November 17th, 2009

drinking bird


Yakushima is a beautiful little island just south of Kagoshima at the south east end of Kyushu. It is round, with a 2000m mountain in the middle. The ascent is rather steep, and also makes for a very interesting shift in climate from the subtropical coast, with lots of flowering pink hibiscus, through a temperate level, to the cold upper reaches where there are thick cedar forests.

Warm beach (photo courtesy of my friend Michael)

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Another sunny beach

However, this sun makes the water evaporate, and gather into clouds, which then pour rain onto the forests. I am reciting what was in an interesting documentary we saw on the island and its life cycle.

Ominous clouds gather

All this rain produces waterfalls which you seem to encounter at every turn of the road.

Senpiro no taki

Ohko no taki

There are low growing beautiful pale pink rhododendrons unique to the island, unfortunately spring blooming, so we only saw pictures of their flowers (they are marketed in the US as "Yaku Princess"), and of course the cedars, some of them 3000 years old. There is a wonderful atmosphere in that cool rain forest. I understand it was used as the enchanted forest in the Princess Momonoko story.

Jomon sugi cedar in the mist

Yakushima rhododendron

The forest hosts a number of small deer and a fair number of macaque monkeys. These last are quite indifferent to staring tourists.

Macaque monkey, a little blurry, as seen from a moving minibus

We only had a couple of days on Yakushima, and I wish I could have stayed longer. Failing that, I hope I can return someday.