No matter whether you read this article from the safety of your home during quarantine or long after things have gone back to normal – If this situation has taught us anything, then it’s to enjoy the simple things – good food, spending time with your loved ones and to appreciate all the possibilities to spend time outdoors. If you are anything like our team-members from En Miyazaki, chances are high that you like to disconnect from the hustle and bustle and connect to yourself and nature every now and then. In this article, I will show you how the concept of “Back to the Roots” ties into Miyazaki’s charms and why I believe that it is one of Miyazaki’s biggest assets.
What do I mean when I write about going “back to the roots”? Well, it is basically what I wrote above – Enjoying the simple things in life, or as Baloo from the Jungle Book would put it, “the bare necessities”. We are so wrapped up in our every-day life that we tend to forget to just stop, look up and enjoy what’s around us. With activities, news, music, entertainment and social media at our fingertips, it is easy to feel bored when we are challenged to entertain ourselves with “just” nature and these bare necessities. When I first arrived in Miyazaki, I felt very nervous about this issue, although I love nature and made the conscious choice to experience Japan’s rural life rather than going to live in a big city again. After all, it is one thing to go and visit a place, but it is an entirely different thing to go and live there permanently. But after my initial doubt, I realized quickly that I could not have made a better decision and I will explain why:
1) Less Distractions, More Experiences
As an extrovert with an insatiable hunger for novelties and ADHD, I am easily distracted to say the least. In big cities, there are seemingly thousands of new possibilities, people and places to discover…but also thousands of ways to get distracted. If you don’t want to deal with something, there are a thousand reasons to procrastinate. But when you live in the countryside, you cannot hide behind those distractions. Instead of people-watching and shopping in the city, in Miyazaki you are more likely to take a walk alongside the sea or in a luscious forest. You might even find it easier to make new friends because there are less ways to distract you from typical feelings a solo traveler or newcomer might experience every now and then – Loneliness, for example. Instead of wandering outside in the city and diving into solo-activities or spontaneously hitting up people who might be in the area, you have to make an active effort to meet people and to schedule weekend or after-work activities ahead, which also gives you more accountability. When you are spending time together, you spend time focusing on each other rather than just meeting up to not be alone, which I highly value. Time feels fuller, or to put it in other words, it feels like you are getting more out of your time. Less distractions, more focus on what you are experiencing in the moment.
2)Less Mainstream-Tourism, More Authenticity
One thing I love about Miyazaki is that it is not commercialized despite it being the cradle of Japanese mythology. So many great places lost their touch because of over-commercialization, turning a solemn temple into something that looks more like the line to a Disney-land attraction. Not Miyazaki. Here, you can go to breathtakingly old and beautiful temples and shrines appearing in Japan’s oldest history/mythology-anthologies, and chances are that even during important festivals, you would still be one of few, if not the only tourist there. Instead of being entertained by something that once held importance, you are being sucked right into the middle of the event. It almost feels like you are being transported back to a time when the gods still whispered to people. And if you listen closely, you might be able to hear some of their words. Or not, but at least you will be able to talk to the locals who are always happy to tell you more about what is going on and generally are very friendly. If you come to a restaurant, a coffee shop or a bar alone, chances are high that some of the regulars or the owner will start a conversation with you. People in Miyazaki are not as stressed out as in big cities, so instead of treating you as just another customer, they are actually keen on getting to know you, which is especially great if you are solo-traveling or just want to make new friends in general.
3) From Mother Nature Directly to Your Plate
Where to start… To say that Miyazaki’s food is amazing would be a gross understatement. Miyazaki is famous for its beef and with all the (organic) farms around you are at the source of fresh, delicious food. But why is freshness so important? A friend studying agriculture explained to me that from the moment vegetables are harvested, they will use their own natural sugar and turn it into energy to keep on living. In other words, the fresher your vegetables, the sweeter they will be. There are even activities where you can go harvest your own fruit (like strawberries), fish your own dinner or learn how to turn local products into local specialties as part of a cooking class. From your surroundings to your food, in Miyazaki, you are directly connected with nature and truly learn to see and appreciate the work behind everything that is on your plate. And this is not only a great lesson to learn for kids, but for every one of us. Chances are that if you are visiting a local restaurant or a family, they will know the people producing the food or even use the food they produced themselves. Have you ever tried home-grown rice? Words cannot do it justice, so it is best to go and try it yourself!
4) Less Superficiality, More Real Connections
I don’t know whether it is because there are fewer people and hence less anonymity, or because people have to rely more on each other and help each other out, but one commonality came up during conversation over and over again, no matter to whom I talked: Appreciation of real connections. And I am using the word real because it is one thing to know a lot of people, but knowing people who will go out of their way to help you if you are in a bind is a different thing entirely. The people living in Miyazaki might sometimes be a bit shy at first, but once they open up, they have a gift for making you feel like you belong.
While living in Miyazaki, I realized that there are a lot of ex-pats (Japanese and foreign) who moved from bigger cities like Osaka or Tokyo to Miyazaki. I made it a habit to ask for their reasons to move to Miyazaki and while a lot of people move to a different place because of their work, I found that the people moving to Miyazaki mostly made a deliberate choice, even if that meant finding a new job. Many fell in love with the abundance of nature. They value the possibility to go surfing before they clock in at work or to go rock-climbing close to where they live and work. A friend who was born and raised in Tokyo told me that he just feels less stressed out, happier, and healthier in general. And while I love the city life, I can understand where they are coming from. Because as great as the city is, it can tire you out at times. Living close to nature practically forces you to a more active lifestyle. Be it camping, outdoor sports, barbeques outside, or just going on a walk through nature, Miyazaki has so much to offer that life won’t get boring.
And that, in my opinion, is Miyazaki’s biggest asset: Spending time in Miyazaki makes you realize that you really don’t need all that much to be happy. A healthy lifestyle (and a good night out every now and then to keep things balanced), people to whole-heartedly laugh with, good food, beautiful nature, and variance of activities to have a good time.
Miyazaki has become one of my happy places and I am glad to have found it, because no matter where I am living, I will always know exactly where to go if I want to disconnect from everything and re-connect with myself. And I am convinced that Miyazaki can become a place where you can go back to the roots and discover what it means to you, too.