Wednesday, August 22, 2012

In Japan, 2012

In Japan, 2012

It is easy to travel in Japan. On both of my trips to Japan I traveled alone and felt totally comfortable. Tokyo reminds me of the England I grew up in during the 60's:  the smell of coal smoke in the air, driving on the left, tea, small spaces and lanes, a public politeness, lots of French pastry, densely populated towns but plenty of green space, 3-speed bicycles, and the preponderance of trains. It is odd and unexpected. I am simply comfortable in Japan. 

We use the word in as a synonym for being there, or visiting. In implies being enclosed or surrounded by, with the implication of penetration. I suppose can never really be in Japan, not like the native Japanese must be. I can experience Japan, perhaps even be mindfully there, but never see it with native eyes. My Japan will always be foreign, my eyes are always those of the ganjin; yet Japan is such a developed modern society, so resplendent with the familiar: wide screen TVs, cars and electronics; that it is familiar -- but a familiar which has evolved from a different mind-set and aesthetic.

For me the attraction of Japan is exactly this soupy blend of strangeness and familiarity, a nutritive broth in which foreignness floats like a twisted strand of noodle in udonic harmony. I visit Japan to sharpen my wits and my senses; to live for a time in a new scene half cut off from all language derived meaning, to wallow in ostensible politeness; to eat the unusual and to wander and relish all the daily visual surprises. There is a real freedom in being lost in another culture surrounded by spoken language unintelligible to me and the writing unreadable.

All this -- yet I have been to Japan only twice and briefly each time. In 2008 late in the year. I visited Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagasaki and the Aso volcano. Then I went again in the spring of 2012 to see Osaka, sail on its bay, hike the Kii peninsula's Kumano Kodo and visit the remote and beautiful southern island of Yakushima.

Each of these trips began here at home with a planning stage where I read guides, scoured the Internet and listened to conversational Japanese in the hope I would at least be able to say: Please, Thank You and Excuse Me in a convincing way. The language lessons marched on 
for weeks, with CD after CD popping in and out of black plastic slits. An hour a day I listened and struggled to create memorable patterns of sound which I could fix in my memory. Eventually I could visualize myself finding my way across Tokyo to Ueno Park with a simple Uenokōen wa doko des ka? or greeting my hosts with a hearty morning greeting: Ohayōgozaimasu

However difficult speaking was for me, it was child's play compared to reading the same : おはようございます! Reading Japanese seems to me an impossible task. I know only a very few Japanese symbols. The one for 'man/male' which I think of as the running window: 男 -- necessary in finding the correct toilet and onsen bath doors. Then there are the symbols for 'entrance' : 入口 which I think of it as something like 'pointing the way in' (to the square). That the symbols for 'exit' begin with a figure like a 5 pointed candelabra 
(出) completes my ability to read any Japanese. 

I think I begin a trip with an anticipated vision of what the trip is to be, what it is to mean, what I will experience. This imagining shapes the experience. It is a kind of deterministic foretelling


Monday, August 20, 2012

Kumano Kodo, 2012

Kumano Kodo

Mid-morning on my second day of walking along the ancient Japanese pilgrimage route known as the Nakahechi, I found myself looking for an egg shaped rock to fool the serpents that haunt the nearby shrine. The logic for this: serpents love eggs; so offering an ‘egg’ will appease the beast and I might then pass this treacherous spot without incurring some dreaded curse.

The trail was sandy, the surrounding forest quiet, the morning beginning to warm. I had already traversed two ridges and just descended the steep slope from the second. 

I dropped my pack and backtracked along the trail looking for a suitable stone. 

When I finally placed my offering in the shrine and leaned back to take a digital snapshot, a single drop of sweat from my forehead splashed onto someone else’s egg-like gift. This made me think. This trail had been used for more than a thousand years and yet I had been lucky enough to find an egg-shaped rock. I felt a surge of joy, blessed with good fortune. I believed this must signal more good luck is to come.

I took a long drink of cool green tea, shouldered my pack and got moving. There was still a long way to go !

 I'd chosen the Nakahechi route of the Kumano Kodo (Kumano old roads) for my Japanese trek because it offered a historic walk through great terrain with comfortable local inns to stay in at night. I would travel light and eat well. An extra bonus was being able to plan my trip on my own; using the maps and guides on an English language web site in the months before I arrived in Japan.

