In the winter, skiers and snowboarders from all over the world travel to Japan for its famous powder snow. Not many outdoor travelers come here in the summertime. They miss a world of untouched forests, a unique culture and trees that outdate most major religions.
A few miles off the southern tip of mainland Japan lies the island of Yakushima. Its dense and intensely lush forests have served as the setting for movies and the inspiration behind many ani- mated films and video games. It’s easy to see why. Moss-covered tree trunks, ancient Japanese cedars, macaques and sika deers come together to create a magical backdrop made for fairy tales. The most famous of the cedar trees, Jomon Sugi, is estimated to be between 2,000 and 7,000 years old.
“It’s a very holy place,” says Ranyo Tanaka from Japanese outdoor retailer, Fullmarks. “I’ve been to Yakushima multiple times and I always feel like I’m in a different world. Locals believe that there’s a god in the forest, and I understand why. Can you imagine touching a tree that’s four thousand years old?”
The hugely popular Japanese animated film Princess Mononoke used Yakushima as the model for its illustrations. In the movie the forest is inhabited by the Kodama, which are forest spirits. They are friendly if you’re kind to nature, but can curse you if you are disrespectful.
The Kodama have never been spotted by any of Houdini Paper’s sources, but the more we learn about Yakushima, the less we doubt their existence. The island has a magical aura that makes you want to believe.
When it comes to outdoor activities, Yakushima is known for its hiking. It’s not extreme, but can be strenuous if you want to reach the deeper parts of the woods (Hint: You’ll want to). Camping is allowed at designated campsites. Whatever you do, don’t forget to pack your waterproof or quick- drying clothes when travelling to Yakushima.
The evergrowing vegetation is fuelled by a yearly rainfall of up to 10,000 mm. It’s the wettest place in Japan and the locals say it rains 35 days a month. In the winter, the high mountains are covered in snow. So if you are not afraid of getting wet, this place can truly show you the magic of Japan in the summertime. And be kind to nature. Remember the Kodama...
See more images in Houdini Paper #1. Read online here.