Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Friday, October 21, 2016


What will this bright and beautiful day bring us? And the ones that come after this one?

A volcano.
And another one.
And there…another.

Before leaving for Japan, I was watching Japanese movies, in the hope that my ear will ease up on sounds and I will understand the language. One of them was about a boy who has to come and live in Kagoshima with his mother and grandparents, while his younger brother and father live in Tokyo. In the beginning he is upset because he has to clean up daily the soot from the volcano. In the end, after he makes his peace with his split family, he likes it because the presence of the volcano makes so many things possible, from record sizes for vegetables, to the special taste of a traditional handmade sweet. 

And this morning we get to see, from the taxi that takes us to the port, Sakura-jima (Cherry Island): a perfect truncated cone of a volcano. The rim is hidden in a white steam coming out of it, but there is nothing else to tell us that it erupted more than 5000 times in the past 60 years. We do not have the time to see if our taste buds will discern a special taste, or to look for record daikon radishes, because we are still traveling toward our true destination: Yakushima, a tiny island south of Japan.

Mihai buys tickets and each one of them receives three different shaped stamps, applied with reverence by the woman at the cashiers. I did not have time to admire them or even take their picture, so quickly they were collected by the ferryboat personal. We make our hub in the sea-view area, chairs bolted in the floor around low round tables and two tv screens spewing screeching car chase sounds with a young David Hasselhoff at the wheel. 

I stroll around: living quarters, restrooms with sauna and showers, a theater, a game area, a bar, a gift and food store. On the outside I find a shaded spot to sit and look through the bars at Kaimondake volcano (in the meantime, the ferryboat traveled through the bay and is now in the open waters). I’m thinking “what would it be to put nature behind bars?” and the grim answer is quick to follow “It would be a cage for us”.

Yakushima appears at our horizon: sunny on the edges, heavy dark clouds around the middle. I don’t understand why it is called “the island where it rains 35 days a month”! We rent a car, go food shopping (we are tired and it takes a long time, on one side because there is no English, and on the other because we can’t recognize the food from other Japanese food stores), find our hotel. From downstairs nothing prepares us: our room is above a pachinko parlor. Weird laughs, mechanical sounds, cries are all vying for our attention. In my mind this is just o glimpse of hell, you want to do something but you can’t because these sounds sidetrack your mind, and if you follow them they lead nowhere.

We don’t have time to complain, or even to say that we’re tired, because we are going to walk on Shiratani Unsuikyo trail, and there it will be peaceful and quiet. Maybe I did not have enough stimulus for today, so the drive there takes care of that: hairpin serpentine one after another, one lane, cliff on one side, chasm on the other and a car coming toward us! For probably several good reason the Japanese built this two way road with just one lane and some waiting spots well placed, but that does not make it easier for me.

The trail is wonderful: streams of water frolicking over smooth boulders, lush greenery, sweaty trunks, a monkey crosses our path as she seems to go to the market, a deer measures our intentions, and an endangered dove thrills our eyes and ears. One of the reasons we are here is the ancient cedars (beside being a World Heritage Monument for its flora ranging from paleoarctic to temperate rainforest). Yaku-sugi are the ones older than 1000 years old. Like patriarchs, twisty and gnarled, mossy and hollowed, they are surrounded by younger ones. Many of them survived because they were not perfect, they were not straight (those who were they were transformed in shingles). They are so big that at our level they seem more like a bark house, if we look up the trunk is lost in leaves and there is no advantage place from where to admire the cedar in all its glory. That leaves it to my imagination, and I can embellish it to my taste: Marvelous!

We return to our hotel to find that the pachinko sounds had diversified (probably there are more players) but a Yebisu beer makes things easier. I don’t have the strength to wait until 10 pm when they are supposed to close, so I plug my ears, slip between my sheets on the tatami (I love that sweet pungent smell) and recharge.

The next day starts late and we drive around the almost circular island.

We start at Shitogo-Gajumaru, a Banyan Garden, where they have banyan trees and Cinamonium japonicum (it had a cinnamon smell and no taste). 

From one side

From the other side

Then we stop at Isso Beach for five minutes. Ioan would like to swim and have fun, and we answer like all the parents “Tomorrow, now we have other things to do”. 

Just before Isso Beach we stopped for these huge spider webs.

One of the weavers.

We drive through several small villages and then enter the Yakushima park. At the entrance there is a big sign, translating in English all the kanji. We did not have the inspiration to take a picture of that, so we drive without knowing what we’re passing. The road is one lane, again, ranging from narrow to extremely narrow, twisting and turning, with poles on the side. If we see something interesting the parking island is already occupied. And so we have a Kruger park feeling when we admire the deer and the hoards of monkeys preening themselves or one another. 

After we get out of the forest we stop at the Oko-no-taki falls, a forceful drop of water from 88 m, pounding smooth boulders the size of houses. 

We drive again passing so many things, but we don’t know what they are. 

We stop to look at the Toroki-no-taki, a waterfall that flies into the sea. The drop is not much, 6 m, We take a small hike through the forest to get to the viewing point, another reason to look for shy birds and attempts to take their picture. 

This one settles the program: we are going to see the other waterfalls! No, not all of them (we could not see all of them in one day), just the ones that are signaled.

and that is how we go to see Ryujin-no-taki 

and Senpiro-no-taki waterfall

and then we go to the UNESCO Museum, where there is a lot of information, but not much to see

and then to the Cedar Museum, that has a floor made from thick bricks of wood. 

A talking pen makes up for the absence of printed English explanations. Their main exhibit is a 5 ton branch that fell from Jomongi, (the oldest cedar here, estimated at 7200 years old). It is at least one thousand years old, and part of it is supported on a metal frame, part of it is hanging from the ceiling. On the floor there is a white line, showing the circumference of the Jomongi tree. 

The boys with the branch and at their feet the white line of the tree

Jomongi tree with the branch still attached

The rest of the museum is about what makes the cedar special, the high content of resin that makes it fragrant, weather and insect resistant, how young trees have wide tree rings, but old ones have narrow ones, despite receiving plenty of water. The tools that were used to cut them, how they were transported, what they were making from it (everything, including shingles, 2123 shingles used to give you a bag of rice in Tokugawa Ieiasu times).

The 2123 shingles and one bag of rice (in its straw container)

One of many uses of cedar wood (you can see the narrow rings)

Back home we have two surprises. First one: it is quiet! The pachinko parlor is closed. Second one: we bought fish sausages! We did not have any nasty surprises with food until now. Ioan DID ask his father: do you know what YOU are buying? They are palatable, still, we don’t want to repeat the experience. Some things should stay what they are supposed to be, and that includes sausages!

The night ends with domestic things, like blog and laundry.
The morning wakes me up with one shake and a rumble. Pause. Another shake, not much of a rumble, and then nothing. Infuriated (why are you waking me up?), I look up at Mihai: is it an earthquake? Yes. And I go back to sleep, because it stopped. Today is the last day here, we pack up and go to Iesso Beach as we promised to Ioan. It is cloudy and windy, not too cold, still, I don’t feel like getting wet. While the boys are being bitten by the plankton, I find sea-treasures. Aren’t they pretty?

Then we take a ferry (David Hasselhoff is gone, it is Tom Cruise’s turn), a taxi, a train to get to Hiroshima. But that is another story….

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment form message here