The mountainous island of Yakushima is said to be 90% covered with forest. 90%! Because of this, Chris and I board the oldest, rustiest and cheapest ship in Japan’s waters and sail to this fairytale place.
Yakushima has actually been extensively logged and replanted. However, some old-growth forest still remains, and two-thousand year old yakusugi trees live on. They silently watch Japanese walkers who come for a two day holiday: a brief break from their sixty-hour working weeks.
Andrew joins us for a few days and we stumble over tree roots in the enchanted forests of Yakusugiland and Shiratani Unsuikyo.
Yakushima is, obviously, famous for its moss. People travel far and wide to hike in this wonderland that looks like it should be inhabited by elves.
There’s water everywhere on the island. As we hitchhike around, we discover waterfalls, swimming holes, beautiful beaches and hot springs.
Yakushima’s towns are small, welcoming and largely untouched by tourism, and whilst we’re there we’re lucky enough to see two traditional festivals on the island.
Hitchhiking is relatively easy, and we meet people who have permanently moved to Yakushima from cities like Fukushima. They tell us that they want a healthier life for themselves.
As we hitchhike the western side of the island, our driver stops the car and we all get out to take pictures of macaque monkeys. I’ve got a phobia of these intelligent, audacious creatures. I’ve even scanned the internet for advice on how to act around them. However, my phobia has eased slightly since we met macaques on Honshu who didn’t give a damn about humans.
Suddenly one of the macaques charges at us. I forget the advice I have read on the internet, scream at the top of my voice, and run run run with fear as he chases us back to our car. We were too close to his troop and he was protecting them.
After one week on Yaksuhima, it’s time to leave behind the forests, the moss, the deer and the monkeys. Maybe one day we’ll be lucky enough to return…