Yakushima – Shiratani Unsuikyo / 屋久島ー白谷雲水峡

Yakushima is one of the islands of Kagoshima Prefecture and was designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. It’s best known for moss covered forests and Yaku-sugi, ancient cedar trees that are more than 1,000 years old. The photos below were taken in Shiratani Unsuikyo.


Moss covered forest: The Jomon Sugi and moss covered forest are at an equal first on the Yakushima bucket list. The forests host more than 650 distinct species of moss and even inspired Hayao Miyazaki to produce Princess Mononoke; the film’s central theme is the environment and features moss covered forests.


Granite mountains Granitic pluton (“Granite“): Yakushima is the calm mountain within a geological storm of active volcanoes and cauldrons, big and small. Yakushima continues to rise by c. 1mm a year as magma continuously cools below surface to form intrusive igneous rock (mainly granite). Luckily all that granite is relatively soft and not of much economic value to mankind!


Water: The water captured in this photo is typical of the runoff from numerous waterfalls along the Shiratani Unsuikyo trail – wonder if the secret to cedar tree immortality lies in the crystal clear water.


Taikoiwa Peak (“Peak“): The view from the Peak is breathtaking – especially after a steep hike of many steps. It is not ‘perfect’ though – some dead trees stick out like a sore thumb. Who’s the culprit? Pollution from China’s factories, claims environmental engineer Osamu Nagafuchi.


Japanese Camelia Camelia japonica (“Camelia“): There are limited flora in Yakushima during the winter season. The only flower that continuously catches the eye is the Camelia, or sometimes referred to as the Rose of winter. The Camelia symbolises love in Japan and is often used as a key ingredient for personal care and beauty products for its aroma and oil. This photo is of a fallen Camelia on a bed of filmy ferns.


Makino Coptis ramosa Tamura (“Makino“): These tiny flowers are of the genus Coptis and its seedlings typically germinate on moss laden wood. The small size, color combination, and delicate appearance evokes images of Tinkerbell!


Sika Deer Cervus nippon (“Deer“):  Deers are plentiful in Yakushima – so much so that the locals hunt and eat them. Despite their adorable demeanour, they can soon become forest pests when their population grows too large and they overfeed on forest trees, seedling, and plants. The situation can quickly exacerbate if unmanaged, eventually changing the composition of the forest understory. This photo was taken in a local curry cafe that specialised in deer curry.


Japanese Macaque Macaca fuscata (“Monkey“): The Yakushima Monkeys are meek and nowhere near as aggressive as their outgoing Nagano cousins who are often featured in beer and resort advertisements around Japan during winter. This photo shows a group gently grooming each other. Apparently that’s how they socialise – what a hygienic way to make friends!


Orange Stewartia Stewartia monadelpha – epiphyte (“Orange Stewartia“): The roots of this Orange Stewartia are growing around a dead cedar tree much like a claw around its prey.


Fungi are a common site in Yakushima’s forests and these little guys resemble the Kodama depicted in Princess Mononoke the most.



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