The View From Taiko-iwa in Yakushima

I could have sat there for hours.
This boulder with the fantastic view is called Taiko-iwa (太鼓岩), which means ‘large drum boulder’ in Japanese, and was part of our hike through Shiratani Unsuikyo (白谷雲水峡). But because S and I ended up taking so many photos here, I decided it deserved a post of its own.
Yakushima is an island largely composed of granite. It rose from the sea millions of years ago when the granite magma penetrated the Eurasian tectonic plate. I learned (i.e. eavesdropped on a tour guide walking behind us) that Yakushima is still rising about 1 millimeter per year. Isn’t that amazing?
Because of this, Yakushima’s mountains have granite boulders everywhere, although it may be hard to really tell because the forest covers ninety percent of the island. During our hike, we saw boulders of all sizes and shapes throughout Shiratani Unsuikyo, most of which were covered in moss. But Taiko-iwa is one of the more famous boulders for its view of the mountain range in Yakushima’s central region, also known as Oku-dake range (奥岳).
Taiko-iwa itself is 1,050 meters (approx. 3,400 feet) above sea level. From there you can see Miyanoura-dake (宮之浦岳), which is not only the tallest peak on this island at 1,936 meters (over 6,000 feet), but also the tallest mountain in the entire Kyushu region. The following six tallest mountains on Yakushima are also all higher than the tallest mountain on Kyushu mainland.
Am I the only one surprised that Yakushima has so many tall mountains, seeing as it’s not an island of volcanic origin? So interesting!
Oh and I almost forgot to mention this again…Miwa reminded me that much of Yakushima’s landscape was used in various scenes from the Studio Ghibli movie Mononoke-hime (もののけ姫), also known as Princess Mononoke. You can see the location of the famous “Damare kozo! (黙れ小僧!)” scene with Moro (the big white wolf) and Ashitaka (the boy) is based on Taiko-iwa.
Well, this post certainly ended up being a lot longer than I originally planned.
I wouldn’t change a thing about our hike that day but one thing I have to remember for next time I’m in Yakushima is to get a wide angle lens for my camera. I currently only have a pancake lens and the photos below don’t even compare to how vast and breathtaking our view from Taiko-iwa was. You know how a pancake lens zooms in on the whole picture.
But then again, these photos may be just enough for you to want to go see for yourself! x
Take a look:
Our amazing view of Oku-dake from Taiko-iwa.
The slit you see through the forest is Anbo River (安房川).
S and I taking in the grand view on the side of Taiko-iwa.
It’s really not a hard hike at all so everyone should stop by Taiko-iwa for the view!
We didn’t bring anything but Taiko-iwa is also a great spot to rest and eat your obento.
The obligatory shoe photo…I don’t know why but someone suggested we do this 😀
The fall was quite steep from Taiko-iwa, if you were wondering. Yikes.
Your phone signal is within range at Taiko-iwa, just in case of an emergency.
S and I taking a little break before heading back down the path.
I was too scared but S obviously had no qualms standing on the edge.
So happy to have taken in the fabulous view at Taiko-iwa!

The Cafe Jurin in Yakushima

On our first day in Yakushima, we stopped by this quaint cafe for lunch.
Cafe Jurin is located close to Yakushima Airport and we both fell for the outdoor seating behind the old building. The interior was mostly made of sugi wood and 
826-31 Koseda Yakushima-cho Kumage-gun, Kagoshima JAPAN
TEL: 0997-43-5454
HOURS: 10;00am-5:00pm
CLOSED: Mondays

The Shiratani Unsuikyo Hike in Yakushima

Our trek through Shiratani Unsuikyo (白谷雲水峡) in Yakushima was magical.

There is really no way I can explain to you how amazing this forest is. This was the highlight of our trip and as the sun was out and the birds were singing, S and I couldn’t have asked for a better day to hike there. After our breakfast by the river, we drove up to the entrance of Shiratani Unsuikyo. The drive up the mountain was long and winding (about 30 min.) but it gave us a fantastic view of the mountain range.

Once there, we got our gear together. Very amateur gear, I can tell you. This was only the second time I’d worn my hiking shoes (they made their debut on Mt. Fuji). But we were beyond excited and soon we set off into the forest!

Shiratani Unsuikyo, designated as a forest for recreational use in 1972, is a stunning mixture of lush plants, unique rocks, and woodland creatures. The forest is approximately 424 hectares (over 1,000 acres) of hikers paradise, located along the Shiratani Ravine at 600 to 1,000 meters (approx. 2,000-3,000 feet) above sea level. We saw so many types of subtropical evergreen plants, including Yakusugi (屋久杉), the ancient Japanese cedars that are over 1,000 years old. We skipped from rock to rock, crossing over the ravine several times. We also bumped into deer and monkeys that live in the forest. They were gracious hosts in letting us walk through their territory without a worry in the world (I’m looking at you, monkeys in Nikko).

Did I also mention that this forest is covered in moss? Lots and lots of moss! Of the approximately 1,600 species of moss of found in Japan, a whopping 600 of them can be found right here. Isn’t that amazing?

