Aoshima is a tiny island just off the west coast of Kyushu, south of the city of Miyazaki – and one of the loveliest places I’ve visited in all of Japan. Getting there is a bit of a pain, but if you’re heading from Kagoshima up towards Beppu, it’s well worth a stop. I visited in 2013.
On the way I passed through Miyazaki city, which you can reach via Limited Express train from Kagoshima. While there, I thought I’d check out the Miyazaki-Jingu shrine to the north of the station – on paper this looks like a really easy journey, as there’s a direct local train that runs to Miyazaki-Jingu station, but in reality this service is really sparse; whole hours go by with no services at all. I ended up walking, which was a really dull hike up a main road.
Once you get to Miyazaki-Jingu station, you can turn left to head up towards the shrine – walk into the park-like area, with wild chickens running around, and you can turn left for the shrine or right for the museum. En-route to the museum you pass some historic buildings which have been preserved. I took a stroll around, then rushed back to catch a train back into town in time to leave again – I wanted to get to Aoshima before sunset.
Aoshima is to the south of Miyazaki City, and again access is via a small local train. These are a little infrequent – when I visited, trains departed Miyazaki at 5.33, 6.50, 7.51, 9.10, 10.06 (rapid), 10.30, 12.15, 13.14, 14.46, 15.44, 17.55, 18.58, 19.55, 20.58 and 22.21. Timetables are only listed in Japanese; look for one with 宮崎駅発 (departs Miyazaki Eki) in a yellow column, with 青島 (Aoshima) a few columns to the right (I’ll put some iPhone photos of the timetable at the foot of this post). The journey takes 30-40 minutes depending on the train.
You’ll arrive in a small town with a few hotels and restaurants and, at the end of a slightly touristy street, a small bridge leading across to an utterly beautiful little island. You can walk across, and then around the island, in no time at all – it’s surrounded by an unusual rock formation nicknamed the Demon’s Washboard (鬼の洗濯板 )
and on the right hand side, there’s a shrine. It’s supposedly thought to bring good luck to couples – seems to have worked for these two:
Staying and Eating
There are a couple of hotels in Aoshima. I stayed at the Route Inn Miyazaki Aoshima, which is, confusingly, also the slightly posher Hotel Grantia Aoshima Taiyokaku. How much you pay determines which wing of the hotel you’re in, but even the cheaper Route Inn wing was really pretty nice – and also gets you free access to the private onsen in the more pricey side. It’s a walkable distance from the station.
When it comes to food, I nearly got caught out. Getting back from the island about 7pm, the tourist street had closed entirely, and the rather nice looking bar-restaurant up towards the station was also completely shut. There are no combini in the town, nor any other shops I could see to buy food. Fortunately, the noodle restaurant right opposite the station merely looked closed from the outside, so I managed to get a beer and a huge bowl of udon.
Aoshima is one of the loveliest places I found in Kyushu – quiet, relaxing and beautiful. If I could, next time I’d stop for a day or two to relax. But I had to move north to Beppu and Aso-San, so left early the next morning: trains run about once an hour, but with many terminating at Minami (south) Miyazaki. Trains at 6.38, 7.18, 7.55, 8.32, 12.22, 16.48, 17.14, 18.32 and 19.02 run to Miyazaki Eki (see timetables below).
Timetable from Miyazaki (宮崎駅) to Aoshima (青島) (photo Oct 2013):
Timetable from Aoshima (青島) to Miyazaki (宮崎駅) (photo Oct 2013):