Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the island of Yakushima is famous for its ancient forest composed of Japanese cedar known as 屋久杉 (yakusugi).

All aboard the ferry at some ungodly hour in the morning.

After picking up the rental car, we started our time on the island here at the Yakusugi Museum, which explains the history of how the island came to be on the World Heritage list.

I’m pretty sure this thing came straight out of a horror movie.

We could barely lift it.

Most notable among the cedar on the island is 縄文杉 (Jōmon Sugi): the oldest and largest of the old-growth cryptomeria trees on the island. Estimated to be up to 7,000 years old, the tree’s name is a reference to the Jōmon period of Japanese prehistory. Since we had a limited time on the island, we didn’t actually make the 12-hour (!) hike to see him, but here’s Colin standing next to a 1:1 scale photograph.

Thank god they warned me.

Always sound advice.

An illustrated guide advising hikers what not to wear before they set foot in the forest. I’m pretty sure I checked almost every box on the right. (Almost every Japanese person we encountered on the trail was, by contrast, dressed exactly like the guy on the left.)

After a slightly death-defying drive up the mountain (with a road barely wide enough for one car, let alone the three buses that tried to pass us), we emerged in Silent Hill.

Yakusugi Land (屋久杉ランド): a nature park populated by a number of ancient yakusugi.

Like this guy.

千年杉 – literally, the 1000-Year Cedar.

Yakushima was also the inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki’s 1997 epic Princess Mononoke, and – after setting foot in the forest – it wasn’t hard to see why.

Rope Bridge.

On the subject of appropriate hiking gear: BMO!

I think this pretty much sums up Kim’s life when Colin and I are together.

The only large animals indigenous to the island of Yakushima are the red-bottomed Yakushima macaques and a variety of sika deer called Yakushika. During our two days in the forests, we were lucky enough to see both!

These guys were just hanging out by the side of the road as we made our descent.


Not pictured: the slight moment of terror I had when a car tried to pass us on the incredibly narrow mountain roads which spooked the monkeys and forced them within about 2 feet of me, at which point they turned a little aggressive. Thankfully I made it back to the car alive, though I did have the story running through my mind the entire time of that woman who had her face ripped off by a chimp.

Our lodgings for the evening. None too shabby.

大川の滝 (Ōkonotaki)

Listed as one of 日本の滝百選 (Japan’s Top 100 Waterfalls), the scale of these falls isn’t immediately apparent until you notice the tiny figure on the rocks below.

That night (having literally nothing else to do because every shop, restaurant and supermarket on the island closes at 8): an onsen under the stars. (That is, in fact, the moon and not the sun.) I’d initially been barred from the nearby Hirauchi onsen (my first and only encounter with anti-tattoo discrimination in Japan where they still carry strong yakuza connotations), but then we discovered this place right next door.

湯泊温泉 (Yudomari Onsen) is a natural hot spring on the beach shore, from which you can reach your hand outside the rocky basin and touch the East China Sea.

Because we went around midnight, we also had the entire place to ourselves.

Colin’s phone providing the only light source around. Otherwise, it was pretty much pitch-black.

The only thing more embarrassing than wearing crocs in public? Wearing only crocs in public. (I take no responsibility for their ownership – they were provided by the cabin.)

  1. Markus McD says:

    Wow, phenomenal pictures! Sounds (and looks) like a crazy adventure! I’m glad BMO was able to experience such sights! 😛
    Ps. That last pic – sekushi shoes!

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