Home > Pre-Japan > “Yakushima: Bum Jostlin’ the monkeys, deer and trees. Part two: There’s trees growin’ on them there trees!”

“Yakushima: Bum Jostlin’ the monkeys, deer and trees. Part two: There’s trees growin’ on them there trees!”

November 11, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Well, here’s the second and final part of my Yakushima trip!

Waking up at 4am is never fun. Doing it two nights in a row is twice as not fun. But there we were, five grumpy foreigners driving up a mountain to begin a 12 hour roundtrip hike to arguably the world’s oldest tree. Luckily, even though we found a hiking equipment store and rented rain gear, it was not raining at all. Not one drop. We arrived at the start around 5:30am and set off. It was still dark, which added to the strangeness of this hike. I’ve never started hiking before it was dark before. It’s difficult to blog about a 12 hour hike. I mean, the scenery was gorgeous, but really words don’t do it justice. So instead I’ll describe the area we were in, and then leave it up to the pictures to do most of the talking.

The green trail towards the bottom was half of our hike...

The forest we were hiking in was green (duuuuh.) It was wet, with lots of moss, but not overbearing like some forests. Even though we could not see the end, we never felt really cramped inside. The trees were spaced apart nicely and there was a nice mix of different types to keep things interesting. We met the occasional monkey and deer while walking, though for the most part it was quiet but for our own sounds.

Beautiful view from atop a large rock we climbed

It’s still probably only 7:30 or 8am, so there’s still a lot of dew, mist and the sort in the forest

Just some random Japanese hikers we met along the way 🙂

Here’s Genny coming out of a tree…

I have only fond memories of this hike! So beautiful

I’m going to stop adding captions on every picture soon, there’s just too many!

You’ve gotta pay the troll toll…

Interesting tree!

This particular forest was the inspiration of the forest in Princess Mononoke, for those of you familiar with the film. I myself have not seen it, but after hiking in it I pledged to see it as soon as I could. Scattered throughout the forest were some trees of interest, towering over their brothers and sisters. There was a cedar called the Big King cedar, deserving of its name. There was a husband and wife cedar as well. I’m unsure where the name came from, but it was quite beautiful. There was Wilson’s Stump as well. This massive tree stump was hollowed out, and had a tiny little shrine inside which you could visit. It was so typically Japanese I almost cried.

In line to enter Wilson's Stump!

And then finally there was Jyoumon Sugi, the big papa tree. After years of a diet of milk and potatoes, this is one large tree. Not the biggest in the world for sure, but certainly something a sumo wrestler could be proud of. In the past you were able to walk right up to it and touch the tree, but as usual a bunch of stupids ruined the fun for everyone by taking a bunch of its bark. Now they have built a large platform about 50 meters from the tree from where you can take pictures. There are two designated picture spots, and people line up for their chance to take a picture with Jyoumon-chan. Jyoumon, by the way, is a reference to the Jyoumon era, one of the earliest eras in Japanese history. A lot of Japan’s most famous historic pottery, aptly named Jyoumon pottery, comes from that era.

There he is!

I don’t feel this dwarfed all that often…

The forest near Jyoumon sugi

I’m not sure if we got any good pictures of this, but one of the most interesting parts of the forest we hiked through were its trees, but more than that the growth of the trees. The forest was logged for a long time in the past, and as a result there are three generations of trees in the forest. Obviously the first generation trees are the ones that never got cut down. The second generation trees, however, are trees which grew on top of the tree stumps of felled first generation trees. On top of that, there are third generation trees which, you guessed it, are growing on the second generation trees! It’s a tree on a tree on a tree situation!

It's a little visible here

The hike itself is comparable in difficulty to hiking Mt. Fuji. There are ups and downs, at times quite steep and long, and it’s not for the faint of heart. I wouldn’t call it difficult either, though. I found this hike to be a bit more pleasant than Fuji because there was no need to climb at night to watch the sunrise, nor was there any need for oxygen, as you never climb high enough to notice the loss. There were quite a lot of people on the trail, just like on Mt. Fuji, but because the course is more spread out (Fuji is up pretty much all the way so the actual length of the course is shorter, thus enhancing the crowded factor) you don’t notice the congestion as much. There were tour groups, but they consisted of five or six people, not the 20-30 people like on Mt. Fuji. The most challenging part of hiking the Jyoumon sugi course is that it takes 12 hours. It’s just difficult to continue to motivate yourself if you’ve been walking for eight hours and have another four to go! After a while, much like on the bike trip earlier this year, I found myself getting bored. “The trees look the same, the path is similar. Let’s just get this over with!” I find myself thinking. But of course there’s no other way than to continue on, so the motivation comes from somewhere. We arrived at Jyoumon sugi around 11:30, took a long lunch break and made it back to the start just before 5pm.

Had we rushed a bit we could have probably made the trip in 9.5 or 10 hours, but who wants to do that? We were there to enjoy ourselves. Hiking is also a wonderful time to get to know each other, so we spent almost as much time exploring ourselves (but not in a creepy way, in a talky kind of way) as we spent exploring the surroundings.
Arriving back in town at 5:30 we grabbed some dinner at “Mam’s Kitchen,” where my mouth experienced the wonders of one of the best burgers I’ve tasted in Japan. Apparently the healthy burger was pretty darn tasty as well. Early to bed, early to rise. That was definitely a theme during our trip here. On Sunday we woke up and packed everything up. One more stop by “Mam’s Kitchen” on the way and back we were at the harbor dropping off our rented car and hopping on the ferry back to real life. It was a weekend filled with many things. Catch phrases, nauseous companions, fears for our lives, death (a helicopter crashed early Sunday morning on the island killing the pilot and two passengers.) And like Aine and Georgia liked to say, arriving back home we had the distinct feeling of needing “a vacation after that vacation.” But aren’t those the kinds of vacations you dream of?! Where you do so many amazing things that you remove yourself entirely from your work and just focus on the moment. You arrive back home physically and mentally exhausted, your whole body hurting, but so entirely refreshed you’re ready to take on the upcoming weeks of work. Maybe that’s just me. I hope you enjoy these pictures, none of which I took, but which came out amazing none the less!!

-Dash

P.S. There are SO many more pictures, if you want to see them, please go here, and here. Many thanks to Kelsey and Nichole who actually took these pictures!

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Categories: Pre-Japan
  1. Peri Bearman
    November 11, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    great story. And pretty soon you’ll be in “Mama’s Kitchen,” even better!

  2. Harrie
    November 11, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    Well… Dad’s kitchen, actually!

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