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Discover the charm of Kyushu: Nobeoka 延岡市 The city of Rivers

Kyushu is a territory that always reserves great surprises, although it does not have large cities like Tokyo or Osaka it is full of history and incredible landscapes. Among these is Nobeoka, one of the places where I stopped the longest and which left pleasant memories in my mind.

Nobeoka 延岡市 is a city located in Miyazaki Prefecture, in the Kyushu region, which has a population of approximately 120,000 inhabitants, it is a relatively small but charming city. One of its strengths is its geographical location which places it in the middle of the region where visitors can enjoy both the beauty of nature and the culture of the city.
It is also called the city of rivers because it is crossed by 4 main rivers that flow into the sea, crystal clear and pure waters that are among the best in Japan.



My relationship with the city is a bit complex, many would define it as one of love and hate (due to the events that brought me to know it) but it fascinated me, perhaps because like my hometown it has the sea very close and the mountains behind.

A bit of history

The Kyushu region was the first region of Japan to be influenced by Chinese and Korean culture, due to its "proximity" to those lands, and the city of Nobeoka is an example of this with its history that can be traced back to more than 1,000 years ago.

In 658 AD, Emperor Tenji ordered the construction of a road connecting the city of Nara to that of Hyuga (modern-day Miyazaki). The route of this road passed through Nobeoka, turning it into an important center of trade and cultural exchange.

During the Edo period (1603-1868), it became an important center of timber and ceramic production and became known above all for the production of ceramics suitable for cooking, which were used by the nobles of the imperial court of Kyoto. In this same period, more precisely in 1603, the Hosokawa clan built Nobeoka Castle on the hill above the city but unfortunately during the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912) this was destroyed and much of the city was rebuilt. In 1877 the city was the site of several important historical events such as the Battle of Tabaruzaka, which saw the clash between Japanese government forces and the Satsuma samurai clan.

During the 20th century, Nobeoka became an important industrial and commercial center of the Kyushu region and is still considered important (albeit less so) today. Over the years, especially in the last twenty years, it has seen a rebirth thanks to various restoration interventions, such as the old railway station transformed into a reception center with commercial premises, but above all a small but well-stocked library.


Despite its turbulent history, Nobeoka is today a thriving and prosperous city, which continues to keep its culture and traditions alive.

How to get to Nobeoka

By plane:
From Tokyo there are direct flights from Tokyo's Haneda Airport to Miyazaki Airport, which is about an hour's drive from Nobeoka. Flight time is approximately 2 hours.
From Osaka there are direct flights from Osaka Airport to Miyazaki Airport, which is about an hour's drive from Nobeoka. Flight time is approximately 1.5 hours.

On the train:

From Tokyo you can take the Shinkansen (so also use the Japan Rail Pass) from Tokyo to Hakata Station in Fukuoka, then change to the local train or bus to Nobeoka. Total travel time is approximately 6-7 hours.
From Osaka you can take the Shinkansen from Osaka to Kokura Station in Kitakyushu, then change to the local train or bus to Nobeoka. Total travel time is approximately 5-6 hours.

Alternatively, you can take a direct night bus from Tokyo or Osaka to Nobeoka. Travel times vary depending on the bus company and departure, but are usually around 12-14 hours. Or the ferry that leaves from Osaka and arrives at the port of Miyazaki (from there you can take the train to Nobeoka).

Overall, the best option depends on your needs and budget. If you're short on time and willing to pay a little more, flying is the fastest and most comfortable option. If you prefer to save money and have time to travel, the train or night bus can be interesting choices.

Once you arrive, what to do?

One of Nobeoka's main attractions is its castle, dating back to 1603, although much of it has been destroyed over the years, but visitors can still admire the historic beauty of the building and the surrounding area. It is located in the city center near the town hall.

nobreoka castello

 In the city you can also visit the Naito Memorial Museum where you can admire the ancient Nobeoka, with a collection of fascinating finds, important parts of the castle and what it contained. An experience that I recommend you try. While on the castle site you can stroll through its large park which offers a beautiful view of the city and the Hyuga Sea. You can relax among nature, have a picnic or take a romantic walk.

Another attraction worth recommending is the Gokase River, which runs through the city. Along its banks there are numerous places of interest, such as Gokase park, where you can take walks and enjoy nature. Furthermore, the river is famous for its fishing, with many species of fish that can be caught (check with local authorities for permits).

