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January 1, 2020 - Shiratani Unsui - Yakushima
For my first day of the new decade, I am based on Yakushima Island which is known for it's large cedar trees and mossy forests. I visited Shiratani Unsui Gorge along with visiting Yaku-jinja for a performance on New Years night (started @ 11:45 but come early to get a seat)
There are two ways to reach Yakushima - either by plane or ferry/jetfoil. One thing to consider is that if you book early enough the plane to Yakushima can be slightly cheaper than the jetfoil and is less likely to be affected by incliment weather. The flight took 35 minutes but it seems as though this flight is often late (11AM flight).
As mentioned previously, I visited Yaku Jinja last night to watch a Taiko performance at 11:45 PM with people dressed in demon masks. I thought it started at 9PM but there was no-one there - so I returned to the second time on the flier spread around town @ 11PM. There was around 6 or 7 people waiting so I just decided to hang around until the 11:45PM performance as at least there were some people here.
The performance started off with a few demons playfully battling each other - with other types of demons fighting each other for supremacy through the Taiko drums. As my camera does not like fast moving objects in low light - I only have video of the actual performance. It was not until the last 5 minutes when the fire part of the performance allowed for enough light.
If there is something you can't accuse this performance of being - it's not being photogenic. Do note that Yakushima can get cold at night - it was below 0C when I watched this and I'm happy I brought my winter gear with me from balmy Singapore.
After a late night visiting a shrine last night - I decided to have a sleep in like this monkey on the side of the road. My only location visited today was Shiratani Unsui which is around 10 kilometers from Miyanoura town. Note that it's a windy and hilly trek so don't even think about walking it. There seems to be a good amount of public transport up here though.
To visit Shiratani Unsui it costs 500 yen as a compulsory entrance donation fee (I think). There are several walks but I decided to complete the easier one today as I'm not kitted up to do any serious hiking.
When I complete hiking in Japan the suggested amount of time is often the amount of time needed for a old person with bad legs to complete. As such - when it said it would take 1 hour to walk 2 kilometers I scoffed. However - when I saw this only 200 meters into the trek I then understood that it would not be a quick walk.
If there is something we can agree on - it's that this forest is mossy. I'm also happy that there are well prepared trails but some of them would be quite dangerous in wet weather which is meant to be common on Yakushima.
Something I found interesting was the suggested distances between locations. It was meant to take an hour to walk - but took considerably longer. However I did take my time and often would sit down and watch the world go by.
As it took me roughly an hour to walk roughly 860 meter (I'm sure it's longer than that), I was having second thought about walking the 1.3 kilometers to the Yayoisugi. Strangely - this was much flatter and took around 15 minutes.
In general I've really enjoyed my first full day on Yakushima. What I probably needed the most was a few slow days after so much travel in the past 12 days. I'll be moving much more slowly in Yakushima to help recharge my batteries for the rest of my trip and for a long second semester. For tomorrow - I'll be visiting the Yakusugi Land area of Yakushima.
Shiratani Unsui Gorge (http://y-rekumori.com)