Magical Yakushima

The boat pulls into a blistering hot Yakushima, the entire island is basically a dormant volcano which gets about 400 days of rain a year, making it intensely green.Creepy root Our plan is to rent a car and to zip around the island in the about 5 hours we have. That plan is quickly foiled though when it turns out that we’ve chosen a Sunday of all days to go here. And since this is a very popular tourist location for the Japanese as well this means that every car on the island is already rented out…

Oh well, the ladies in the information says that we can take a bus instead that will take us halfway up the volcano to a bunch of trails, totalling about 5 km. This actually sounds just like what we’re looking for (it also helps that we don’t have any alternatives…) so we hop on and start the ascent. The trails start right next to a beautiful stream and the rest of the scenery is no less so. Everything is just very green and the footpaths are kept in impeccable condition. All the Japanese we meet are dressed in very expensive-looking hiking gear, with poles and all. They take their hiking seriously in this country!

Saying “Konichiwa” every time we meet people nets us a lot of smiles and I’m having the best hiking I’ve ever come across. Before long we find our first couple of deer, calmly munching at the scenery. Turning around to call Hasse over, I see him taking pictures of the monkey behind us. Nature is really in your face here! Golden TreeThe place is filled with really old trees, and the very oldest ones have nice and clear signs in both Japanese and English, telling the story behind them and their naming. Incidentally Yakushima is also where Hayao Myiazaki of fame drew his inspiration for one of my favorite movies and as you walk around here you can really see it!

Somewhere along the hike we lose track of Anders, this isn’t that uncommon as you’d think though and since the entire trail is a loop, we’re not too worried. The trail is rather hilly, snaking up and down the mountain and we’re starting to realize that even though it’s only 5 km, it will probably fill up our time quite nicely. Nearing the end of the trail there is an additional loop you can walk, but Hasse and Anders beg off, so I end up doing that part alone. Since most of that part consists of very nice walkways, I get it into my head that I should run full tilt while filming. So I do just that, and it’s implausibly fun! After about 4-500 meters without meeting anyone I almost run over a very confused deer. He gives me a rather bewildered stare for a second or so before flashing his big white ass and bounding off into the vegetation.

Taking a breakThe rest of the circuit isn’t all that interesting though and before I know it I’m back at where the bus dropped us off. No sign of Anders and Hasse though, so I take the opportunity to wade out into the stream to cool down. Turns out that even though I took a detour of 1.5 km, I still arrived ahead of the guys! Since there isn’t enough time for any other excursions we catch the ferry back to Kagoshima and go out for some kaiten sushi (carousel sushi), which is a type of restaurant where all the tables are next to this conveyer belt where the sushi goes round and round at a leisurely pace and when you see something you fancy, you just pick it off the belt and eat it. The plate the sushi comes on is color coded to signify the price and also has an RFID chip inside it, so when it’s time to pay the waiter just scans your stack. Super convenient! There is also an iPad at the table, from which you can make custom orders if you can’t see your favorite sushi on the belt. There is no extra charge for this, and the delivery system is really neat; what happens is that when your sushi is done, a little train, running on a track next to the belt, pulls up to your table loaded with your order! (btw, as we leave, Anders has racked up a stack of no less than 12 plates (where most plates has two pieces of sushi on them))

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