Earlier on, we’ve asked our JETAA members to share about their crazy or YOLO experiences. So first up, it’s Claire and Kay who found their journey to Yakushima most epic. Let’s hear from them as they tell us about what they did and how they planned this trip-
Kay: We wanted to hike in this old forest which was famously known as The Forest of Princess Mononoke among Studio Ghibli fans.
Claire: We decided to take a short 2d1n trip to the island for the hike. Upon arrival via the morning ferry, we went to the tourist information centre and managed to catch the last bus that went to the forest. I was pretty hyped for the hike. I didn’t watch Princess Mononoke but the pictures I saw online were beautiful!
How was the hike through the forest?
Kay: We decided to do the 4 hour hike that will lead us to taiko no iwa (太鼓の岩) and finish in time for the last bus back to the central area. The hike did not disappoint and we saw the moss rocks and streams so often featured on blogs. We could see how this location inspired the anime for Princess Mononoke. We came for the pretty forest but what we saw at the peak of the rock was a wonderful surprise!
Claire: However, our victory was short-lived as we had to rush back down for the last bus leaving the forest! Descending was always more difficult for me than ascending due to a previous knee injury. Our legs were aching by then but it was unimaginable to miss the bus! It was a pity we couldn’t take the time to enjoy the forest but we made it to the bus.
Kay: We also decided then, that we wanted to stop being at the mercy of sparse buses, and on impulse, we rented a car for the next 24h of our trip. Good thinking there, as we could visit an onsen to soak our tired muscles plus we got to try flying fish tempura! Claire’s JTE only told her that Yakushima was famous for flying fish and Google supplemented the rest of the info.
Claire: It was sooooo delicious! We also had a lovely chat with the restaurant owner.
Did you manage to explore other parts of the island?
Claire: It was great that we finished the hike on the first day so we had some time the following day before taking the ferry back to Kagoshima city. Initially we were tempted to do the hike to see the oldest tree in Japan, Jōmon Sugi (縄文杉), but the hike would take 10 hours so we gave up on that idea.
Kay: We went on a mini road trip around the island for the other sights, including the waterfall, which our hostel reception advised us to visit. But the highlight came in the form of an open air onsen. It was an onsen in the middle of the sea, and one could only soak in the onsen when the tide recedes and exposes the onsen. There was no men’s or women’s bath, nor were there even changing rooms! But well, yolo! We had a soak anyway. Apparently, females were allowed to enter with a towel wrapped around them unlike private onsens.
Claire: We had to strip in the public beside the onsen pools. An old man was literally standing near me and waiting for me to strip. >.< I have never changed so fast in my life lol. I wrapped a bath towel around me as fast as possible and entered the onsens. I quickly forgot about my discomfort. It was “interesting” being in a mixed public onsen though. Whenever I saw Japanese mixed baths on TV, I’d always marvelled at how at ease the women were and never thought I’d be in that kind of situation one day. Well, now I know lol.
Anything else you would recommend for Yakushima?
Kay: Despite hearing about the narrow and winding roads on the west side of the island and the locals cautioning us against driving in that area, we still made a small gamble and drove that way as we heard we could see interesting wildlife there. It was a good detour though, and we got to see the
Yakusaru aka Yakushima’s monkeys and Yakushika aka Yakushima’s deers, and of course beautiful sea views, and most of it really wasn’t THAT dangerous. We knew the risks we’d be taking and were prepared to backtrack if we noticed the road getting more and more narrow.
What made this trip YOLO?
Claire: The trip was just full of spontaneous and impromptu decisions. We didn’t have any concrete plan going into the island but the trip was just so rewarding and full of surprises. You get a mix of sea and mountain views in many places and the whole island was just magical. I love it!
Kay: We also took a lot of advice (guidebooks, tour centre volunteer, JTE, hostel receptionist, friends) for various sources and just went with the flow when we were there, thus making it more YOLO.