2016 Japan Trip Day 3 – Yakushima (Shiratani Unsuikyo)

Despite two frantic days of international and domestic flights to reach Yakushima, our body clock had not adjusted to Japan’s time. Both of us woke up in the middle of the night and were unable to get back to sleep. However, we soon noticed that the nighttime scenery outside was beautiful, and ended up staying up to take photos of the surroundings. When it approached sunrise, we walked to the nearby bridge to take photos, but found that the mountains in the distance was blocking our view. Luckily we managed to make it back to outside our hotel room in time! Shortly after, we had breakfast which was provided by the hotel, then drove off to a destination I had always wanted to explore – Shiratani Unsuikyo.

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For those of you who do not know, Shiratani Unsuikyo is a cedar forest in Yakushima which supposedly served as the inspiration to background art in Princess Mononoke, one of the most famous Ghibli Studio movies of all time. This was the main reason I chose to come to Yakushima on this trip! It was also one of the main reasons we rented a car, since the buses between Miyanoura and Shiratani Unsuikyo are rather infrequent. The drive up to Shiratani Unsuikyo was very winding, and parts of the road was rather narrow. Thankfully the road wasn’t too steep so our 550-650 cc rental car didn’t have too much trouble with it. We soon made it to the carpark and headed through the entrance. We saw a group of people warming up at the front which should’ve given us the indication that this was not that easy of a hike, though it is one of the less demanding ones on the island. We ignored the warning signs and continued onwards without doing a proper warmup.

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We took the easiest track through Shiratani Unsuikyo to reach Taikowa Rock, and soon found ourselves in parts of the forest surrounded by thick moss. I had never seen anything like this before, and I could see the resemblance to the setting of Princess Mononoke. Throughout the hike, we did run into a number of guided groups who helped us take photos or kindly let us pass when we were quickly approaching them from behind. Apart from that, most of the hike was very quiet, which allowed us to take in the atmosphere of the place.

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After about 2-2.5 hours of hiking, we finally reached the top of Taikowa Rock. From here, we had an amazing view of the valley below. We sat down to rest for about an hour with the occasional guided group arriving to briefly take in the sights. We did make a mistake of eating there as we were not aware we weren’t meant to, though luckily it was small snacks rather than a full-on meal. After taking some time-lapses and photos, we started our descent back to the car park.

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It was at this point that I started to realize that warming up before the walk was probably a good idea, and so was wearing anything else apart from jeans. There were many stones and roots on the path, which made it difficult to descent without slipping on something. In my opinion, the hike down was a lot tougher than going up because of this. We did eventually make it to the car park in one piece, headed back to Miyanoura to return our rental gear, and headed back to the hotel. As we were dead tired, we did not do much else apart from having a quick walk around town and have dinner which was also provided by the hotel. Overall, it was as beautiful as I had expected it to be, and I’m glad that we managed to kick-start our trip in such memorable fashion.

Daily Expenditure (per person)

1) Transport
None (rental car cost included in previous post)

2) Accommodation
Yaedake Business Hotel – 7,344 yen (meals included)

3) Food
None (breakfast and dinner provided by hotel, and snacks were brought from home countries)

4) Attractions
Shiratani Unsuikyo – 300 yen (entrance fee for upkeep and maintenance)

5) Others
None

Total daily/entire trip
7644 yen/176,507 yen

Average per day (excluding international flights)
18,169 yen