Yakushima, Ja­pan

Com­mune with bearded an­cients

Action Asia - - ISLANDS -

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.

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