Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Yakushima, Part 2

May 6th
Departure from Dolphin Port is at 1:15 PM, so we get there about half an hour early. The ferry terminal is packed with people returning home from their Golden Week travels. In fact, the 6th is the last official day of GW, and it's easier to get a hotel now, which is why my trip is when it is. The ferry boat I'm taking is the Toppy Rocket, pictured below (at the Yakushima docks). The ride is scenic, but uneventful. A tour guide on the boat occasionally comes on the PA to talk about the parts of the Kyushu coastline that we're passing by, for the first hour. After that, we reach open water and there's nothing to look at for the next hour. The fasten seatbelt light is on the entire time, so we're not allowed to get up and walk around at all. Unfortunately, no one spotted any dolphins either day.

Yes, Yakushima is green, and hilly. This is at one of the 2 ports, the one at the northwest end of the island. We'd had rain on the 5th and were afraid the weather wouldn't improve in time for the trip. Fortunately, the sky cleared up later in the evening. Right now, it's overcast and misty. In person, the hills have very strange splotches of lighter and darker greens. This turns out to be from a combination of new growth following logging, and all of the moss on the ground.

We stayed at the Seaside Hotel for the night. It's a very nice place, but on the pricey side. One bedroom had 2 beds and the TV, plus a small end table. The other room was Japanese style. While we were out for dinner at the restaurant on the first floor, someone came into the room and set out the futon for those wanting to sleep on the floor. Dinner was a kind of fusion-Japanese style with lots of small dishes with sashimi, tempura, boiled beef, fried fish and lots of vegetables. Dessert was a half of a Yakushima orange. Delicious. Breakfast the next day was buffet style, including rice, miso soup, handmade tofu, fish, curry rice, scrambled eggs and toast. The fruit, pineapple and grapes, were really good.

View from the hotel room window. One of the tourist maps indicates that the "rock" at the coast line is actually petrified trees. It's kind of hard to tell for the most part, but in some places it does look pretty wood-like. Occasionally, you can spot a fishing boat on the water. At night, several boats approach the coastline for anchoring.

Ernest Henry Wilson was a British botanist at the turn of the 20th century. He made repeated trips to China and parts of Asia, as well as to Japan from 1911 to 1916. Many of his photos have been collected into a book showing what Yakushima looked like at the time. During his visit of Yakushima, some of the men with him started damaging a particularly large tree stump, and he told them to stop it. As a result, the stump became known as the "Wilson Sugi" (sugi = cedar), and his pictures of it helped spread knowledge of Yakushima to the west. Pictured above is a replica of the Wilson sugi, located on the hotel grounds. The actual stump is some miles farther into the hills.

Inside of the replica.

View of the hotel from the petrified trees.

I was expecting to see more sea life trapped in the pools in with the trees. Instead, there were just a few of these mollusks.

And these things. I don't know if they're the same as in the other photo, or something different.

Dried seaweed. I saw several masses of this stuff floating on the water when I took the ferry back to Kagoshima. The thing that's interesting about this is that it looks kind of hair-like. It's not surprising that some Japanese folktales talk about female creatures living in the sea, having this kind of "hair".

Before dinner, I walked a quarter-mile to the city center. There's really not a whole lot in the immediate area. The Seaside Hotel is next to the ferry port, then there's the Yakushima Forest Center, and some souvenir shops and food stores. The main street runs north to this river, and a few cafes. On the other side of the river is a big school, but I didn't have time to visit that. The tourist map indicates that a picnic site a little farther up the river is good for sky watching.

The hills are alive.

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