Yakushima, a small island (107.47km²) belonging to Kagoshima in the Kyushu area, is one of the most mysterious islands in Japan.
It is also called the Oriental Galapagos because of its peculiar rainforest, which isn’t seen in other parts of Japan.
After about five hours of traveling by airplane, bus, and ferry, my friend and I finally got to this mysterious island on June 5th.
We had only three days to spend there, so we rented a car near the airport and drove directly to one of the falls called Senpiro no Taki. In the middle of the quiet forest stood one of the most beautiful waterfalls I had ever seen.
Yakushima is mostly made of granite, and at the bottom of the fall I could see the surface of it polished by the falling water.
Close by was a viewing spot on top of a hill. So we walked up to it and we could see both the fall and the sea in all directions. It was breathtaking.
On our first night, we stayed at a cottage, Mori no Kokage. They had a BBQ stove there, so we could do BBQ, but we decided to go to one of the popular restaurants, Shiosai, instead.
The special dinner there was sashimi of mackerel, but I what really impressed me was the two big fried shrimp they served us. I was even happier that the dinner sets were a good deal at only 1900 yen. This place was really packed, even if though it wasn’t the in-season.
Next day, we decided to go to Yakushima Fruit garden to have a little breakfast. We drove a very narrow street for 10 minutes, and finally got there. When we went into the fruit garden, a couple of friendly people welcomed and guided us around the garden. Then, they served fresh tropical fruit like pineapples, papayas, tankan, passion fruits, and bananas that they got from the garden. They were so delicious and juicy.
Then, after we soaked our feet in an onsen by the sea, we had some homemade hamburgers before getting ready for a hike at Shiratani Unsuikyou.
We were just wearing short pants, T-shirts, and tennis shoes, but other hikers were wearing long sleeves shirts, long pants and trekking bouts. We started the hike a little worried because of our poor choice of attire. It made me remember a time when one of my friends climbed Mt. Fuji wearing only a T-shirt and tennis shoes and he telling me just how dangerous it was, so don’t do that. But here I was nonetheless wearing only a T-shirt and tennis shoes, thinking well our situation should be better than his, after all it’s not Mt. Fuji—right? We also didn’t want to change our plan because it was our primary purpose in our visit Yakushima, to hike this mountain trail. So, we decided to get over it and go.
The trails were hilly and wet, but the air was fresh. We kept walking for an hour, and finally, we got to the point called Mononoke’s forest. This forest is known as the model for Studio Gibli’s animation movie “Princess Mononoke.”
It was an amazing view. All rocks and trunks were covered by moss. I felt as if I was in the movie.
We just stayed there without talking anymore, just being blown away by this ancient marvel that nature had made.
We saw a very old Japanese cedar called Yayoi Cedar on the way back as well. It was standing there in the most dignified form.
After that, we went to the hotel, Soyo- Tei. The location is perfect. We could see a beautiful beach, which Marine Turtles come to have eggs from our room. We took a private onsen bath by the ocean and had dinner at the terrace looking at an amazing sun set. If I go to Yakushima again, I definitely will stay at this hotel.
And the day was not over yet, the most exciting event was at night. After dinner, the host of the hotel rented us a small lantern. The street completely dark and we walked to the beach in three minutes with that lantern. Needless to say it was a little scary and I appreciated having this lantern with us.
When we got to the small hut, where we were to meet our guides, there were already about 80 people there. People came here from all over the island to see the marine turtles. In extreme anticipation we listened to some preliminary notes, and then we were off to the beach with our guides.
After a short 5 to 10 minute walk, we saw a turtle having eggs! She was slowly laying tons of eggs in a deep hole she dug. Unfortunately, I can’t show the photos of it because taking photos scares the turtles, so I have none. But after she finished laying eggs, she started to cover them with sand. Then, done with covering them, she patted the surface to hide the eggs. Every bit of her work was done so carefully and when she was completely finished she slowly walked back to the ocean. She’ll never be back for the eggs, but she will return hopefully again to lay more. When I was looking at her back, I couldn’t help but wish that the operations of nature that made these splendid spectacles were never destroyed.
The next morning, we had another nice breakfast at the same terrace, and reluctantly left the island. We spent only 2 nights there, but felt that we saw so much more.