Don’t leave Kagoshima without it! – Travel tricks and tips for your adventures in Yakushima!
Yakushima boasts some of the best and most bizarrely unique nature in the whole of Japan. Surrounding yourself in it’s wildly eccentric forestry is like entering a dream land in which, suddenly, all those Ghibli movies you’ve seen, magically come to life. The twisting, bulging, clawing trees, flowing streams and rows of mossy rocks suddenly make you consider the possibility that Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke, while a complete fantasy, could actually exist. A place where, I swear, if you stand staring for long enough, the forest comes to life.
■Prepare Yourself or Prepare Your Wallet
This could be one of the best adventures you ever undertake but it could equally be awful if you go unprepared. After all, Yakushima is a tiny island a good way away from the nearest ferry port in Kagoshima, Kyushu. Goods on the island are sparse. With nature at it’s heart, the island supports its residents with a handful of supermarkets, only about two ATMs and no convenience stores! And, considering everything has to be shipped in, it whacks up a heavy price, even for the simplest of things. Since it’s expensive and there’s no guarantee, you’ll find what you need, the best idea is to come prepared!
Luckily, you can find everything you need on budget in AEON at Kagoshima ferry port, just before you hop on the ferry to Yakushima. If you have a little more time to prepare, there’s even an AEON near Kagoshima Chuo station. So, take your pick!
■10 Things You Will Need
Considering there are just around two ATMs on the entire island, its best to come prepared with all the money you think you’ll need. Fear not! Aeon has everything, including ATMs. In fact, these are the very same ATMs you can find at 7/eleven, so they’re fully foreigner card friendly.
For the hours of trekking, hiking and exploring Yakushima has to offer, you’d be pretty crazy not to go with a good pair of hiking boots. Not only are they water proof, they also support your ankles when climbing rocks and will stop you from slipping on wet surfaces.
3.Re-usable water bottle
Yakushima island prides itself on its safe, crisp, mountain filtered water. Buy a strong water bottle, fill it up whenever you see flowing water from pipes, streams or waterfalls, and you wont need to carry massive bottles of water on your hikes. Not only will you save money on that expensive, shipped, bottled water, but you will save the environment from more unnecessary plastic waste. Even now, I never leave home without mine.
This is such a small purchase but so very very necessary. In Yakushima alone, I used almost a whole packet’s worth in about three days. When hiking, the toilets are often less than fresh. With no soap or towels, and the sweat consuming your body, a fresh wet wipewill feel like heaven.
From mopping the sweat from your brow, to wiping your feet when emerging from a free local foot bath, to even placing upon ones head as a flat hat to shield you from the sun, the hand towel is another small, yet crucial item for your hiking list. How disappointing would it be to to find a small lake, flowing stream or free foot bath and not be able to dry your weary feat afterwards? Don’t take that chance! A hand towel provides a convenience like no other. Its another cheap item, but one I wouldn’t leave home without.
6.A light wet weather jacket and a protective bag covering
Yakushima is like one crazy tropical island. One minute, its beautiful sunshine in a cloudless sky, and the next, we have a warm, tropical downpour. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be thankful to be cooled by the rain, but a heavy downpour is bad news for whatever you may be carrying in your bag. I took a small, light raincoat when I went to yakushima and it served me well in the light rain.
More prepared hikers had protected their backpacks with a covering, which I wish I had had at the time. I was carrying a camera, my mobile phone and some extra clothes in my bag, all of which became a little wet. I would highly recommend at the very least a light waterproof jacket and a bag covering. You might even want to go the further mile and, for additional piece of mind, get a waterproof bag for all your electrical equipment.
7.Plastic bags or bin liners
Inspired by my mother when I used to go on school trips as a child, the plastic bag is invaluable when you want to sit on any wet or dirty surface. Simply lay it down and sit on it. It also doubles up as something to put your bag on.
While I would not recommend taking an umbrella on a hike, I would recommend taking a small one if you want to explore the outskirts of Yakushima or even if you’re planning and going out for dinner. The weather is very unpredictable.
9.Thick socks, thin socks and lots of socks
Hiking is a sweaty business. You’ll need a hefty supply of thick socks, to prevent uncomfortable rubbing inside your hiking boots, and thin socks. Of course, if you can get them in some wacky and crazy designs, then even better!
10.Sweets and snacks!
Hiking is tough work and what better way to reward yourself and get a little sugary energy boost than with your favourite sweets and snacks. Get them at AEON before you leave or risk not being able to find or afford them on Yakushima.
Yakushima is a beautiful island, full of mystery and wonder, but it can be stressful or even unpleasant if you don’t go prepared. Stock up on the essentials at Kagoshima ferry port and enjoy a stress-free adventure on perhaps the most uniquely memorable islands in Japan.