Thursday, April 23, 2015

A trip to Yakushima Island (Southern Japan)

Yakushima Island is located South of Kagashima in the South of the mainland of Japan. It is about 504 square KM with a population of around 13000 residing almost entirely around the coast. The island is mountainous and rises to 1936 metres at its highest point. A large part of the island is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its outstanding natural beauty, enormous trees and varied flora and fauna. As my wife loves the bush and I love the sea Yakushima was the perfect destination for our family adventure holiday.

It's about 140 KM all the way round and would be a fantastic paddle
We timed our arrival with that of a low pressure system and rainy weather but that was not going to dampen our spirits. As soon as we disembarked from our ship we were on a bus and heading to the start of the track that would take us over the highest bit of the island and over to the other side over three days.
About to dock at Yakushima - a notoriously rainy island
The lower areas were covered in moss and was some of the most lush forest I'd ever seen

Once we got above the tree line temperatures were around 0 and it was very wet
We made it across the top and after staying in the second of three bushwalking huts descended down the other side to where an old logging rail line has been converted to a walking track.
With three days of walking behind us it was time for Dad to go kayaking whilst the rest of the family went sight seeing
My wife, being Japanese, had found a keen kayaker on Yakushima that ran a small kayak guiding business. He used a local boat that he helped design himself called the Nanok. There was a 4.8 metre version a 5.3 metre and a double. As we were planning to paddle about 20 KM and there was a bit of wind forecast I decided on the 5.3. The boat I hired was in good condition, handled well and was a fast and maneuverable boat. I really enjoyed paddling it.

Besides hiring kayaks and guiding, Taeji also offers accommodation at his sea side location in this beautiful kit home he built himself.

Accommodation offered as well
As the weather was still less than ideal we simply decided to get in the van and go over to the lee side of the island - always an option when you live on a small island!

 
About to launch
calm seas and a spectacular backdrop
We headed north and soon spotted the first of five rather large sea turtles. We also saw a shark, which was following Taeji, lots of barracuda, cormorants and some flying fish. The water was warm, and the wind was almost non existent.



enjoying lunch
I was shown an excellent sea cave that could be paddled all the way through.
some coves led to small harbours and rivers
When we got home a local fisherman dropped a few flying fish over to Taeji. Here is his wife showing one off. I've often seen flying fish off our Australian coast but never got up close or seen them in a shop. In Yakushima they're a delicacy.
Yakushima is a kayaking and bushwalking paradise. It would be a bit hard organising things and getting around without being able to speak Japanese but there were a few foreigners about who seemed to be managing all right. The main tracks are well marked and the bushwalking huts are basic but well maintained and weatherproof. There's lots of deer and monkeys, one of which attacked us, as well as some rich birdlife. Yakushima also has quite a few frogs and salamander species but I couldn't find any of those on this trip although I did find a salamander a few years back in Hokkaido. Like all good holidays, I wish it could have lasted longer.


3 comments:

Jonathan - Seattle said...

This trip looks amazing. My wife and I are headed to Japan in a few weeks and we want to get outdoors as much as we can. We hike, kayak etc at home and have struggled to figure out where to do these things in Japan. I would love to talk to you about your trip and get some advice or the name of the companies you used.

Melo Smith said...

Next month, I'm leaving the Philippines to have my vacation at Japan. Upon seeing your post, I also want to try kayak in your country just to see if there is any difference in terms of satisfaction compared to the kayak in the Philippines. Thanks for this post.

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