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Hiking Yakushima, Kagoshima-ken, Japan 2010-11

This year I used my second Stay in Japan to go to the famed Yakushima Island for a three day crossing of the whole island. First time a multi-day hike with awesome company. The track follows the description in the Lonely Planet Hiking in Japan guidebook.

To give you a summary: This island is really an awesome place to hike around. I never saw so much beautiful nature.
But also you must not underestimate this island - despite it's beautiy it is a rough and demanding place. And dangerous in case of rain.

Accomodation on the trail were unstaffed mountain huts, so you need full equipment for sleeping and eating. Fortunately rental of everything (even shoes!) is possible on this island. Only winter sleeping bags are in short supply, you need to reserve early.

This time there was fortunately no snow, instead we managed to miss dawn every day. Good light is therfore mandatory. And never set out alone, especially the first day. And never go in rain, again especially the first day. The track is already very slippery in good conditons. I don't want to imagine the deadly quality during rainfall. Here we complete disagree with the Lonely Planet Hiking in Japan Guide. Don't try it alone or in rain. 'Ye have been warned
When you can affort plan for an extra day and bring your tent (please check whether wild camping is allowed). So you can stop before nightfall in case you also loose the time.

This year trip cost came around to 35000 円 (about 340 €) overall costs, including 20000円 for the transport and 4000円 for equipment rental. Start-Endpoint was Kumamoto City.

The Route

The complete route is available in various formats

Google Maps 2010-11_yakushima_full-google.html
OpenStreetMaps 2010-11_yakushima_full-osm.html
Raw GPX track.gpx.lzma

The hiking track is marked quite good - just follow the pink ribbon (which occasionally becomes white).

Day 1: Moving to 屋久島/Yakushima

The first day was needed to come to Yakushima and do the equipment rental.

Transport was by highway bus from Kumamoto, Ferry from Kagoshima and local bus to Yakushima Youth Hostel.

We stayed in the Yakushima Youth Hostel, so we could start the next day early. A pretty standard place with a small cooking kitchen.

Pictures Arrival

Day 2: To Yodogo-goya

We started with the first bus from the youth hostel, so we could hit the trail at 7:30am.
The first day was said to be the most difficult one. What an understatement!

Lonely Planet gives you 8 hours for this trail. We needed 12. And arrived about 9pm at the mountain hut, after walking 3 hours through perfect (and very impressive, flooded with stars) darkness.
When you are very strong and fast maybe you can make it in time - but then you will also miss most enjoyment of the trail.

The first day was not recommended by fairly everyone we talked to, so we were the only people on the trail (at least we met nobody else). This meant all animals we met where the wild ones: Deers, Monkeys and Snakes - not like on the other days where the animals were used to humans and did make no attempt to run away at all.

The track itself goes up, down again, up, down, up, down and then up. So it's much more than only the advertised 1400m. On the way we crossed a lot of rivers which were not in the map - and one big river which I don't wanna encounter after rainfall.

Despite all the hardship, the first day is an overwhelming natural experience. Be well prepared, have good weather, great travel companions and then tackle this trail! With all precautions taken it is a great encounter which you won't have often. Maybe it was even the best day of all.
As said before, having an tent (just in case) will give you even more security.

The mountain hut itself was clean, and not very full. A lot of space for everybody. The disadvantage of this setup was that it got pretty cold in the night. Make sure you have a good enough sleeping bag (and some warm clothes).

Distance approx 16 km
Time 13h (8 scheduled)
Route Google Maps Open Street Maps
Pictures Lonely South Hike
  Yakusugi Land
Accomodation Yodogo Mountain Hut
Highlights Serenity of a seldom walked trail in beautiful nature

Day 3: Highest Point of the Island

On the second day we started late (leaving at about 8am from the hut) because we had some trouble getting up in the morning. This changed the next day ...

This day brought us up to the highest point, the Mt. Miyanoura 宮之浦岳 with 1,935 meter. From the top with it's great view and completely different landscape to the day before we ascended again into the forest. We reached the next hut Shintakatsu shortly before dawn. The only day we managed this.

This day and the next were located on the most popular trecking route. This means a lot of people. And full huts, because the Shintakatsu (40 people) and the 1 hour later Takatsu hut (20 people) are accessed by everybody doing the two day trail. Either be quick to reserve you a place or have a tent with you. Or just good luck.
We arrived late, so we got only sleeping places on the floor. Were every 10 minutes somebody crossed over to leave/return from the hut. With that many people (the normal capacity was exceeded) it was very cosy and warm. Compared to the first day the sleeping bag was much too warm.

And we learned that many people want to leave very early. Even with first light at about 6am, most people started their preparation before 4am. So either you have a very good sleep or you better just give in and start with everybody else. And by 6am 2/3 of all night guest were gone indeed.

I also shortly thought about moving to the next hut in the dark. As we found out the next day it was a good idea to stay, because the other hut was even more overfilled.

Distance 12 km
Time 10h (8 scheduled)
Route Google Maps Open Street Maps
Pictures The Top of the Island
Accomodation Shintakatsu Mountain Hut
Highlights Highest Point with changing landscape

Day 4: Yaku-sugi Trees and Return to Civilisation

The last day brought us in touch with the world heritage Yakusugi giant trees. And hordes of people which lead to traffic jams on the trails, because the last day can be also done as day hike from our goal point.
Unfortunately the afternoon was filled with sporadic rainfalls.

Nothing much more to say, the pictures will speak for themself.

We met a lot of deers and monkeys who were apparently used to friendly people a lot. One time we nearly needed to push a deer away because it did not left our trail by itself. Nearly.

Just one word of warning again:
We wanted to finish our tour by hiking down from the parking space until Kusukawa Onsen. You will see at the track where we tried - and failed.
The track is the most complicated and most hardly to follow track of the whole three days. And to come to the track you need to cross some streaming rivers. So never try this when it is getting dark. You should have at least 2 hours of daylight left before you try it. Again as said for first day - don't try alone, in rain, or when you're out of time.

Fortunately Aishuu-san from the private pension in Kusukawa where we stayed this night saved us. He is a real great and caring man - his kindness even impressed my Japanese friends. He came to pick us up from the Parking lot (30 minutes drive one way), waited there for a long time in strong rain, prepared us dinner (because all restaurants were closed already) - and dropped us off next day at the rental shop.
And the price? 2000円 a person. So highly recommended to stay at his place.

Distance approx 13.5 km
Time 11h (8 scheduled)
Route Google Maps Open Street Maps
Car Return Google Maps Open Street Maps
Pictures The giant cedars
Accomodation 民宿 愛舟
Highlights Impressive giant trees

Day 5: Return Home

After a relaxing sleep (more or less) we returned the gear, had some good island food and returned to Kumamoto.

Being home at 11pm was ...

Pictures Relax and Return

Summary

Don't let you scare away by the costs or the time to come to Yakushima. When you like nature and can manage somehow then go! I also heard the beaches (too cold for us) and onsen (no time for us) are superb.

Additional Information

Planning Literature

Maps $ 山と高原地図 59, 1:50 000, 屋久島 宮之浦岳, ISBN-10 4398757392

OpenStreetMaps
Main track is available (by me :-) and you can download this to your GPS (better have it)

Information Links

Equipment rental on Yakushima

Huts

2010-11-11 Team Pink



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Topic revision: r9 - 2011-06-12 - 21:40:53 - RoLaUser

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