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Hiking the Yakushima Traverse: Miyanoura Port to Ookabu – Part 1

This two part series will give an overview over hiking the Yakushima traverse in late summer (beginning of September) in 2017. Part 2 can be found here. Yakushima itself is an island in southern Japan (south of Kyushu) and a part of the Kagoshima prefecture. So consider this to be an excourse from Hokkaido ;)! There are no more active volcanos on Yakushima but still plenty of (amazing, seaside) onsen around.

Planning the tour

The Yakushima traverse hike is the grandfather of the hiking routes on the island but multiple variations of the route are possible. We decided on the route starting at Shiratani Unsuikyo, passing Jomon Sugi, climbing Mt. Miyanoura and finishing at Yodogawa. Furthermore, we aimed at bringing the least amount of gear possible with us to keep our pack weight low. However, as it was the first attempt we kind of failed and brought too much of all types of items (food, clothes, misc stuff that “might” be needed). We landed at the northern Miyanoura Port (宮之浦港) at 13:50 by high speed ferry from Kagoshima (depature 12:00), which was a little bit late in hindsight. A note on Kagoshima port: you can leave your car at one of the public parking lots near the ferry terminal for a fee.

Then we took the bus at 14:00 from the port directly to the northern trail head Shiratani Unsuikyo (白谷雲水峡) which took around 45mins. The trail head is at an altitude of 600m and lots of day tourists were coming back from a hike around the massive Cedar trees close to the trail head, such as the Yayoi Sugi. At the entrance, you have to pay 2000JPY per person if you indent to sleep within the National Park (same for Hut and Tent) and fill out a hiking iternary, in case of emergency. Strangely enough, after asking I was told that we don’t need to fill out a similar sheet upon completion of the hike. At that point we hadn’t decided yet if we were going to stay at the Shiratani Hut (白谷小屋) or walk further so we left both options on the sheet.

You can find an English overview of the different trails on the trail map here: http://www.yakukan.jp/doc/pdf/e_tozanmap.pdf

The hike

The first few kilometres are fairly flat but offer a great forest feeling already, with huge cedar trees and twirling root covered trails. There is lots and lots of moss covering most rocks so the whole forest looks incredibly green. Even more so due to the humid air and large amount of rain which the island sees! Everything looks kind of fresh and ancient at the same time.

After 45mins we passed by the Kugurisugi Cedar tree, which has a split base where you can pass through!

We reached the first hut after a little under one hour at a somewhat slow pace and immediately decided against staying at the Shiratani Hut (白谷小屋). The reason was that is was still kind of early but more so that the inside of the hut was engulfed in a nasty stench of human waste. And indeed the biodegradable toilet was inside of the hut with door open.

That hut did sport a very large table though, so if you bring a freestanding tent it can be pitched on there. All huts have a creek to refill drinking water.

After the hut the trail ascends up to the Tsuji pass (辻峠), which also offers some flat areas on the trial where you could pitch a tent in an emergency (I believe it is generally not allowed).

We decided to continue further and skip the Taiko rock (太鼓岩) detour. The trail descends again along huge rocks and shortly before the Kusugawa intersection (楠川分れ) spots a stellar camp site, where we seriously complentated staying.

However, there was still a little bit of light left so we decided to continue.
At the intersection the Shiratani trail meets the trail coming from Arakawa (荒川登山口) and continues along old railway tracks.

It is very pleasant to walk on the railway tracks and continue for a seemingly long 3.7km from the intersection. About in the middle of the section is a small toilet house with a few benches to rest. It now began to get dark rather quickly so we decided to get out our lights and actively look for a camp site. We ended up continuing all the way till the end of the tracks at Ookabu Trail Head (大株歩道入口) and in an exhausted state pitched our tent infront of the local toilet building which also provides drinking water.

After some pasta which tasted way to good for what it was, we went to sleep. Day one of eating pasta on the trail.

