Home > Pre-Japan > “Yakushima: Bum Jostlin’ the monkeys, deer and trees, Part one

“Yakushima: Bum Jostlin’ the monkeys, deer and trees, Part one

This blog post is long overdue, my most sincere apologies. Recently I have simply not had the motivation or energy to do anything with my blog, which is a shame. I spent some time catching up with my friend Matheus the other day and he mentioned my blog, which made me feel a little bad, because I know there were at least some people reading this. And since I suck at keeping in touch in other ways, this is about the only way people can read about what I’m doing over here in Japan. So here is a blog post that should have been posted about two months ago! Enjoy.

Yakushima: Bum Jostlin’ the monkeys, deer and trees.

Part One: There’s a Chocolate in my boat!


It seems that even the age of trees is under heavy partisan discussion nowadays. The oldest tree in Japan, called Joumon sugi, is estimated to be 2,000-7,000 years old. Quite a bit of wiggle room! Due to severe rotting in its core, it is impossible to determine its age accurately.

But wait! I can’t just up and start talking about trees and such without explaining why I’m talking about them. Either I’ve suddenly developed a love for arborialism (That’s another real word I just made up there,) or I went on a vacation! I went on vacation! (Sorry to those of you who guessed the former option.)

The vacation I took happened during “Silver Week.” It’s a week where we get two days off in a week, though they are not always concurrent. Last year we had a lovely chunk of days off in a row, but this year we got Monday and Thursday off. Not exactly ideal, but we made do! I took that Friday off to give myself a nice four day weekend. On the Wednesday after work I hopped on the train and traversed the island all the way down to Kagoshima prefecture, which took about four hours. There I met Kelsey, her friend Genny (visiting from America,) Nicole and Adam with whom I was to be vacationing. After spending the night in the luxurious Toyoko Inn (I’m a member you know) we hopped on a boat and headed to Yakushima, an island off the coast of Kagoshima which houses some of the world’s oldest cedar trees.

Ready to go!

All five of us after a nice man offered to take our picture

Arriving on Thursday midday we found our camp-site and marveled at the beauty of the island. Yakushima has a near tropical climate, and gets the most rain in all of Japan. Because of this, it’s unbelievably green. We decided to spend the rest of our day kayaking up one of the many rivers traversing the island. We called around a bit and found a guy who would take us up the river for about three hours. He promised us the most beautiful river on the island, and water so clean we could drink it. That’s not something us city dwellers get to experience every day so we jumped at the chance. Our guide, Miya-san, brought along his first mate as well, an adorable little dog called “Chocolate,” who rode on the front of Miya-San’s kayak in his adorable doggy life preserver.


Settin' off on our kayak adventure!

That bridge was about 60 ft. high!

Another view of the bridge

We set off and got our first shock of the trip fairly quickly. “Monkeys!!” I heard a voice calling out behind me. It took me a while to spot them as they blended in quite effectively with the scenery, but indeed there they were! A Momma and a little baby monkey hanging out by the riverbed. Ooohs and aahhhhhs ensued as we doted over our slightly hairier brethren. After about an hour of kayaking we reached the end of the river where we disembarked our kayaks and went for a swim. As Miya-san promised, the water was completely clear there, good enough to drink! We took advantage of this fact, as well as Kelsey’s new waterproof camera, and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. On the way back we each got the chance to gain a little first mate as little Chocolate hopped from boat to boat looking for tasty fish to catch.

Can you spot them?!

Borrowed those shorts from Miya-san

It's not easy taking good looking pictures underwater...I turned out like Quazimoto...

Above water is a little better...

Dog on my boat!

After our kayaking adventure we set off to find some grub. In what would become a trend this weekend, we found a nice little place that made not Japanese delicacies, but pizza. My original choice of deer meat pizza was sold out regrettably, so I settled on bacon and vegetable pizza instead. It was quite tasty! We decided over dinner to try and hike to Joumon sugi the next day, so after dinner we made our way back to the camp ground. After some wonderful campy experiences making a fire and singing songs accompanied by guitar with just the heat of the fire to warm our shivering bodies (actually it was like 70 degrees outside) we settled into our tiny tents and tried to get some sleep. This effort was hampered by the fact that is began raining torrentially right at about the time we went to bed and the fact that the tents were about three sizes too small for us. I barely slept, and waking up at 4am was sweet relief for my painful, cramped body.

Our campfire!

We packed up our tents and our gear and headed up the mountain to begin our hike. Arriving around 5:30am still pouring rain, I mentioned that perhaps today was not the best day to hike considering only one of us had any kind of rain gear to speak of. After a frank discussion we all agreed to wait until tomorrow. This left us in a precarious position, however. It was 5:30am, and we had nothing to do. Driving back down the mountain we found a 24 hour Laundromat and decided to dry our soaked clothes and sleeping bags. While we did that we trespassed at the nearby elementary school and played some soccer. School wouldn’t start for another hour and a half, so we were safe.

With our clothes and sleeping bags dried we headed off to circumnavigate the island, about a three hour trip all the way around. Around noon we made it to the western side where we began searching for a place to eat lunch (our first real meal of the day.) Apparently there was really only one restaurant in the area, and naturally it was full. We could have waited, but the vegetarians in the group fairly objected to the fact that the only lunch available was pork. Instead we headed off to look for another place. Lo and behold, there was a café on the side of the road! It was run out of the woman’s house and felt a bit like we were crashing a family barbeque, but we were starving! To our surprise, they had pizza! And cream cheese sandwiches! And hot banana sandwiches! And delicious tomato soup! And chai tea! The food was so delicious we spent three hours there ordering everything off the menu. We sat out on the porch enjoying the beautiful weather and the view as the owner’s dogs tried to sneak a taste of our food.

Enjoying the wonderful weather

This might be my favorite picture from the trip!

From the café we made our way to a nearby beach to laze around some more. Though sea turtle hatching season had come and gone, the evidence of their births were still widespread. Turtle egg shells scattered the deserted beach we relaxed on, as well as some tragic unhatched turtle eggs with poor, baby turtles still inside. That did not spoil our fun though, as we enjoyed the all too common experience of being entirely alone on a beach in Japan. (It’s a great feeling!)

There was no one there to judge us, so we had some fun...

I've got some sweet air! Also some sweet gang signs.

Well, I think you've got the picture

The rest of the day was equally as relaxing as we recovered from our early start and saved up our energy for the next day, where we would inevitably have to do this again. Driving back to town we stopped to check out a large cloud formation that turned out to be a forming typhoon. We actually saw cyclones forming on the horizon!

Here's the amazing typhoon!

Making twisties!

Kelsey's camera had a panorama function...

After a quick dinner (not pizza this time!) we settled into our new lodging, a storage shed next to a guest house. We had found this particular place while conversing with an old naked Japanese man. He was naked because we were in an onsen by the sea, not because he was creepy. He owned the place and after we explained how we camped through the rain and uncomfortable heat the night before he offered us this shed as a shelter for a nice 3,000 yen a night, for all of us. It turned out to be even cheaper than camping, and was a gazillion times more comfortable. We got yet another early start on sleep to get ready for our big day of hiking! You can read all about that tomorrow in my second installment entitled: “Yakushima: Bum Jostlin’ the monkeys, deer and trees. Part two: There’s trees growin’ on them there trees!”


Categories: Pre-Japan
  1. Stu
    November 8, 2010 at 1:38 am

    ’bout time!

    And that picture of you underwater is pure win. (Thanks for letting me borrow that phrase from you, btw)

    November 10, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Another great adventure for you and me too…thanks for sharing it…love foufou

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