We woke up at 6:15 to get packed and check out. I brought a backpack, but Anna went without hers since we knew this trail wasn’t nearly as hard as jomon-sugi. I had raincoats, first aid, candy, a cup, towels, money, dude plush, umbrella and tissues.
Went to the dining area for breakfast which was a very traditional Japanese breakfast with lots of little things. There was miso, fish, sausages, beans, umeboshi, tamagoyaki and natto. It was all delicious, and despite my best efforts I couldn’t finish the natto. The squishy slippery texture is just too much for me T_T
After that the hotel manager had to drive us to the main hotel office because I needed to pay with credit card since I was unable to exchange money at the Yakushima bank. We left our stuff at that hotel to pick later. There’s a bus to the Shiratani Unsuikyo trail which cost 500 yen from the stop by the hotel. It was a very long and winding road, but longer roads so I didn’t feel motion-sick like I probably would’ve had I not slept during the bus up to the Joumon-sugi trail. There were some really great views of the foliage of the island. I was sitting in the wrong side so I decided to take photos on the way back.
When we got to the trail it was 300 yen per person and we were off! In retrospect I wish I packed lighter, a lot lighter. The trail really was significantly shorter and easier and we had great weather again so it felt silly having this heavy pack on my back. It was still heavy enough that I had to concentrate on where my weight shifted when climbing up and down rocks or steps.
The beginning was a lot of stone stairs and some suspension bridges, but I was actually kind of surprised that most of the trail was more rocky uneven ground than steps. Still, the slope wasn’t that steep so it wasn’t very hard at all especially after doing Joumon-sugi. Next time we go I’ll definitely pack lighter, because it would’ve been much more leisurely and I could’ve gone a lot faster.
Even though the cedar trees on this trail didn’t get as big, there were still some colossal very impressive trees. The otherworldly quality of the plant life just makes everything beautiful to look at. There was one massive tree called nana-sugi because seven trees had merged to form it! It made me think of the scene in Totoro where they magically grow the seeds and they’re all growing together to form the massive tree. I tried imagining a time lapse of the trees growing together.
Just like on the Joumon-sugi trail, there were mossy rocks, crazy roots, hollow stumps and trees everywhere you looked. We saw a moss covered stump that looked like the boar from Mononoke. When I saw it I couldn’t help but imitate the voice of the boar as it died after being hit by Ashitaka’s arrow.
After about an hour and a half we reached our destination which was Taiko Iwa rock! This rock is the inspiration for the rock Ashitaka stands on when he’s talking Moro at night. We both took pictures of each other standing in the same position. You can even see the river in the distance like in the movie!
Tako Iwa was really amazing, because when you get to it you’ve been climbing for a while in the woods and all of a sudden there’s this amazing wide open expansive view. The contrast between the claustrophobic trees right before and this amazing vista made it that much more striking a moment. It felt very much like a crane shot in a movie where the camera flies over the ground, and then tilts/cranes up to reveal a huge expanse.
There was a girl there who managed to make a small echo by shouting “YA-HOOOOO!” We stayed there for about half an hour taking photos and just enjoying the view. Since we started early in the morning there weren’t many people which was great. Before the trip I was afraid there’s be a massive drop off that would keep me from being able to approach even ten feet from the edge, but it wasn’t as imposing as I thought. There was certainly a steep drop but it looked survivable. Still, I was very cautious, especially when I went to the lower rock below Taiko Iwa. I can’t help but imagine the worst case scenario when I’m in precarious places like that.
We then headed down to find Moro’s house which is a massive rock at Tsuki Touge. It was just a little bit off from a fork in the road which most people probably don’t take because they’re looking for Tako Iwa. Sure enough it was a MASSIVE rock that actually rests upon a smaller one. I was nervous to approach the underside even though it looked it hasn’t moved in hundreds or thousands of years. There were also tons of trees growing atop it. I tried imagining how it must’ve got there. It must’ve been an enormous sound of the rock rolling down and falling into its current resting spot.
We headed back at a pretty brisk pace. Anna was flying over the rocks, but I was very conscious of my gravity with every step that I took. In retrospect I should’ve been more careful, because I ended up hurting my left knee pretty bad. I think it’s because I was stepping down too suddenly, so by the time we got to the end I was limping T_T
We had an hour to kill before the bus would show up so we signed the logbook in the smoking area (I drew dude holding hands with a kodama) then joined some other climbers sitting on a large rock in the stream next to the stop. We saw they had taken off their shoes so we did the same and tested the water. The water was FREEZING cold! That’s when we remembered that even though it was a gorgeous day it was still November. We sat there until the bus arrived. I took as many photos as I could on the bus ride down. This would be the last chance I had to get a shot of some of the amazing trees and landscapes.
When we got back to the hotel we found a small bag of things we had forgotten that the manager brought over to the main hotel, awesome! I realize now he looked kind of like the voice box villain from Ong Bak. He was super nice though 😛
We returned our rental head light we didn’t use and bought some Yakushima water to see if it was as good as the water in the mountain, but it tasted like normal spring water. So if we want to drink that water again we’ll have to do the ten hour hike again 😦 I wish I had filled Anna’s bottle with water too, that water was sooooooo good.
It was a long ferry ride back to Kagoshima. The ferry ride took three hours because it had several stops before finally reaching Kagoshima. On our boat there was a big group of chinese tourists. I wonder if their trip was at all awkward because of the recent incident of a chinese ship ramming a Japanese one which had been all over the news. You probably didn’t hear about it at all if you live in the U.S. but it was just about the only thing that was playing on the news while we were in Japan.
We got to Kagoshima around 6:30, took the trolley to the station and got our JR tickets back home and for the next day. After about and hour we were home! We had dinner at Anna’s parent’s, did some unpacking and planning for the next day. I checked my email and tweeted the photos that I had built up in Yakushima.
We spent the rest of the night showing Anna’s parents photos of Yakushima. It was a lot of fun because after enjoying the amazing forest there I couldn’t wait to see people’s reactions to the trees. Also I had a feeling Anna’s dad wanted to geek out a bit about our hiking trip. When we finished, we went to sleep again, totally exhausted. I can’t believe how tightly we packed our vacation. The next morning we were taking the Shinkansen to Kyoto!