June 29, 2014

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 :D

June 13, 2014

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

June 12, 2014

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