The Nakahechi walking route I chose is one of five major routes in the Kii-hanto region. The Kii peninsula juts out into the Pacific about 250 miles southwest of Tokyo. The region is about two hours by train from Osaka or Kyoto; but despite its proximity to these urban centers has a surprisingly wild and remote feeling.

The Nakahechi path runs from the west coast of the Kii peninsula deep into its sacred green mountains. This region has been considered a home of the gods since ancient times and is central to the Shingon school of Buddhism. This region is a center for the  practitioners of Shugendo who believe they can achieve supernatural strength through ascetic mountain practices. 

During during the Edo period, at the height of this historic pilgrimage route’s use, pilgrims were so numerous they were said to resemble a swarm of ants. In these historic times pilgrims from Kyoto would boat down the Yodogawa River to a port near present day Osaka, then travel south along the coast to Kii-Tanabe, where they would turn inland toward Takijiri-oji. Here they begin the 40 kilometer trek across the mountains to Hungo-Taisha, the first of the three great shrines of the Kumano. This route from Takijiri-oji to Hungo, is called the Nakahechi. Earlier pilgrims would then continue their journey down the Kumano-gowa River to Kumano Hayatama Taisha or overland to Kumano Nachi Taisha for a journey of 330 km.

I began my modern trek by taking the express train Kurishio from Tennoji station in Osaka to Kii-Tanabe in just 2 hours. Then a local bus took me from the station to Takijiri where most modern walkers start. Once I stepped off the bus I’d left urban Japan behind. The air was cool and clear as I crossed the bridge over the rushing Tonda-gawa river to the Takijiri-oji shrine.

In preparation for this walk I had poured over the beautiful Kumano Kodo route maps I'd found on the Tanabe City Kumano Tourism web site, but within the five minutes of being on the trail, I knew this hike was going to be more difficult than I had expected. The path began by going straight up. In some places the path was paved in old stone, in others it is a tangle of rocks, roots and leaves. I had debated bringing my old hiking boots all the way from the States, but in the end I was grateful I had then. The first segment of my walk -- from Takijiri-oji to Tsugizakura, the village where I would stay in at Minshuku Tsugizakura, was 18.2 kilometers. It would me take about 6.5 hours -- just about exactly the time predicted on the tourist web site.

After reaching the height of first ridge, the path leveled out and became sandy, the walking easier. I passed through brushy woods of cedar, beech and bamboo. Small birds I could not see made short musical calls, telling me I was hiking in Asia. I experienced that bliss which comes from beginning a new adventure.

All along the Nakahechi are numerous small shrines (-oji) and legendary places each marked with a descriptive sign. At one of the first, the Tsurugi Sutra Mound, I was lucky enough to find an abandoned bamboo walking stick. It would become my companion for the next three days and soon felt like a natural appendage of my arm. I planned to take it home with me a souvenir of the walk, but my stick had other plans. I left it in Yunomine. I imagine today it is still wandering the Kumano trails with other walkers.

When I came upon a hut about mid-day I tossed off my pack and dug out the two onigiri I had picked up for lunch. A hawk circled overhead. Onigiri are rice triangles wrapped in dried seaweed and stuffed with a tasty morsel of fish or meat and cleverly wrapped with a layer of plastic between the seaweed wrapper and the rice, so the seaweed wrapper remains crisp and delicious.

After about two hours the trail brought me to a small cluster of houses. An old woman gestured me into her shop. I showed her my empty water bottle. She led me into the back and pointed to the faucet all with much bowing and thanks. When I was ready to set off again she led me out into the lane and pointed up the hill. "Kumano Kodo," she said, bowed again and was gone.

A bit more than an hour later I came to the spot where a Yamabushi ascetic had long ago, on an auspicious day, witnessed a moon rise in which the moon appeared in three places - the Three Fold Moon. This filled him with a great power. Today this spot is legend.

The tail continued along a forested ridge.  In some places the forest was filled with flowering laurel. The ridge became very narrow, dropping off steeply through the woods on each side of the trail until I began to descend along a small stream into the village of Chikatsuyu

With hand signs I managed to buy an orange from a woman at a farm stand and while eating and walking, began to climb again, no longer on rough trails, but paved country roads toward Tsugisakura. As I approached this village I spotted trays of green tea left in the sun to dry and in one place came upon an entire family roasting this tea outside their house. Everyone smiled and waved. 

By the time I reached Tsugisakura it was a little after five. I did not have the detailed map of the village so I missed my turn and walked until I knew I'd gone too far. Here I came upon a young woman and her children playing in the street. She led me back along the lane, with her daughters skipping alongside, to where a path descended the steep slope to my minshuku .

