Commune with bearded ancients
Off the south coast of Kyushu lies an island shrouded in lush greenery and usually in cloud too. Yakushima soaks in up to eight metres of rain a year and it shows. Inland from the subtropical coasts, you quickly enter primeval temperate rainforest, where moss furs every rock and beards every branch and even the air itself appears almost green. Sound is deadened and the hush is appropriate, for you are bound for an audience with the Japanese cedars, or yakusugi, the grand old men of this forest, many over 1,000 years old. The locals revere them and many hike only up this far to absorb their ancient stillness. If you continue on though – there are mountain huts where you can overnight – you eventually climb out of the trees into bamboo grassland, then moorland as you near the bald summits of the island at close to 2,000m. The hiking is magnificent and the trails are relatively lightly used past the famous trees, giving chance to enjoy restful moments by babbling streams and tannin-stained pools. Watch for the indigenous wildlife too: many are subspecies of those found on the mainland and such is the level of protection – the majority of the island is a UNESCO site – the deer now outnumber humans and the beaches are said to be used as nesting sites for 40% of the entire northern Pacific population of loggerhead turtles.