Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Yakushima, Part 1


May 4th
I'm going to try something new this time (what a weird thing to write... I try to only write about new things here in this blog). I want to document "before" and "after" impressions regarding an upcoming trip. I'm planning on going to Yakushima for 2 days at the end of Golden Week, on the 6th and 7th.

I really don't know much about the island. There are a number of ferries running from the ports dotting the Kagoshima coastline, heading to Osaka, Tokyo, Amami, Yakushima, Tanegashima and Okinawa. Many of these trips can take hours, even with jet boats, so most travellers will just fly to their destinations. The ride to Tanegashima is somewhere around 10 hours, I guess, while Okinawa is a full day away. Of all of the islands available from Kagoshima, Yakushima is one of the closest, at 2 hours. But, it's still expensive, roughly $150 USD round-trip.

Based on what I know as I write this, Yakushima is large enough to have several mountains worth hiking, and is big enough to justify renting a car to drive around it. There are travel agencies that offer tours to several destinations on the island, including a mountain hike that takes 4-6 hours, and a walk to a 2,300-year old cedar tree that takes 8-11 hours round-trip. According to my barber, Yakushima also offers good seafood, with tobiko (flying fish) being a delicacy. The weather is moderate year-round, and some tourist agencies suggest bringing a raincoat because it's going to be rainy then.

Now, looking at the wiki entry, the island is 504 square kilometers, is kind of "ghost-shaped", and has a population of 13,200 people. It's a designated UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve and the largest nesting site for the endangered loggerhead sea turtle. Wildlife include the Red-bottomed Macaques, deer, tanuki and weasels. Sealife include the loggerhead turtles and dolphins (part of the reason for the trip is to try dolphin-spotting). In addition, the forests were used as inspiration for the "Princess Mononoke" movie, and are the settings for parts of "Floating Clouds" (1955), "Rebirth of Mothra" (1996) and the video game "Persona 3".

My personal impressions are that it's a big island surrounded by lots of water, maybe with some fishing boats and/or dolphins. It's covered in forest, but some areas are either cultivated for oranges and tea, or cleared for housing. Climate-wise, it's going to be like living on the east Florida coast; cool and humid or hot and muggy. And that sums up everything I don't know about the place.

(cont.)

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