15 days in…
Last summer we both attended the World Scout Jamboree in Japan and at the Jamboree Mike’s campsite was called Miyanoura. After discovering this is the highest point in Kyushu and the forest below the summit has a 7000 year old tree; so that’s hiking up a mountain and ancient trees… guess where we boarded a ferry to first thing Monday morning!
So the island we were off to is Yakushima. If you’re a fan of Japanese anime, then you may recognise the forests in which you find Jumon Sugi, the ancient tree, as they are the inspiration for the forests in Princess Mononoke! Sounds exciting so far, unfortunately it is also said to rain 366 days a year, so we brought full waterproofs!
The plans were made and we had a challenging two and a bit days of hiking and two nights in mountain huts ahead of us. This would be my first multi day hike and the Japanese tourist leaflet said the route for day one took 6 hours and we would only have just over 4 hours before sunset! We arrived, rented a stove to cook our meals and headed straight away to the start of the hiking trail.
The forest was amazing, at times completely covered in moss. The ancient trees were impressive in both their size and shape, the constant rain washes away the soil so you can see their root system sprawling across the forest floor. We didn’t see any spirits or ghosts as some of the Japanese people we met warned us of, perhaps they’ve been watching to much Princess Mononoke!
We made it to the first hut in daylight where we met two French guys, Bastien and Louis. We were walking the same route as them for the first two days and on day 2 reached the top of Mt. Miyanoura together, time for an obligatory selfie to capture our achievement! For any of our readers wondering what’s happened to Bear Thrylls (the leaving present from our Scouts), fear not he’s still with us. Being a Scout, he enjoys hiking as well and made it to the top of Miyanoura!
We awoke on day 3 to find the rain was even heavier, eugh and had been woken up in the night by a mouse trying to munch it’s way into our noodles for breakfast, double eugh! It had been raining pretty much non stop since we started the hike and dry clothes were a luxury reversed only for the end of the day once safely inside the hut.
Final day: another bowl of noodles for breakfast, check; wet clothes back on and feet squelching within five minutes of walking, check; catch connecting buses to take us back to the port for the ferry, check; stove returned, check; food bought to eat on ferry, check; watch ferry sail away just as we reach terminal, oops! Our first transport mix up of the trip, never mind. We checked into a nearby guesthouse and made good use of the laundry facilities to wash and dry all our smelly hiking clothes.
So was it worth it? Yes; I may have spent three days soaking wet and the only views I saw were mist and the landscape less than 50 m ahead. However the forests were amazing and for a lot of the trip we had the paths to ourselves, especially when we reached the Jumon Sugi just before sunset. We encountered deer and a monkey while walking and saw a glimpse of the magnificent view eventually (on a postcard) but hey sometimes it’s not about reaching the end but how you get there!
For anyone wanting further details on the route and hiking tips, fear not Mike is drafting his own post on the trip and also is quite enjoying reviewing the places we’ve been on TripAdvisor. I’m guessing he has visions of being the next Wainwright but I’m not holding my breath on the sketch drawings! I’ll add in the link once it’s finished!