Hiking in Yakushima – Japanese Paradise

On our second day in Yakushima we woke up early to begin our hiking adventure. And by early I mean 9:30. By which time most of the serious hikers have been on the trail for 3 hours. We were headed to the slightly easier and shorter  Shiratani Unsuikyo trail, also known as the Princess Mononoke forest hike. We did two different hikes here, the first a 5 km trek through yakusugi trees, or yakushima cedar trees. These trees are thousands of years old. Some Japanese people believe them to have magical properties. They were amazing, the largest trees I have ever seen!

Then we took a 4km hike through the moss covered forest said to be the inspiration for the settings of Princess Mononoke, a famous Japanese animation film. Everything was covered in moss and astonishingly beautiful. It was like stepping into another world. I’ve never seen anything so green. At the end of the hike there is a look out point which involves a 1/4 km practically vertical climb to the top. As I struggled up, I saw a blind man with a seeing eye dog on his way down, so there was no backing out. At the top is a rock that looks over the mountains and valleys, it was extremely windy!

After our hiking adventure, which took over 7 hours due to our slow pace and copious photo breaks, we headed to our favourite diner, stax cafe for a pick me up of french toast and taco wraps.

You can’t hike in Japan without visiting hot springs afterward, so we went to a spectacular seaside onsen to relax.

Things were going too well, so on our way out we dropped the key to the hostel down the sewer. Luckily, we were able to mcguiver it up using branches and grass and got out of there seconds before the rain came. Perfection.

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Yakushima

We had a long weekend here this week, Monday being the official start of spring! To celebrate the season and the day off work, we headed to Yakushima, an island off the south coast of Kyushu known for it’s natural beauty. As we have been distracted the last few weeks, I did relatively little research before arriving, and Yakushima took my breath away.

 

The entire island is mountains and forests, with just one small road running around the perimeter. Monkeys and Deer can be found sitting on the side of the road, mangrove forests surround the road, and there are hundreds of waterfalls. It was absolutely gorgeous.

We lucked out and got a car rental tip from someone at our hostel in Kagoshima and scored a car for two days for about $100. The people in Japan are so incredibly nice and trusting. Insurance was included and they didn’t take any credit card information. That afternoon we drove around the island, making stops to see the Pillow shaped lava fields,

wade in a mangrove forest river

see an epic waterfall

hang out with the monkeys

and enjoy Kagoshima BBQ!

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