We ended up hiking through all the trails around Shiratani Unsuikyo for about five hours. I loved how some parts of the trail had stone or wood paths laid out, whereas other parts you just had to maneuver through the forest on your own, following the pink ribbon that you see tied to branches here and there (we may or may not have taken a wrong turn a couple times). Although there were many people hiking the same area, we were surprisingly alone for most of it. It’s really the most fabulous feeling being surrounded by so much nature.

S and I started off the hike stopping every other second to gasp over a certain view or to take a picture, or sometimes doing both simultaneously. But we soon discovered that we were not skilled enough camera-people to capture the entire beauty of this lush green forest and decided that we would just take it all in with our senses.

Sight…lean back to admire the old towering Yakusugi tree.
Smell…breathe in the pristine air, oh so fresh.
Sound…echo of water trickling down the ravine.
Taste…the excitement around every corner of the trail.
Touch…brush our hands over the soft damp moss.

Okay, I cheated a little on the ‘taste’…it’s not really a flavor, but it was no less true! Despite enjoying parts of the forest without our cameras, I still ended up with over 60 photos when I first narrowed them down. Every part of this forest was a postcard waiting to happen and it was almost humanly impossible to stop taking pictures. You’ll know exactly what I’m talking about once you step foot in Shiratani Unsuikyo yourself.

But until you do, here are some photos:

Full of smiles after our amazing hike in Shiratani Unsuikyo 😀

The Breakfast by Miyanoura River in Yakushima

I think this quote may be true because I am always quite happy when away on vacations or short breaks, which is usually the only time I eat breakfast (unless pancakes at 2pm can still be considered breakfast). This was especially true on our second day in Yakushima.
Lodge Yaedake Sanso, where we stayed, was located right by Miyanoura River. Our lodge was actually the closest one to the river and our terrace had a great view of both the river and the mountain range. But despite the lovely table and chairs out on our terrace, we ambitiously decided to eat our breakfast down by the river.
We woke up bright and early and headed down to the river with our breakfast, which consisted of instant soup and several types of bread we bought at Hiro Bakery the day before. I especially loved the purple yam and sweet potato bread. So good and filling!
S and I discussed our plan for the day and raved over how good it felt to be outside while eating breakfast. We were at times talking in whispers because everything around us was so calm and quite. It almost felt rude to disturb the stillness.
That didn’t last once we discovered the hammock though! I’m a tiny bit obsessed with hammocks (I would hang one in my apartment if I could) and had to ooh and ahh over it. Then we both had to try it out. And then of course we had to take a picture of us both on it…that was a little tricky as I almost flipped us over! But darn it, if I had known about the hammock the night before, I probably would have slept in it all night!
As much as I would have liked to stay on the hammock, time was ticking. So with a last wistful look at the hammock, we checked-out of our lovely lodge and headed off to our hiking adventure in Shiratani Unsuikyo!
Here are some photos of breakfast:
1877-21 Anbo Yakushima-cho
Kumage-gun, Kagoshima JAPAN
TEL: 0997-46-2888
Hours: 7am-7pm

The Nagata Inakahama Beach in Yakushima

How gorgeous is this beach?
During our first day on Yakushima, we ended the day on this beach to watch the sun set. The whole day was slightly cloudy and by the time evening came around the sun was nowhere to be seen. But we decided that we wanted to explore the beach anyways.
Well, miracle of miracles. When we got to the beach in Nagata Inaka-hama, the rosy blush spread across the sky and we could actually see the bright red sun setting into the sea. It was breathtaking.
Our breath may also have been taken away because of all the jumping we did. Seriously, jumping in the sand takes a lot of energy. So does setting the timer on your camera and running back a dozen times. But it was all worth it when we crumbled down in the sand the very last time. So much crazy fun.
S and I went to high school together for two years but we knew each other since junior high, when I first moved back to Japan. We went to the same church and seeing as we were the same age, we hit it off as friends. When I found out that I was going to be transferring to her high school, I was ecstatic! We’ve been the best of friends ever since, even when we went to college in different prefectures and when she moved down to Kagoshima after college.
Running around the beach and not being able to stop laughing for no reason reminded me of our high school days together. We would run around the campus, singing Sister Act songs at the top of our lungs (we did a mean Ricky Martin duet as well). And in between all that, we would casually mentioned our worries and lean on each other for support.
As an adult, I sometime feel like I should have everything figured out by now. I mean, isn’t that what being an adult is all about?
But I’ve found that that’s just not true. I’m still trying to find the answers. And while I’m wandering through this tricky maze called adulthood, it’s always a great feeling to know that someone like S has got my back. She’s always there to bounce ideas off of and to give me a boost when I need it the most. And of course, it goes both ways. Pretty sure we’ll have many more fun crazy laughing adventures together, where ever we are in life.
Hmmmmmm. What is it about beautiful sunsets that make you nostalgic and a little emotional? (Is this just me?) I did not plan to write such a long post but…sometimes you have to go with the flow of your words, right?
Nagata Inaka-hama Beach is actually very famous as a beach where sea turtles come to lay their eggs. It was registered as a Ramsar site in 2005, which is a convention that protects wetlands, and if you go there at night during the egg-laying season, May to July, you may be able to see a sea turtle laying its eggs in the sand. And if you come here sometime between July and September, you can probably spot the little turtlets (cutest name ever!) making their way out to sea.
Now that, I need want to see! x
Here are some photos:

