Mimitsu, Miyazaki Prefecture 美々津
Important Preservation Districts
In 1975 the Japanese government began designating Important Preservation Districts for Groups of Traditional Buildings (Juyo Dentoteki Kenzobutsu-gun Hozon-chiku).
There are three criteria for inclusion in the designation which brings with it financial support for the preservation and renovation of the buildings, the primary criteria being it must be a group of buildings. One or two historic buildings on their own would not qualify.
To date there are 110 such districts scattered across Japan. They include such locations as merchant quarters, post towns, samurai districts, farming villages etc.
Many are in well known tourist spots. Kyoto has multiple sites, Kurashiki, Tsuwano, etc are all included, and many of the structures in these places have been converted into gift shops, cafés, boutiques, and the like, but you will more often than not also find the more traditional establishments such as the ubiquitous sake brewery, soy sauce shop or Japanese sweets shop.
Wandering such districts its easy to imagine how things were in historic times and savour some of the ambience and atmosphere, but the throngs of tourists and photographers can often interfere with such musings.
Many of the preservation districts, however, are quite off the beaten track and not so well known or visited. They therefore offer quite a different and, in some ways, more authentic experience. One such district is the little coastal village of Mimitsu in Miyazaki, Kyushu.
Mimitsu is located at the mouth of the Mimi River in northern Miyazaki on the east coast of Kyushu. It is now administratively a part of Hyuga City, named after the old name of the province.
According to the ancient myths set down in Japan's oldest books, Kojiki and Nihongi, Mimitsu is where the mythical first emperor of Japan, Jimmu, built a fleet and set sail to conquer central Japan and set up the Yamato Dynasty.
With so many merchants, shipping agents and sea captains other people referred to "the thousand houses of Mimitsu", though that may have been an exaggeration.
With the introduction of railways and later roads, most traffic shifted away from the maritime route and Mimitsu fell into decline. Lacking any military or industrial sites in the immediate vicinity, Mimitsu avoided any bombing damage during World War II, and so much of what remains is as it was more than 100 years ago: Edo and Meiji Period stone paved streets, white plastered storehouses, shops, offices, town-houses - some in the style of Kyoto's machiya.
In fact, there is quite a diversity of architectural styles to see, but not a lot of people. Like most of rural Japan it can appear to be a ghost town. Many of the buildings are no longer used or lived in. While it is nice to be able to wander around without crowds and enjoy some traditional architecture without modern renovations and conversions, it is at the same time somewhat sad.
There are some buildings open to the public though. The Hyuga City History and Folk Museum is housed in a former shipping agents property and includes exhibits relating to the business as well as local folklore and even a little bit of archaeology.
Hyuga City History and Folk Museum
Open from 9am-4:30pm. Closed on Mondays. Entry is 210 yen for adults and 100 yen for kids.
Also open to the public nearby is a small museum dedicated to shochu, Mimitsu-ken - a machiya type townhouse, Mimitsu Machinami Center in a former kimono shop, and a cafe.
Nobeoka, north of Mimitsu has several places to stay: Areaone Nobeoka, the Business Hotel Kudo, the Hotel Route-Inn Nobeoka Ekimae, and the Business Hotel Fukuhara. See here for a complete listing of places to stay in Nobeoka.
Access - how to get to Mimitsu
Mimitsu Station is on the Nippo Main Line from Kokura to Kagoshima. Mimitsu is 10 stops and 50 minutes from Miyazaki Station in the direction of Nobeoka. From Nobeoka the journey time is around 40 minutes.