The incredibly lush, green scenery of Kyushu continued all the way north and east as we left Cape Sata in the far south. Reaching the east coast an unexpected surprise was passing the Japan Space Agency’s rocket centre at Uchinoura. It’s certainly no Cape Canaveral but since we were here (and visits were permitted) we decided to go in and take a peek. Unfortunately, just as we did, a huge waft of fog enveloped the mountain bringing visibility almost to zero. Rather a non-event ! What was not a non-event was the beauty of the east coast and specifically an area known as the Nichinan Kaigan coast which extends almost to Miyazaki. While perhaps somewhat generously compared to Italy’s Amalfi coast, it does share some of the same steep cliff drop offs, rocky outcrops and pristine sea views as its more famous Italian cousin. The rutted, horizontal rock formations near Aoshima are quite unique.

Uchinoura Space Centre – we got “fogged out” !

Nichinan Kaigan coast.
Rock formation known as the “Ogres Washboard”, near Aoshima.

Miyazaki is one of the nicer small Japanese cities and while not holding a lot of interest for the foreign visitor it’s well known in Japan as being pretty much the centre of early Japanese civilization and Miyazaki jingu shrine is the very place where Japan’s first emperor ( Jimmu ), dating back to 600BC, is enshrined.  While famous Beppu ( known for its hot springs and thermal pools ) was the main attraction for us before leaving Kyushu, a slight detour west to unique Tackachiho Gorge made for a very worthwhile diversion – not just for the unique gorge itself but for the drive in which included some of Kyushu’s finest scenery ( and narrowest roads ! ). Hardy surprising I suppose, as it criss-crossed parts of Kyushu’s legendary Yamanami Highway.

Heiwa ( Peace ) Park, Miyazaki.

Miyazaki Jingu shrine.
Tackachiho Gorge
Tackachiho Gorge

Beppu never disappoints and on this occasion, in addition to visits to a number of its well known red and blue colored thermal springs we managed to find a little, out of the way, quiet outdoor onsen, of the type that can be harder to find. Not only were there pools of differing temperatures and supposed therapeutic qualities but this one included a soothing mud bath. Highly recommended should you get to Beppu !

Mud bath, Beppu
Outdoor onsen, Beppu.
Red coloured jigoku, Beppu.
Blue/green jigoku, Beppu.
Tatsumaki jigoku, Beppu

West of Beppu and across Kyushu’s north lies much heavy industry and generally unappealing urban sprawl  ( including Kokura, the city which was supposed to have been the 2nd A Bomb target – how lucky were they ? ) – good for a long “drive day” which got us across the huge  Kanmon Bridge connecting Kyushu with Shimonoseki on Japan’s main island of Honshu.

Kanmon Bridge, Shimonoseki.

  Here there was a decision to be made since our travels would now take us east across western Honshu. On the advice of the “Lonely Planet: Japan” author we opted for the more rural and scenic northern route across what is known as the Sanin Coast versus the more industrial and congested Inland Sea route ( parts of which we would explore later anyway ). An easy choice, really, since we had not explored this part of Japan at all previously. It turned out to be a great call since the route across the north over the next four or five days brought us ( mostly ) good weather,  great coastal scenery, two historic towns ( Hagi and Tsuwono ), one of Japan’s best preserved castles in Matsue, a sand dune surprise in Tottori, and finally a look at one of Honshu’s most historic and unique fishing villages at Ine. A week overflowing with sights.

Toll booths and toll roads always seem to cause us
an issue. Got on this one by accident !
I lost the bet in Korea but won it in Japan. We met Mr and Mrs Kim from Korea who shipped their Jeep over to Japan for a month of travel. So we’ve now met one other foreign vehicle !
At the Michi No Eki where we met the Kim’s, a car club was having a meet up – some nice machinery !
I got to check out a Lamborghini Countach. Very low.

Scene in Hagi.
Noble’s house from 1850’s, Hagi.
Ikebana display, Hagi.
Sanin coast, near Matsue.
Stunning coastal rock formation, near Matsue.
Beautiful Inari shrine, Tsuwano.
A street scene, Tsuwano. The canals each side are full of koi.
Traditional sake store, Tsuwano.
First glimpse, Matsue Castle.
Full reveal. One of the few original castles surviving in Japan and dating back to 1611.
Samurai house, Matsue.
Sahara desert, or ? Tottori sand dunes, Tottori. Not something I EVER thought I‘d see in Japan !
Traditional boathouses, Ine village.
Boathouses, closer view.

From the Sanin coast we head inland to Japan’s cultural capital, Kyoto and explore Kyoto, Osaka, historic Nara and our old stomping ground of Kobe. Till next week……

Note: This week I decided to roll all the video clips into one 4 minute “reel”. Gives a bit more continuity and the clips pretty much follow the order of the pictures above. Enjoy….