Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Trip To Yakushima Island

Philip trying to make nigiri sushi as everyone cheers him on.  The chef made it look so easy, but you know how that goes.  

The town of Anbo, on the east side of Yakushima island.  After many hours of confusion due to a lack of tents at the campsite Philip and I thought we would stay at and being rejected from sleeping in the living room of the office of campsite because we weren't married, we found a really great cheap inn run by one of the few people I have been able to identify as a "hippy" in Japan.  Anbo is a beautiful little town right on the sea and we immediately went to a restaurant recommended by our inn keeper. 

Haha, this is what the menu looks like at most smaller Japanese restaurants.  It is often very frustrating, but mostly just funny that I live in this place that offers so much, but because I can't read most Japanese yet... I'm a little stuck.  At restaurants if there aren't pictures of the food, most often I just ask for what the cook recommends and never have been let down.  We spent two nights at this restaurant eating local specialties like deer sashimi, tempura flying fish, and some of the most incredible sashimi I have ever had.
We became friends with the chef who showed us how to mix beer with the leftover crab in its shell and drink the rest of the crab-beer straight from the shell.  Philip said he wanted to learn to make sushi and the chef brought out the fixings for a demo and a challenge for Philip.  By this time most people had left the restaurant and we were all up to our necks in shouchu.  The chef insisted on making us our breakfast and lunch for our hike the next day and had us come to the restaurant at 4 am to pick up our bentos.  We knocked on the door and slid it open and there he was, snoring on the tatami in front of us.  He roused himself and walked us to our bus and saw us off.  Oh, Japanese hospitality!
We set off at 4 am after a night of drinking and eating and bleary eyed, we took a bus to the head of the trail.  The main attraction is Jomon sugi, one of the oldest cedar trees in the world (somewhere between 2 and 8 thousand years old).  It was a nine hour hike up and down the mountain and it rained a tropical rain most of the time, but incredible!  When we arrived at the head of the trail I was astonished to see many circle of heavily outfitted people doing group stretches!  Hilarious! I was a little too tired at that point to join in, but sat on a rock and ate my bento breakfast of rice, egg, and fish and watched everyone flap their arms around in coordination.  For most of the hike we walked along an old railroad track or wooden staircase that led into the hills, like this one.
Stopping for lunch along the path.
A man eats his bento lunch on the side of the trail. Mmmm!
The View from inside a giant tree trunk that had a spring running through it.
A tiny buck picks his way through the forest along our trail.
The river we followed for most of the hike. 
Misting mountains at around 6 am.
On the walk down the mountain the river started looking really tempting, but no one else was swimming in it so we weren't sure how jumping into the rushing river would be met by the other very rule oriented hikers.  Philip and I remembered how in the Polish Alps we had jumped into a slow moving river and everyone around us freaked out and kept exclaiming we would be swept away.   It seems that a lot of cultures had some sort of river phobia... or maybe just a general swimming fear.  Anyway, we got a good swim in that beautiful cold river.
We encountered lots of these ridiculously adorable fuzzy deer, some had spots, and all were about the size of small goats!  The night before our hike, Philip and I had eaten deer sashimi...mmmm sounds a little strange but absolutely delicious.  Cheers Mr. Deer!
I hiked the nine hour trek in only my sandals... my hiking shoes had yet to be shipped to me so I relied on these old friends.  Japanese people are the ultimate gear nerds - everyone is outfitted to the max and in the latest season's fashions for hiking/outdoor gear.  A little too much if you ask me, but anyway everyone kept staring at my shoes and exclaiming and saying how strong I was.  Like it was some super human feat to break free of all the prescribed outdoor store gear and just try some sandals.   Ok, yeah, my feet hurt after the sixth hour of walking, but I got really tired of people pointing at my shoes and gasping so I had to keep my head up.
This is a map of Kagoshima prefecture and the dark green island is Yakushima island.  It was about three hours by "jetfoil" ferry (a really fast boat that feels like you are flying over the water) from Kagoshima city.  On the whole ride they played baseball on the tv screens in the passenger cabin and once again I realized how effing boring baseball is.

1 comment:

michael said...

Hi Kelly,
Great story!
Can't wait to read more.
Do not ruse you engrish.

My best to Phillip.