The big cities of
Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe are always high on the visit list for travellers in . Kyushu, the southern Japan while largely over looked is very deserving of visitors. Vast areas that escaped the ravages of the Second World War can be found in a unique oasis down here in the south. island of Japan
Yakushima for me, is the most special of these places. Located a 2 hour high-speed ferry ride from Kagoshima’s Dolphin Port, it is the home of ‘Yakusugi’, a name given to cedars over 1000 years old. The air is fresh, clean and filled with the scent of cedars both young and old. Hiking and nature enthusiasts from
, and around the globe come to Yakushima to experience the magic first hand. It's not hard to see why it inspired the forests of Studio Ghibli's 'Princess Mononoke'. Japan
The most famous of the Yakusugi is Jomon-sugi. Jomon-sugi is believed to be somewhere between 2170 and 7000 years old, and its name refers to the Jomon period in
's prehistory. The tree can be found on the north face of Mt Miyanoura and was not discovered until 1968. Japan
The hike to Jomon-sugi winds itself around rivers, brooks, moss, and countless cedars. A one days gentle hike from the Arakawa trek base station takes around 9 hours along reinforced pathways and platforms that have been put down to protect the forest and root systems that intertwine with the course.
|Off we go!|
Many cedars here have taken on interesting forms over the years, including the Medusa cedar and the
Kirin cedar. Some 3 generation cedars also line the much worn path, each generation growing upon the other.
Our guide took us through the trees and off the beaten path to a place where beautiful turquoise waters stretched between the trees inviting us to soak our weary feet. We navigated the precarious stone path to the boulders in the centre of the river for a rest. The water was fresh and icy cold, come summer I would be the perfect swimming hole.
Upon reaching Jomon-sugi I felt a great sense of achievement and wonder, the light streaming through the canopy of trees just adding to the magic.
Although hiking through the forest is the main event on this beautiful island, there is still much to see. Most of the coast is accessible via the single bus route (except between
and Nagata beach on the western road), but a hire a car will give you the freedom to explore other parts of the island. Ooko Falls
Ooko falls in the south of the island is 88 metres tall; the huge volume of water that falls into the river below sprays a mist across the landscape. Nearby local vendors fry up the island’s specialty, flying fish, as the monkeys play in the trees.
Yakushima’s Nagata beach, on the western coast, is known to be one of the world’s important spawning grounds for loggerhead turtles, so head there from mid may to mid july to take a peek.
The western road is home to the Nagata lighthouse. Many animals casually sauntered onto the road, unafraid of us as we passed by. From the lighthouse we took in the wide view of the ocean and the beauty of the steep cliffs, then turned to the spectacular view of the mists clinging the mountains across the island.
So if you are headed to
in the near future and want to see something outside of the usual destinations, Yukushima is worth travelling the distance for. It really is one of the gems of Japan that should not be missed. Japan
|The treking team, Scott, Dooley, Clint, Mike, myself and 2 lovely Japanese Ladies.|
Lastly, a big thanks to Mayumi who planned this whole trip as a birthday suprise for her husband. What a champion!
How to get to and around Yakushima
If you have time to spare the 'Sunflower' Ferry goes overnight from
Osaka Seagull Port to Shibushi Port, . The ferry departs at 17:55 and arrives at Shibushi at 8:55. Once in Kagoshima Prefecture Shibushi Port, you'll need to jump on the shuttle bus into which takes around 2 hrs depending on traffic. I’d recommend a ‘tourist sleeper’. The lowest class was described by Scott as ‘the Dragon’s lair’; a huge humid room where travellers lay down their futons together and attempt to sleep. Kagoshima City
For those needing to get to
Kagoshima in a hurry, flights to start from 7,800 yen one way. Train lovers can check out the new Sakura Shinkansen for around 21,000 yen one way, which takes around 4 and a half hours. Kagoshima Airport
To connect to Yakushima, you'll need to take a ferry. The high speed ferry 'Toppy' costs 7,700 yen one way or 14,000 yen return and takes around 2 hours.
For those with a decided lack of hiking gear, most accommodations and tour guides are able to arrange gear for your hiking needs. Some accommodations such as Kagoshima Youth Hostel also have K-cars for hire, at around 6000 yen per day (you’ll also need to re-fill the petrol tank before returning it).
For further info check out the JNTO Yakushima fact sheet @ http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/rtg/pdf/pg-708.pdf