Yakushima . . .
It is a fantasyland . . . where soft, potable waters babble down mountain streams to nourish mossy forests and thousand-year-old trees as well as thirsty hikers, where there are no large predators, and the deer and monkeys cast humans inquisitive looks.
Yet it is a wild island . . . with the over 80 named mountains including highest eight peaks in Kyushu squished into a circle barely 40 kilometers across, and rains that can turn streams to rivers and rivers to torrents in a heartbeat, sometimes reaching more than 500mm in a day. In the summers, farmers race to harvest rice before the typhoons strike, and in winters the mountains are covered in snow.
And yet it has a real, down-to-earth humanity, neither pure wilderness nor fantasy. Though tourism is essential to the island's current economy, Yakushima doesn't have the tourist-friendly feel of many day-trip destinations. Instead, tourists enjoy genuine freindliness cultivated through years of working close to the elements and enduring both economic and natural tribulations. Hikers will get wet and muddy and must take personal responsibility when out to explore the trails and rivers. Boats and planes may be canceled because of high winds, nature activities may be canceled because of rains, and foreigners may find a dirth of information. But that's all part of the experience that one must take in stride as the islanders do.
Discover Japan again!
Although Yakushima is famous for World Heritage status, it is also
a special destination for folks who live in Japan, or who are
visiting Japan for a second time. It is an opportunity of
exploration and rediscovery. Take for example the cryptomeria that
are so intrinsic to Japan and Japanese culture. They are planted in
forests throughout the nation, but you must see the cryptomeria
known as Yakusugi to know their true essence. It is a place where
clean hydroelectric power provides several fold the needed
electricity, yet the growing amount of garbage is creating a
growing burden. It is said that the problems and progress of the
nation unfold in miniature here. And yet how much further can you
retreat from the chaotic lights of Tokyo and Osaka? How much closer
can you be to returning to nature?