After spending a lovely evening in Aoshima chasing sunsets and eating fresh crab, I decided to catch the very first train to Takaharu—a quaint farming town in Miyazaki where the life-size recreation of the Totoro Bus Stop is. According to Oddity Central, this Totoro statue was built by an elderly couple residing here as a surprise for their grandchildren. However, its design is so immaculate that it has attracted Totoro fans from all over Japan. There’s not a whole lot to see in Takaharu as it is mostly a residential area in the mountains, but the backdrop of the mountains and fields behind the bus stop look like they came straight out of a Ghibli movie. If you are obsessed with rare destinations in Japan like me then you might want to put Takaharu on your bucket list! The countryside of Kyushu is simply stunning.
Traveling to Takaharu for Totoro
The journey to Takaharu from Miyazaki will take around 2 hours and cost 1500-2500 yen (which is not bad). From Miyazaki Station, I took Kirishima Limited Express to Miyakonojo Station then transferred to the Kitto Line that took me to Takaharu Station. You can also take local buses which are usually cheaper. They will usually drop you off at the same locations depending on what time you leave. From Takaharu Station, I asked the station attendant to hail me a taxi directly to Totoro. If you simply say “Totoro” to your taxi driver they will know exactly what you mean. This is a short drive that will only take 5 mins. Once you reach Totoro, a warm feeling of nostalgia will wash over you. Congrats, you have successfully completed your pilgrimage!
I should also note that there is a red umbrella you can rent for 100 yen so you can recreate the famous scene in the rain with Totoro. Since the money goes directly to the people who built it, it’s a simple way to donate and show thanks! I took many pictures with it on my GoPro and made some postcard-quality content. If you come here alone like I did, there will likely be other people here to help you take your picture (or your taxi driver always can).
For information on accommodations in Takaharu, I would recommend checking out Guesthouse Nagata because it is right next to Totoro. There isn’t much to do in this town as it is pretty residential so I spent another night in Aoshima, but if you have a lot of time in Kyushu you might enjoy staying here. Getting your picture taken next to Totoro definitely makes the journey worth it!
Since I came here in the morning, I still had 2/3 of the day left to enjoy other activities in Miyazaki. Here are some other fun things that I recommend doing:
Aoshima Hammock Cafe
Aoshima Hammock is a relatively new and unique experience that I hope more people seek out! Unlike most hammock cafes in Japan, this place also includes a workshop and hammock rental system for those who are looking to relax in a hammock outside by the ocean. Their system is relatively cheap and affordable. If you go outdoors a lot you might consider buying one because they are made of high-quality yarn and come in many beautiful colors. You can even sign up for a class to knit one yourself.
Since it was scorching hot outside, I decided to buy a drink at the cafe and relax on a hammock indoors (which is free). However, outside the cafe is a beautiful park and rose garden by the water so I am considering renting a hammock in the future if I come back. They will teach you how to install the hammock and give you all of the materials and are foreigner-friendly. It’s a fun opportunity for you to learn how to better enjoy Aoshima life too!
Miyazaki Fruit Parfaits
One of the best things about coming to Kyushu is they have some of the freshest fruit in Japan. Most notably the ice cream fruit parfaits in Miyazaki are to die for! My top parfait recommendations are Sakuranbo and Fruit Ohno located near Miyazaki Station. Even if you don’t like ice cream, they have dragon fruit, fresh strawberries, and melon that you can try without it. I was thoroughly impressed by the design of these parfaits:
Who would have guessed that Kyushu has Easter Island motifs on it?? Sun Messe is a bizarre tourist attraction where you can take pictures with Moai statues. Your pictures can actually turn out pretty cool if you take them at the right angle (these were taken in 2018 so I regret not having a better camera). While we were here, we chatted with two nice guys from Kumamoto who were here on vacation and later went to the beach with them. What a strange place to socialize, but this place definitely has a powerful aura.
Nearby Sun Messe is the famous Udo Shrine and a beach that you can swim in! This beach isn’t as pretty as Aoshima in my opinion, but it’s definitely worth checking out while you are here. The atmosphere is pretty relaxing and you can make out mountains in the distance as you swim towards the horizon. A great experience overall.
Entrance Fee: 800 yen (worth it for the weirdness here)
Flower lovers rejoice because there are beautiful flora growing in Miyazaki year-round! At Florante Miyazaki you can see different types of plants being raised in outdoor gardens and greenhouses next to a beautiful pond in the summer. I remember seeing citrus oranges being grown here for the first time of my life. In the winter some facilities are closed but the park creates gorgeous illuminations. I believe they happen year-round now. I sadly could only come here during the day due to my busy schedule, but I hope to catch a night show here in the future!
Entrance Fee: 310 yen (very cheap)
Since Miyazaki borders the ocean, you can easily find seafood restaurants all over the city and beach fronts. In 2018 my friend took me to a place where you could order fish and seafood to be grilled right in front of you. It was such a fun experience trying Miyazaki specialties together! I encourage you to try the shrimp because it is especially zesty. You could also buy fish from a fish market and cook it on the beach if you have your own grill. Not to mention there are sushi and sashimi restaurants galore. You really can’t go wrong with food here because it’s way cheaper than in Tokyo!
Thank you for reading the 2nd article in my Miyazaki Series! In my next article, I will be writing about my adventure to yet another rare gem—Takachiho Gorge. Please look forward to it!