I saw Mrs. Yuba pacing outside their minshuku . When she spotted me, she ran up, took my pack and lead me to the house. I sat on one of the simple log stools outside to remove my hot boots and slip into a pair of cool sandals. Inside the house, I exchanged these for house slippers. In a few minutes I was in the shower and cool and clean again. My eight course dinner, began with mochi rice cake, and green tea. Then simmered vegetables with home made ume liquor; tuna sashimi with nori dried seaweed and grated yam; grilled 'Ayu' sweetfish served with egg and lotus root; a beautifully presented tempura with shiso mint leaf and other plants; Tsukemono Japanese pickles (cucumber, Japanese radish); simmered vegetables, and a Kamameshi bowl which I cooked at the table; all followed by sherbet on an orange and more green tea.

I slept soundly in a traditional Japanese room on a futon laid over tatami mats. Breakfast was just as delicious and filling as dinner; then my hosts sent me off in the morning with a bottle of cool green tea and a box lunch. Mr. Yuba had been a professional chef, before returning to his village to open this minshuku.  I would stay at another inn tonight, this one in the hot spring town of Yunomine Onsen after I had covered today’s twenty-two kilometers. Yunomine is know for it naturally heated baths and the exceptional therapeutic qualities of the water.

My second day of walking was easier. Perhaps it was all the great food, or the early start from Tsugizakura

I settled into my pack and boots, I had my walking stick and the Yubas had sent me off with that great  lunch. 

If anything the trail's hills became steeper and the descents into the valleys deeper. Today for the first time I began to see a few westerners and by the time we reached Yunomine we would all be chatting to one another like old friends

The Waraji-toge Pass is named for the place where the traditional simple sandals made of woven straw would need to be exchanged for a new pair. The pass itself was a rounded deep groove through a high ridge. I could imagine this depression being worn through the ridge by centuries of passing feet. 

Along each side of the sandy trail the ground was littered with dried cedar branches and cones. The trees were tall and straight forming a green canopy high overhead. For the most part the ground was bare under the cyrptomeria, but here and there a thin spindly rhododendron grew. The trail from the pass descended   the steep mountain slope through a series of switchbacks.

After passing the egg-for-the-serpent shrine I clambered down a sandy bank, stripped off my boots and soaked my feet in the crystal clear waters of the Yukawa-gawa River. Misogi (water absolutions) were a regular ritual during tradional pilgrimages.

Much of this second day's route ran through managed forest. In a few places there were detours. This region had been damaged by a typhoon. Entire hillsides were washed away exposing the subsurface of sand and loose rock. 

Several times during the day I was able to look back from some ridge across a series of lower valleys to spot the distant pass I had come across an hour before. As the morning wore on, the day became warm. I was soon down to my base layers of shorts and a thin nylon shirt.

By the time I near the end of the  Nakahechi route at the Shinto Shrine in Hongū Taisha I was walking with Roger, a young trekker from Montreal, and it had begun to rain. Hongū Taisha is one of the shrines important to the melding of Buddhism and Shintoism in Japan, the so-called, syncretism of kami and buddhas.

After touring the shrine I had a blister which needed attention, the rain continued,   and so I opted for the bus to Yunomine. Roger wanted to walk the additional 3.5 kms there. We say goodbye to one another.

Here too there is typhoon damage, a bridge out prevents the big highway buses from reaching the nearby village of Yunomine Onsen, but a small van run by a Yunomine civic association now makes the trip a few times each day. But  I do not know where the van leaves from. I ask a  taxi driver waiting outside the shrine. He asks a shop keeper. She is not certain, so he locks up his cab and motioning me to follow, jogs through the town to the regional tourist office, where he hands me off to a guide, bows and rushes back out the door. I watch him run back through town to where he's left his parked cab. As has so often happened in Japan, people are so helpful it is absolutely humbling. I determine not to ask for any more assiatnce unless I am really stuck. The simplest question can lead to a cascade of activity.

 The friendly proprietor at Minshuku Adumaya-so speaks English and shows me to my tatami mat room. Declaring that I am a 'large' man, he goes to find me a bigger yukata. Wearing this I descend to the inn's private wood lined bath in the basement. Out the window of the steaming bath a cool mist is now falling and the stream below steams as it flows by an old water wheel. Steam curls lift off the water of my bath. I am soaking. The tub is made of cedar wood. Everything is warm.