Total distance covered: 7.9km; elevation gain: 680m

Useful links for the Yakushima traverse:

Eastern Hokkaido Part 3: From Kawayu Onsen to Ikeda to “Butadon” to Sapporo

Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here

We started the day off at Kawayu Onsen – on the way to the bus stop we spotted a Rotenburo (open air bath), which was charmingly located next to the road!

Kawayu Onsen

We were heading for the train to go south in a comfy local train..

Kawayu Onsen

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Eastern Hokkaido Part 2: From Shiretoko’s drift ice to Kawayu Onsen

Read Part 1 here beforehand, if you like.

The next morning we woke up early as we booked a drift ice walk at 0630am. Fortunately, the weather was way better than the expected rain..

Utoro

After changing into the provided dry suits we jumped right in!

Utoro

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Eastern Hokkaido Part 1: From Sapporo to Shiretoko

From the 22th to 24th of February, I went on a trip through Eastern Hokkaido with my friend Park. The landscape of eastern Hokkaido is stunningly beautiful and we were really lucky with the weather. We travelled by bus and JR Trains on a 3 day Rail Pass. In hindsight a rental car would probably have been the more sensible choice as there are only very few buses in remote areas (like three per day) and the JR Trains are not cheap at all – even on a 3 day student pass (20000jpy).

After around five hours on the train from Sapporo, we stopped at Engaru Station. There are only few dead-end stations in Japan, from what I have experienced – in contrast to Europe. However, Japanese trains are of course equipped to deal with that, so it is possible to rotate all seats on the train by 180 degrees! That is also incredibly useful when travelling in groups, as you can just turn the seats and then easily talk with four people!

Engaru

At Abashiri, we changed trains and hopped onto the Ryuhyo (Japanese for drift ice) Norokko Train, a special, old train that runs along the coast so you can see the drift ice from the train.

Abashiri

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A road trip to Cape Kamui – Shakotan

Once more a post about a trip from a while back!
A friend visited me in Hokkaido and we went on a trip around the Shakotan peninsula, just north-west of Sapporo. While Shakotan can be accessed by Bus, it is a whole lot more convenient by car especially in Autumn/Winter as the Bus service is very limited.

We stopped by in Otaru and its Habour to have some Sushi and rent a car..

Otaru

And off we went! Shakotan has a lot of mountains – or rather hills. Therefore, there are an astonishing amount of tunnels, some of which are a few kilometeres long. I am always wondering about the viability of building and maintaining those tunnels – it probably does not pay off, considering that Shakotan has a population of only 2500 people. But fortunately Countries are not entirely for profit entities – yet…

Shakotan

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A winter trip to Biei and the blue pond

I haven’t posted to my blog in almost two months! There is a lot of stuff keeping me busy at the moment and I have hardly taken any pictures at all recently. I’ll try to update my blog more frequently (predominantly with “old” stuff) in the coming weeks though.
During the New Year’s Holidays I went to Biei, Hokkaido with a couple of friends. I have been to Biei before in autumn but it was worth visiting again, especially since the blue pond was going to be lit up in the evening.
Before taking the bus to the Blue Pond close to Biei we walked around Biei’s famous Hills. Unfortunately time was rather limited as the bus only runs three times a day.

Biei

After a 30min bus ride we arrived at the Blue Pond! In hindsight we could have guessed what we were going to see..

Blue Pond

Of course the Blue Pond was frozen and covered with snow! It is called the Blue Pond due to the blue tint of the water, for which the cause is not known yet. We were able to see some blueish water a little bit down the stream though:

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A visit to Sapporo’s Moerenuma Park

A couple of weeks ago I visited the Moerenuma Park on the outskirts of Sapporo. However, I put off writing about it until now, that the snow has started falling in Sapporo. The Moerenuma Park was designed by Isamu Noguchi who was a famous Japanese American landscape architect.

At the entrance of the park, you can rent bikes for little money (about 200Yen for 2h) which I recommend, as the park is huge. Upon entering the park, which is free, a large glass pyramid greets you. The pyramid houses a large exhibition space and at the time I was there mostly presented average paintings with seemingly no coherent theme.

Moerenuma Park

You can climb the pyramid to get an overview of the park, though!

Moerenuma Park

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