Nobeoka is also known for its pottery production, which dates back to the Jomon period approximately 12,000 years ago. Nobeoka pottery is considered some of the most beautiful and valuable in Japan, and visitors can see the art of pottery in action in the city's many shops and workshops. For those who want to find out more, the city museum offers a vast collection of ceramic works of art from all over the region.

Taking a trip to Kirishima-Yaku National Park is another activity you can do. This park is located about an hour's drive from Nobeoka and offers incredible natural landscapes, including active volcanoes, crystal-clear rivers, and beautiful hiking trails.

And for lovers of Full Immersion there are excursions in the mountains. The city is surrounded by mountains and offers numerous opportunities for hiking or cycling. Mount Eboshi, for example,  is a popular hiking destination that offers spectacular views of the city and Hyuga Bay.

Last but not least: taste the local cuisine. The city is known for its chicken, which is raised locally and served in many restaurants in the area (Namba chicken), you can try our recipe for Namban Chicken from Miyazaki Prefecture.

 Namba miyazaki japan7

It is also famous for its desserts, such as Kuzumochi, a glutinous rice dessert served with soy sauce. Nobeoka is also famous for its Bungo pork, a variety of local pork that is served in many restaurants in the city. And for connoisseurs, don't forget the local beer, among the best in Japan.

Between Spirituality and Culture

Nobeoka is an ancient city, as we said at the beginning, it is full of temples and shrines that reflect its long and rich history. Like the tradition of Kagura dance masks, incredible works that you can also admire in city museums.

Mukabaki Shrine, located on the hill north of the city, is one of the oldest shrines in the city. Built in 1185, it is dedicated to three of the most important Japanese Shinto gods: Amaterasu, Susanoo and Tsukuyomi. It is still a sacred place for locals today where the tradition that the sanctuary has the power to protect the city from natural disasters is passed down.

mukabaki shrine

 Suga Temple, located in the city's Suga neighborhood, was built in 1396. It is considered one of the oldest and most important temples in Nobeoka and is home to several Japanese national treasures, including a 13th-century Buddha statue.

Ishizuchi Shrine, located near the Kitagawa River, is dedicated to the Japanese sun goddess, Amaterasu. The shrine is famous for its large stone torii, which has been designated a national cultural treasure of Japan.

Seiryuji Temple, this Buddhist temple, located in the Seiryuji neighborhood of Nobeoka, was founded in 802. The temple is famous for its large wooden Buddha statue, which dates back to the 14th century.

Kasuga Shrine, located in the Kasuga neighborhood of Nobeoka, is dedicated to Takemikazuchi, a Shinto god of war. The shrine is also home to a large wooden torii and a number of traditional Japanese buildings.

The city of Nobeoka is also rich in traditions and cultural and religious events throughout the year. Here are some of the main festivals and events you can attend (there are many others - refer to the tourist board's website for more information):

Nobeoka Matsuri: takes place over 2 days at the end of July and is a festival celebrating the city of Nobeoka. It starts with a parade of the small hand temples, many people are involved in the creation of these shrines (mikoshi) and compete to determine the bravest team. On the second day of the festival, almost 10,000 fireworks are a spectacle for the eyes. I have participated twice and I assure you that they are incredible.

Shiroyama Temple Matsuri: Takes place every year in March at Shiroyama Temple, one of the oldest temples in the city. During the festival, various activities take place, including traditional dance performances, taiko (Japanese drumming) performances, and the opportunity to enjoy local culinary specialties.

Gokoku Temple Matsuri: It takes place every year at the end of May at the Gokoku Temple, where a large festival is organized with dance performances, games, and the opportunity to taste typical local dishes.

Lantern Festival: Held every year in August at Shusseki Temple. During the festival, the temple lights up with paper lanterns, creating an evocative and romantic atmosphere.

Autumn Festival: Held every year in late September at Shimazu Park. During the festival, visitors can enjoy the beauty of autumn leaves, participate in dance and taiko performances, and enjoy typical Japanese autumn dishes.

As you may have understood, Nobeoka is a fascinating city rich in history, culture and natural beauty. It is outside the classic tourist circuits, but as I often like to say, Japan is not just about the big attractions.
If you are planning a trip to Japan and want to discover a surprising Kyushu, Nobeoka is definitely a destination to consider.

Below I leave you some useful links for your trip:

https://nobekan.jp/en/nobeoka_map.html (you can also download the map in pdf)


Image Sources:
Personal images
Nobeoka Tourism Association

Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushu, Nobeoka

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