Yakushima is there to remind you how close Japan is to Hawaii. It’s not quite as warm, but it has monkeys, so… even-Steven? Yakushima is also closer to mainland Japan than Hawaii is to mainland US, but everyone that we met in Japan acted like it was on the moon. When asked about our travel itinerary, locals seemed boggled by our choice to go there. I am boggled as to why they were boggled.
Yakushima is a UNESCO world heritage site, an action sports destination with rainforests, nesting sea turtles, and monkeys that ride on deer. Monkeys that ride on deer! As a totally normal and rational exercise, I envisioned arguments people might have for not going, and what my rebuttal would be:
I’d rather travel to Hawaii or New Zealand.
Yakushima is basically those places combined, but with monkeys. In the warmer months you can kayak in pools made by waterfalls and watch nesting sea turtles. Its rainforests even inspired the film Princess Mononoke.
Is this Yakushima or is it the Great Valley from The Land Before Time?
The trees aren’t old enough.
WRONG. They are old enough. The rainforests of Yakushima are full of Yakusugi which are an elite class of Japanese Cedar that have reached the ripe old age of 1000+ years old. ONE THOUSAND. Also, they smell nice.
I don’t like hikes, I’d rather go someplace that you can drive.
You’re in luck! The monkeys spend a whole lot of time on the road, and you aren’t even allowed to follow them into the woods unless you have a special research permit anyway. (It’s okay if you happen to stumble upon them during a hike, you just can’t follow them into the woods like a creep). The point is, you can observe monkeys with no more physical exertion than a leaf peeper in Vermont. Once you find a monkey spot you can also pull over and tailgate them which is like Planet Earth x football x Japan.
This picture is not high quality but it shows how little effort can be put in to observe the monkeys. Also please note the stink eye I am receiving from the little hoodlum above my shoulder.
I don’t care about monkeys. I prefer to travel around the world in search of beautiful deer.
There are very beautiful deer in Yakushima, called Sika deer. So beautiful that the monkeys hang out with them. They are conveniently visible on the road and in the woods.
Is this the deer that inspired the Snapchat filters? Slap a flower crown on it and I say yes.
Who needs nature? I want to go to Japan for the culture! I want food, I want drinks, I want spirituality!
First of all, everyone needs nature. But you’re in luck because Yakushima has all of the above.
Food: You can have a Japanese picnic during your hike:
Spirituality: You can look for little tidbits of spirituality and religion scattered all over the island.
Drink: You can accidentally pregame your hike with Japanese whiskey because you didn’t really understand what you were ordering. Actually maybe don’t do this until after the hike because you might get real whiny during the hike.
I dunno, that rainforest doesn’t really seem moist enough.
Fine, no one would ever say this but I needed a reason to show my moist rainforest pictures.
I think I’ve proven that magical Yakushima should be your next trip or you should at least know that it exists. This wasn’t paid for by the tourist board of Yakushima, but I take Venmo payments if they are giving handouts. Also, if you didn’t notice, I never really went into the deer riding monkey situation because I didn’t want to overwhelm you in one post. Obviously I wrote an entire other post dedicated to that inter-species phenomenon, coming up next!
4 thoughts on “Yakushima: If New Zealand and Hawaii Had an Island Baby”
What a lovely place. I’m afraid when I’ve thought of Japan, I’ve always thought of millions of people squashed in between sky scrapers. I’ll have to change my thinking.
Wonderful pictures. The deer is beautiful and the monkeys are phenomenal. I think that too many people are so separate from nature that they cannot appreciate the spirituality of nature and the lessons we can learn from animals. Thank you. Looking forward to more.