Thursday 1 June Yakushima, Yakusugi Forest

We woke this morning to another foggy morning with the ship sailing out in the main part of the ocean towards Yakushima Island. We spent the morning on-board relaxing, catching up with emails and Sandy attended an Origami Class. Junko was very patient with us as we made the somewhat tricky origami cranes, some of which will be taken to the Nagasaki Peace Park tomorrow. There was lots of laughter at our clumsy efforts, but for those of us who made a second or third one (as Sandy did), we got better with practice.
We had an early lunch at 11.30 so that we were ready for our afternoon shore excursion from 12.30 to 5.30pm
At about 11.20 time the ship arrived alongside in the port of Miyanoura on the north-east coast of Yakushima Island, which became Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993. Yakushima is a subtropical island off the southern coast of Kyushu and part of Kagoshima Prefecture. It is covered by an extensive cedar forest that contains some of Japan’s oldest living trees. Trees more than 1000 years old are affectionately called Yakusugi (a combination of Yakushima and Sugi, the Japanese word for cedar), the most ancient of which may be over 7000 years old. The island’s cedar forests were logged extensively in the past, particularly during the Edo Period for the production of cedar shingles. Today the forests have recovered from past logging and are a national park. Being a sub-tropical island, there is a lot of rainfall in Yakushima – the locals say that it rains 35 days per month! Actually, there is apparently some rain almost every day and in higher areas it snows in the winter months.
We disembarked the ship at 12.30 and drove up into the highlands, which took about an hour through beautiful lush vegetation. Our local guide was Steve, who is a Botanist from England but has lived in Japan for about 7 years and was very knowledgeable. Our first stop was at the Yakasugi Museum where we learnt about the different types of trees and previous timber industry.
From there, we climbed up into the mountains and we were delighted that is was not raining today! Apparently there is 6.5 metres of rain here per year and 10 metres on the mountain tops. Along the way, Steve gave us lots of information about Yakusugi Land including the animals that inhabit the area – deer, macaque monkeys, pigmy weasels and the tiny field mouse. 99.8% of the island’s electricity is Hydro Electric – we saw the Power Station on our way up Mount Ambo. On the way up we also saw a young male deer and when we reached the top we saw a large granite monolith, The Heavenly Pillar, on top of the mountain.
We commenced our Forest Walk, the Tsutsujigawara Course, which took about 2 hours. We saw some of the ancient Yakushima Cedar trees, such as the Buddhasugi, Futagosugi and Sennensugi. There was lots of moss on the ground and growing on the trees and we also saw some cherry azalea trees and lots of different types of ferns. We were impressed with the series of well-developed trails through the rainforest. Most of these were on a boardwalk or slate set into the ground, as well as many wooden steps and we also crossed over 3 suspension bridges.
Traditionally the Island Mountains have been considered to have a spiritual value and the Yakusigi were regarded as sacred trees.
On our way back down the mountain, the driver stopped when he saw a group of 4 young male macaque monkeys beside the road preening each other. He waited while we all took photos out of the bus windows.
After a wonderful afternoon in the Yakusugi forest, we arrived back at the ship at 5.30pm. At 6.00pm we set sail for Nagasaki. We enjoyed pre-dinner drinks in the lounge with our usual group and had a lovely dinner in the dining room.
We are back on the open sea but tonight we have white caps and just a slight “rock and roll”.

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