consisted of dots. Ai-O, a contemporary of Ei-Kyu, is known for his Rainbow series. Admission to the permanent exhibit (which nonetheless changes) is free. The closest bus stop is Bunka Koen Mae; board a bus bound for Aya, Heiwagaoka, Ikeuchi, Kunitomi, or Bunka Koen.

Heiwadai Park

About a 15-minute walk northwest of Miyazaki Shrine is Heiwadai Park, where you'll find the Peace Tower, built in 1940 in celebration of the 2,600th anniversary of the mythological foundation of Japan; it purportedly contains artifacts that once belonged to the first emperor. Its pedestal is made with stones donated by Japanese ex-patriates from all over the world, while its copper door was created with coins donated by Japanese children. It may seem ironic that a peace tower was erected at a time when Japan was busy colonizing much of Asia; the intention was to show that the world could live peaceably, albeit with Japan as leader. Figures on the tower depict the guardians of fishery, agriculture, self-defense, and commerce.

Haniwa Garden

My favorite thing to see in Heiwadai Park (and a good photo op) is Haniwa Garden. Archaeological digs in Miyazaki Prefecture have unearthed a multitude of ancient burial mounds and clay figures known as haniwa; replicas of these ancient mounds and haniwa clay figures can be seen in Haniwa Garden, where approximately 400 of the figures have been placed between trees on mounds covered with moss. There are warriors, horses, pigs, boats, and houses. I especially like the haniwa with the simple face and body and the O-shaped mouth; it's said to represent a dancing woman.

If you wish to take a bus here, board a bus from Depaato-mae bus stop on Tachibana-dori bound for Heiwadai; get off 12 minutes later at the last stop in front of the park.

The Many Amusements of Seagaia

Seagaia (www.seagaia.co.jp) is a convention and resort complex set in a vast national reserve of beautiful pine forest stretching 12km (7 1/2 miles) along the coastline. In addition to hotels, it has amusements too numerous to list. Miyazaki City Phoenix Zoo (tel. 0985/39-1306; Thurs-Tues 9am-5pm; Wed in peak seasons) has more than 1,400 animals of 115 species from Asia and Africa; admission is ¥800 ($6.65/£3.35) for adults, ¥400 ($3.35/£1.70) for junior-high students, and ¥300 ($2.50/£1.25) for children. Golfers can try out their swings at the private refurbished Phoenix Country Club (tel. 0985/39-1301), a 27-hole course with visitor greens fees of ¥31,465 to ¥39,340 ($262-$328/£131-£164); or at the more proletarian public 18-hole Tom Watson Golf Course (tel. 0985/39-1301), with greens fees of ¥17,271 ($144/£72) on weekdays and ¥20,946 ($175/£87) weekends and holidays. If golf isn't your game, there's also tennis, bowling at a 36-lane alley, scuba diving, jet-skiing, fishing, horse-back riding, and paragliding, as well as jogging, cycling, in-line skating along an 8km (5-mile) path, exercise classes, and art and craft lessons. For information about these, contact the Activity Center on the third floor of the Sheraton Grande Ocean Resort, open daily 8am to 8pm (tel. 0985/21-1324).

Access to all the Seagaia attractions and hotels is by city bus no. 18 from platform no. 3 at the west exit of JR Miyazaki Station (¥470/$3.90/£1.95 for the 30-min. trip). Seagaia is so large that a free shuttle bus loops to all its facilities, including hotels, every hour from 7am to 9:26pm.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.