|Abandoned Tachibana Resort, Aoshima, Miyazaki|
After the defeat of Japan in World War II, many in Miyazaki became discontent with news of the Emperor vacationing in the resort town of Karuizawa and playing tennis with Gen. Douglas MacArthur while they went without food, medicine, and in some cases potable water.
By May 1946, there was a group in Miyazaki calling for self rule. During each day of Golden Week that year, this group – Citizens for an independent Miyazaki – gathered at Heiwadai Park. Here speakers from the newly formed Miyazaki Workers Party took to the park’s large platform to layout their platform.
Party leader Ueda Masanori in one sentence summed it all up:
We in Miyazaki sacrificed for nothing, and now we continue to sacrifice for nothing, but I assure you that if we can rule Miyazaki independent of Tokyo we shall prosper.
Many in Miyazaki saw Tokyo as the direct reason for Miyazaki’s suffering and they wanted free. How could they make this happen? Well, they didn’t because of what plagued the rest of Japan, money.
In 1946 there was enormous inflation due to the massive amount of currency in circulation. There was 14 times the amount of currency in circulation as in 1937. Add to this the fact that Korea, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines were no longer under Japanese control and could not help with the famine that faced Japan. What drought didn’t destroy in domestic crops, typhoons and storms did. US and allied militaries airlifted food to all prefectures to prevent mass starvation.
Thoughts of an independent Miyazaki faded away in the spring air when Golden Week ended. Then the reconstruction of Miyazaki got under way earnestly when Gen. MacArthur arrived in the prefecture to personally inspect the coordination. Bridges had to be replaced, rail lines reestablished, cities rebuilt, so there was no time as he said in Heiwadai Park, “…to dream of a situation so far from reality that Saigo Takamori himself would die laughing at.”
The British and Australian regiments began working to rebuild roads and bridges and US forces over saw the cities reconstructions. By 1950, Miyazaki was completely reconnected with the rest of Japan by rail, highway, communications, airplanes, and also television.
Through the 1950s, Miyazaki rebuilt its agriculture and other industries. Nyutabaru Airforce Base in Shintomi opened to the Japanese Air Force. Miyakonojo Army Barracks reopened to the Japanese Army. Miyazaki, Hyuga, and Nichinan ports reopened and a ferry from Miyazaki to Osaka began service.
By 1960, Governor Kuroki Hiroshi came up with the idea looking at Miyazaki’s beaches, palm trees, and climate to “Recreate Miyazaki as the Palm Beach of Japan.” Soon investment in resorts began, and golf courses were designed. By 1964, world class resorts were in Nichinan, Miyazaki City, Aoshima, and Takaoka boasted the first PGA course in Miyazaki. Miyazaki had recreated itself again. The phoenix was adopted as the unofficial symbol of Miyazaki. Just as the phoenix rose from the ashes, so did Miyazaki.
Miyazaki was the honeymoon destination of Japan. Soon every city was catering to the well heeled honeymooners from Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Kyoto. They came and left behind them their money. Before long people from all over Japan and Kyushu came for weekend trips. Finding a hotel was almost impossible. Some people booked a year to two years in advance.
By the 1980s, Miyazaki had no problem competing with Hawaii, The Gold Coast, or LA. There was no need to leave Japan for these destinations since Miyazaki had beaches, service, resorts, and surfing comparable to those destinations. To add more convenience, the tourists didn’t have to worry about language – “Japanese is spoken in Miyazaki” as the tourist association tagline went.
At the height of the bubble in 1989, Miyazaki had over 150 resorts, 4 PGA golf facilities, 50 private golf clubs, 8 surfing only beaches, and 60% of Miyazaki’s economy was tourism related. The indoor Seagaia Beach Dome opened in 1990 along with the Sheraton Seagaia Resort and the Tom Watson Phoenix Golf Resort. A brand new toll road took tourists from the airport to Seagaia in under 30 minutes. Tokyo was taking notice.
A bullet train was planned to take tourists from Fukuoka to Miyazaki Station via Oita in under two hours. A major freeway was planned to run the entire length from Fukuoka to Oita to Miyazaki City. Tokyo was investing in Miyazaki. Then in 1993 the unimaginable happened, Japan’s bubble burst. Almost immediately the tourists stopped coming. JAL took over the bulk of the tourist industry and naturally pushed Hawaii and other foreign locations. Other tour agencies like JTB and HIS followed JAL’s lead and pushed foreign locations as well.
Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Kyoto didn’t need help in tourism, domestic and international travelers naturally headed to those locations, but Miyazaki found itself locked out. The reason – too far from the exciting places people want to travel to. With the discounts agencies provided, it was cheaper for a tourist in Tokyo to travel to Hawaii and stay at a JAL hotel, go on JAL tours than to travel to Miyazaki.
At the end of 1993 half of the resorts were in foreclosure or bankruptcy. Unemployment hit record highs in Miyazaki, and airlines cut flights. No bullet train, freeway, or new Tokyo investment happened. Tokyo stopped taking notice of Miyazaki. Miyazaki was the disco queen of Japan; nice for a while, but long past its prime and popularity.
By 1994, there was an exodus beginning from Miyazaki to Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Kumamoto, and Chiba. In one year the population of Miyazaki fell from 1,479,000 to 1,340,000. Miyazaki desperately needed to recreate itself.