Next and final stop on our adventure was Yakushima, an island south of Kyushu accessible by ferry from Kagoshima. Yakushima is famous for the old cedar forests, with one tree some 5000 years old (yes that is right, 5000! However it is a 10 hour round trip to see it so we were content to see a 3000 year old example). We had heard 2 things about Yakushima:
1. Yakushima calls you.
2. It rains 35 days a month!
Thursday (early) morning: Because we wanted to spend as much time as possible in Yakushima, we got the first ferry from Kagoshima in the morning at 7:45 and two hours later arrived in Yakoshima. We picked up our rental car and headed to the ryokan we were staying to get changed into our hiking gear (well gear more suited to hiking). The host was nice enough to let us check into our rooms early, and we found that they were fantastic! The whole place beside a creek with a backdrop to the mountains of the island, with little cabins nestled in the forest, with. After getting ourselves organised we set off to Yaku-sugi Land for a 2.5 hour hike to see some of the older trees on the island. This was our first real experience of Yakushima. Oh and we were lucky to have fine weather on our side!
Thursday night: After returning to the ryokan we relaxed with a few beers. After that we had an onsen before heading to the dining room for a delicious traditional Japanese dinner and some more local shochu.
The creek that ran past the ryokan, right near our room. One onsen looked out over this creek, another looked into the surrounding forest. Each day they swapped from men to women and vice versa so you got a view of each.
The first old tree we came across, this one a mere 1000 years.
Hungry monkey snacking while we strolled past. They also sat on the side of the road in a group grooming each other.
One of the creek crossings
Mother and daughter trees, both over 2600 years old... a long time to wait for grandkids.
From the other side
Friday: Our friendly host at the ryokan told us that another very popular spot Shiratani Unsuikyo. This was the forest where a well known Japanese animator, Hayao Miyazaki got his inspiration for the forest in his movie Princess Mononoke. Being big fans of his movies we were very keen to check this out. With yet another fine day after rain the night before, we decided to head off straight after a very hearty breakfast to hike into the forest. It unfortunately took us longer than expected because the pamphlet was a little misleading, however the extra hour was time well spent as the forest itself can only be described as magical.
Towards the end of our walk the rain started, and ended up setting in for the day. We decided to find somewhere nice to have some lunch and then perhaps drive around the island to see what other sites were around. In fact, we found a great cafe called stax, where the owner had a massive record collection and played a selection of 70s funk music whilst we sipped on great coffee and enjoyed delicious food. It was hard to imagine heading out into the rain so we relaxed for the afternoon, went back to the ryokan and had an onsen, some beers, followed by another great dinner.
On the road up to the start of the walk
The creek crossing on the way
One of the many small deer grazing in the forest whilst we walked past
Different shots of the forest that was the inspiration for Princess Mononoke. The photos hardly capture the magic of the forest.
On our private balcony after our onsens enjoying a drink and some snacks
Saturday: We were sad that it was the end of our holiday, but were looking forward to the day of shinkansen travel. Over the course of the journey we day dreamed about a longer holiday in Kyushu and Yakushima. We both felt it was our favourite area of Japan that we have seen so far. The people were super friendly, the scenery amazing, the food delicious and of course the shochus were tasty!