Upstairs we eat supper together cross legged at low tables. Roger, the Canadian, ends up sitting next to me. Again there are many delicious courses served to us by our host and an older woman I take to be his mother. She makes quite a fuss over us, the only Westeners, pointing out this dish, chattering away. In the morning, she appears before we depart and blesses our journey, giving  Roger and I each a few small gifts in simple paper bags. I get a small sake container. We both receive plastic toy railroad cars.

Neither of our train cars has any wheels. Grandma is very sweet. We bow deeply to her.

It is here I leave my old bamboo walking stick with the simple black tape grip in the lobby umbrella stand.

I hope it has found good use.



This excellent English language web site is the central location for travelling in this region. It has maps, many photographs, descriptions and a reservation system to plan your trip. The staff is very helpful. There is also a small office outside the train station in Kii-Tanabe.

I took a train to Kii-Tanabe from Osaka's Tennōji station - the Kuroshio, a limited express. The train also has stops in Kyoto and Shin-Osaka. The schedule can be found on the Hyperdia site which I used for calculating all my Japanese train schedules:  My train took about 2 hours from Osaka to Kii-Tanabe. Here I boarded a local bus for a 40 minute ride to Takijiri-oji where I began walking. I left my luggage at the hotel in Osaka, which I returned to on my return.

More Photos:


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sailing On Osaka Wan, 2012

Sailing On Osaka Wan, 2012

While traveling in Japan I arranged to go day sailing on the Pacific near Osaka with an American expatriate. Bill Payne keeps a 27’ foot sloop, ‘Cloud 9’ at Shin Nishinomiya Yacht harbor. Bill picked me up at the Nishinomiya station one Saturday morning in May. Nishi is about 15 minutes by train from Osaka. On a previous trip to Japan I'd seen sailboats in their slips at Nagasaki and other harbors and had quick glimpses of an inviting turquoise sea out the window of bullet trains. To actually get out on Japanese waters in a sailboat was a dream come true. Long before this trip I had contacted Bill by email after I found him on the web. As a retired school teacher and an ex-navy man Bill helps locals and expatriates prepare for the ASA and Japan government tests needed to operate a boat here and he does his training in English. Bill is also active in the local English speaking expatriate sailing community.  

In front of his marina, the Shin Nishinomiya Yacht harbor, is ‘Suntory Mermaid’, a 13m yacht which Japanese yachtsman Kenichi Horie used to sail around the world in 2004-2005 from this very harbor. The aluminum hulled yacht was specially built for the voyage and had sails made with a polyester fiber from recycled plastic bottles. Kenichi’s solo voyage took 8 months and made Kenichi the second person to solo-sail around the world in both directions.

Nishinomiya is located along the eastern Japanese coast about halfway between Osaka and Kobe in a heavily populated part of Japan. These are protected waters and the inner portion of Osaka Wan (Osaka Bay) is sheltered by a large sea wall. Osaka Wan has two outlets, one to the west leads toward the Inland sea, while an opening far to the southwest leads to the open Pacific.

Lang, an Australian and one of Bill's students, met us at the marina. Lang has settled in Japan and opened his own English language school for kids in his town. Lang had bought a sailing dingy he plopped into various Japanese waters. Now he wanted to step up to larger cruising boats.

The three of us quickly got down to the docks and soon had ‘Cloud 9’ underway, but we could not get a clear view of the bay till we picked our way round the typhoon barriers and made it out onto the open waters of Osaka Wan (Osaka Bay). Bill’s marina, like much of the Japanese coast in this area is faced with concrete tsunami and typhoon barriers and breakwaters. His ‘Cloud 9’ is a Splendor, built in Nagoya, Japan about 30 years ago. 

Once underway we soon met another expatriate sailboat, ‘Kapua’, a 25’ Yamaha Mark II captained by an acquaintance of Bill’s. After a quick conversation we left Kapua and set out across the bay for the entrance to Osaka harbor. It was Lang’s first day on a keel boat so he took the tiller. I took some time to look around. This is a major port area traversed by many big ships and fishing boats. Bill said his philosophy, especially in Japan, is to give the local working craft a wide berth, as they have little patience with pleasure boats.

The day was mostly overcast with enough of a breeze, probably about 10 knots or in local terms about 18.5 km/hr. The wind was off the land out of the northwest. It was possible to read the local sailing chart as it was lettered in both Japanese script and English, but the detailed coastal pilot was only lettered in Japanese making it difficult (i.e., impossible ) for me to use.