Nagata Inaka-hama Beach
489-8 Nagata, Yakushima-cho
Kumage-gun, Kagoshima JAPAN

The Canopy Walk and Soft Serve in Yakushima

We didn’t have a schedule for our first day on Yakushima. We thought we should wing it because both of us are not that great at rushing through a tight schedule. So we decided to be free with our time and to move to the rhythm of our mood. Which we did, and somehow ended up taking a walk through the woods.
But not just any regular walk. It was a canopy walk!
We couldn’t quite figure out if this was suppose to be a leisurely walk or a thriller. The view was fantastic and seeing the treetops up-close was an amazing new experience. But on the other hand, the path through the trees was pretty much a DIY project and it took a deep breath and a short prayer that everything wouldn’t fall apart to be able to cross some of the shaky bridges!
We had a belt around our waist that connected to a rope along the path, just in case we missed a step. Some parts of the path were actually 12 meters off the ground! Thank goodness, I didn’t have to test if the rope was strong enough to hold me. When we asked the owner, who let us roam the path on our own, what we should do if something happened, he simply smiled and said “Shout!” Alrighty then.
What do you think of this canopy walk through the woods?

The canopy path winding through the tall trees.
I think this was the only time I REALLY looked down to the grown under me…vertigo.
S was not afraid of heights…so she took the lead 😀
We were surrounded by the sound of birds chirping and the wind blowing through the leaves.
The ground was far away…but at least it looked soft (just in case!).
There was a spot you could sit…but I was holding on for dear life because the tree was weaving!
That’s pretty high up, right?
Again, taking photos of ferns.
This ladder looks a lot more beautiful now that I’m no longer on it!
Our final view before the path descended was this…Yakushima is just so lush!

After our canopy walk, we stopped by Yakushima Hachimanju Tea Farm.

The store sells organic Yakushima green tea, as well as this delicious matcha soft serve!

We took a walk down to a bridge that crossed over a river below.

We could hear the river…but couldn’t actually see it because the trees were so lush. 

Still sighing over how clean and delicious the air in Yakushima is…we headed down the road.

Canopy Walk
677-44 Hara Yakushima-cho
Kumage-gun, Kagoshima JAPAN
TEL: 0997 49 3232
Canopy walk: 1,000 yen
Yakushima Hachimanju Tea Farm
532-24 Koseda Yakushima-cho
Kumage-gun, Kagoshima 891-4207 JAPAN
TEL: 0997 43 5330
Matcha soft serve (with iced green tea): 200 yen

The First Day in Yakushima

You guys…I took way too many photos.
It’s taking me forever to narrow down my choices. Which is understandable because my best friend S and I had been planning this girls trip for a few months now. I hadn’t been down to Kagoshima since her wedding three years ago, so when I told her I was coming for a short visit, she suggested we take a trip further south to Yakushima. Of course, I was all for it. I mean, it’s been on my bucket list forever! So you understand why I ended up taking so many photos, right?
In the mean time, here are a few highlights from the first day of our trip to Yakushima!

The Rocket Jetfoil took us from Kagoshima port to Yakushima in two hours.

First thing we did was drive our rental car in search for food and we found this cafe!

Still itchy and puffy but happy as can be on to be on this island.

Yummy curry and pasta for brunch…we were pretty hungry.

We did a little shopping at Yakushima Messenger, an outdoor shop with hiking gear.

I bought a pair of socks for our hike the next day…too cute to resist!

We then stopped by a tiny cafe to drink Tankan juice and eat Kozuki Dango.

They look different but tasted just like the mu-chi we eat in Okinawa!

S and I always eat and drink our way through trips, no matter where we are! 😀

We were in awe of this beautiful Toroki Waterfall (トローキの滝), which flows into the sea.
We also decided to take a canopy walk through the woods…fun but kind of scary.
But we got to see views like this above all the tall trees!

After that we stopped by a tea farm and had delicious green tea soft-serve…so good!
We finally headed back to Miyanoura to check-in to our lodge, which was right by the river.
I cannot recommend this lodge enough…such a great place to stay!

We took a little time to explore the area around our cabin.
Our cabin was so spacious and had the best view of the river outside our terrace.

Ferns and moss…I took thousands of pictures, I love them so.

Isn’t this amazing? S and I decided to eat breakfast the next morning down by the river.
After checking-in our lodge, we drove out to Nagata Inaka-hama Beach.
It was too cold to swim but we had fun getting our feet wet and seeing the gorgeous sunset.

By the time we got back, it was pitch black. But we got to see fireflies in the woods!

We ended our long day soaking in the bath…so relaxing!

More to come soon…! x