Takachiho Gorge, an extraordinary natural formation with its waterfall, overhanging rocks and sheer walls, was formed over 120,000 years ago by a double volcanic eruption. There’s a 1km-long nature trail above the gorge. You can also hire a rowing boat, to see the sheer walls of the gorge up close, but this is very busy in the high season. The gorge is illuminated during the summer months until 22:00.
Get there: by train to Nobeoka, then local bus (1hr). Alternatively, bus from Kumamoto (2.5hrs) or from Fukuoka (3.5hrs)
Udo Shrine, located on the coast around 40km south of Miyazaki City, is dedicated to Yamasachihiko, the father of Emperor Jimmu, the mythical first emperor of Japan. This brightly-painted shrine is set in a cave on the side of a cliff overlooking the ocean and so enjoys a spectacular view.
Drinking the water that drips from these rocks is thought to be beneficial for pregnancy, childbirth, nursing and women hoping to have a child. The shrine is also thought to be lucky for couples and newlyweds.
Outside the cave is a terrace overlooking the sea. On the rocks below is a target marked by rope into which people try to throw small ceramic undama, or lucky balls. Women throw with their right hand while men throw with their left, and landing an undama in the target brings good luck.
Get there: the easiest way by hired car, from Miyazaki City. Alternatively, bus from Miyazaki Station (90 mins) which also stops at Aoshima along the way.
From the car park and bus stop, it is a 20-minute walk to the shrine. There are two paths to choose from: an older one that goes over the hill and a newer one through a tunnel. Both involve a lot of steps, although the older path has considerably more steps, many of which are not in very good condition.
Once on the ocean side of the shrine grounds, it is a few minutes along the coast and then down another set of steps to the shrine in the cliff face below.