Once we neared the mouth of the historic Yodogawa River, Bill took the helm and neatly steered us into Osaka’s Hokko Yacht Harbor where we tied up and had lunch below. While we were talking over our onegiri I noticed the the rigging had begun to whistle. Sure enough, just like at home, the north-west proved to be unstable wind. We flew back toward Nishinomiya in a fresh and gusty breeze. I had a great time showing Lang how to flatten out the main and ride the headers upwind. And I am happy to say, we made it without a single tack. Only in one place did we have to dump the main to regain our steerage when a particularly strong gust tried to prevent us from slipping behind a barge. A great fun afternoon of sailing on Osaka Wan.

* * *


Other Resources:   Bill Payne’s web site.   English language forum about sailing in Japan.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Kagoshima, 2012

On my first trip I did not quite have enough time to make it to Kagoshima. On my second trip I made sure I got there. I left Osaka in the morning and was in Kagoshima by early afternoon. The shinkansen now runs all the way to Kagoshima making the trip much faster than it was in 2008. I planned to take the ferry across to Yakushima Island first thing in the morning, so I had an afternoon in the city.

Since I was staying near the port I decided to have a look at the aquarium. The Kurishio Tank is the centerpiece of this aquarium and named for the warm current which sweeps along the coast in this part of Japan. It is responsible for the incredible diversity and quantity of marine life.

When I returned from Yakushima to Kagoshima a few days later as the storm was winding down, I found strong storm winds had coated the city in layer of gray volcanic ash from Saurajima, the volcano in the harbor. Many wore masks; and the breeze blew visible clouds of grit down the broad boulevards.


Saurajima Volcano :

Wikipedia says : 'The Kuroshio; Japanese 黒潮 "Black Tide") is a north-flowing ocean current on the west side of the North Pacific Ocean. It is similar to the Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic and is part of the North Pacific ocean gyre. Like the Gulf stream, it is a strong western boundary current.' (ref: )

My Trip Planing Resources, 2012


   The Rough Guide To Japan - Rough Guides

   Wrong About Japan - Peter Carey

   Little Adventures in Tokyo: 39 Thrills for the Urban Explorer - Rick Kennedy

   Hiking in Japan - Lonely Planet

   For Fukui's Sake: Two Years in rural Japan - Sam Baldwin


Japan National Tourist Office:

Japan Guide (great maps of transport links)



Yakushima: Visitor's Guide 


Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine (白谷雲水峡, Shiratani Unsuikyō)

Jerry’s Guest House & campground

Air Discounts:

Internal flights discounted to arriving foreigners  


Hiking In Japan and the book 'Hiking In Japan' - Lonely Plant

Outdoor Japan 

Japanese Wildlife 

Volunteer Guides:



Train Travel:

Descriptive Blog

Train Schedules (so useful in planning the details)

Kansai area rail apss

Japanese Ferries:

Map of most ferry routes

Japanese ferries 

Mt Fuji from the Shinkansen

Ferry To Yakushima, 2012

I had read about Japanese ferry routes in the travel guides and found some additional information on the general Japanese travel web sites; but once I dug down to the web pages of the ferry lines themselves, things got more difficult since I cannot read Japanese. So when I arrived in Kagoshima I wanted to check-out the ferry to Yakushima  I planned to take the next morning.

I dropped my bags at my hotel (The Sun-Flower) and then walked from the hotel to the ferry terminal building to see if I could buy a ticket or make a reservation. In any case this was an excuse to see the harbor. I love a new city's waterfront and will always want to explore it. All was quiet mid-afternoon at the terminal, but I did learn I was to simply line up for a ticket  for the 'Yakushima 2' at 8 am. No reservation were needed or apparently possible for a walk-on passenger. That done, I wandered over to the Kagoshima Aquarium , which turned out to be terrific.

Yakushima 2
The island of Yakushima lies off the southern coast of Japan and can be reached by air from several Japanese cities or by one of several ferries. The route I sailed traversed the 80 miles of sea between  Kagoshima and the port of Miyanoura on Yakushima island. Along this route there is a choice of conventional ferry (ship) the 'Yakushima 2' or several fast 'jet' ferries (hydrofoils). I opted for the ship on the way out, as I had read it was more comfortable. I returned on one of the jetfoils on a day when the Yakushima 2 was not running because of rough seas.

Travelling on the jet-boat was more like a flight. Passengers stayed seated in a compartment reminiscent of a plane. There were stewardesses and seat belts. All the announcements were in Japanese.

Aboard the Yakushima 2 however; there were three decks to explore: several lounges, outside decks to walk, a small store and a tatami mat sleeping room for napping.

Many of the travel guides say that the 'jet' boats are cancelled in bad stormy weather. I found the opposite to be true, the big ship did not sail on a stormy day, while the jet boats continued to run back and forth on a special schedule.

The  'Yakushima 2'  cruise took about 4 hours. We sailed at 8:30 in the morning and were tied up at Miyanoura Port on Yakushima a little after noon. The return trip is in the afternoon.

Once we got underway I found a spot in the upper non-smoking lounge to read with a view of the coast to the west. The ship first travels south down the long expanse of Kagoshima Bay. At the southern end of the bay you can spot the symmetrical cone of the Kaimondake volcano to the west and then rocky Cape Sata to the east, before emerging out into the open waters of the East China Sea.

Once we were out on the open ocean I explored the ship: found some green tea to drink, passed through a smoky bar and peeked into the sleeping room where several backpackers were doing yoga. I talked to some of the other passengers. One couple, about my own age was planning to camp on the island for the next 4 days. Another younger couple told me they were staying in a guest house in Miyanoura. They were very excited about hiking in the dense tropical rain forest known as Yakusugiland and asked if I had seen princess Mononoke Yaku-sugi is the term for the giant cedars more than one thousand years old.  Yakusugiland  is a forest of these trees and one of the spots which inspired the animated film: Princess Mononoke .  The man looked at me and asked, "Jamon-sugi?"  He wanted to know if I planned to visit one of the sights the island is best known for -- its ancient tree, the Jomon-sugi, a giant Japanese cedar (cryptomeria)  reputed to be more than 2000 years old. They were surprised, even disappointed,  when I shook my head no, but I quickly explained with gestures and my best fifty words of Japanese that I did plan to hike to the top of Miyanoura-dake, Yakushima's tallest mountain, an excursion I'd been looking forward to for months.

The breeze picked up and the haze began to clear. We could see the Yakushima ahead, its mountains rising right out of the sea. If all went well, tomorrow I would be up there in the mountains, walking among the highest peaks I could now just begin to make out.

When we disembarked in Miyanoura I was surprised by a man at the bottom of the gangplank holding up a sign with my name on it before  I realized he was from the car rental agency. He led me to a van and we sped off for a three minute drive to the rental office.  

I had never driven in Japan, but had chosen to rent a car so I could get around the island easily. The car would give me a great deal of freedom over the next four days; making it much to get to and from the trail heads and other sights without negotiating the bus schedules. I used the Mazda car rental in Miyanoura and everything worked out well. I made the reservation on the web several months in advance and when I picked up the car, was able to use my credit card to pay for it (both if these things are not always true when booking Japanese travel). I had been warned to have my international drivers license with me as it is required for car rental  in Japan. I chose a small compact van-like vehicle -- something like a Honda Element, but smaller. It was an automatic, which made driving on the left hand side of the road considerably less of a challenge -- although my mantra for the next few days would become  'StayLeft  StayLeft  StayLeft'

Yakushima basically has one road which circles the island from which other roads make short intrusions into the mountainous and heavily forested interior. It is not clear on the map, but the circular island road varies in quality depending on which direction you choose to go round the island. Heading east toward Anbo is the easier route, heading west takes you through the World Heritage preserve on a very scenic but much slower road which has numerous hairpin turns and is often only a single lane wide for both directions. There are also the monkeys to watch out for.

Because I had rented a car, to keep within my daily budget, I looked for inexpensive accommodation on the island. I had thought about bringing my tent and camping, but since Yakushima is often wet that seemed a risky proposition. Instead I found a room at 'Jerry's Camp Ground and Mandala Guest House' in the town of Onoaida on the southern (opposite) side of the island. We'd emailed back and forth and I'd seen pictures of the Guest House. The room I had reserved there was large, with a great view. There was a shower and toilet downstairs, but there was no kitchen or food. I'd have to sort that out when got there.

Once I had the car and had driven to the local supermarket in Miyanoura to buy some fruit, some bottled green tea and a bento box; I drove inland to the Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine to hike a bit and see some of the less giant and ancient cedars.

Ticket from JetBoat


Yakushima: Visitor's Guide

Princess Mononoke

Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine (白谷雲水峡, Shiratani Unsuikyō)

Jerry’s Guest House & campground