(See page 2 for the German version)
There are those rare times, when you travel somewhere and everything about your journey is just perfect. The weather is nice, people are friendly, the landscape is great… When I went to Yakushima(*) this year in May, that was my perfect journey. Maybe it was because I didn’t expect it to be THAT great from the beginning, although of course all my friends who had been there already, were telling me how amazing it was. And needless to say, I was also really excited to challenge myself with the 10-11 hour hike awaiting us on the island (you need that much time if you want to hike to the Jomon-sugi, the oldest tree on Yakushima (supposedly 6000 years old)).
Further, one of my colleagues had warned me that there is a saying, that on Yakushima it rains 8 days a week. That being said, I was more than pleasently surprised, that we had sunny weather on all four days we spent there! It was as if nature wanted to present itself in its best possible light.
And that was the second thing about Yakushima: The nature there wasn`t great, it was just amazing! The deep green of the forests, the turquoise rivers, the roaring waterfalls, the many deer and monkeys that were looking at us from close by. The huge trees that had begun reaching to the sky thousands of years ago and their long branches and roots that went down into the depths of the earth. The whole island seemed to want to let us know, `you people with your little stairs and bridges and tiny houses can only be here because we allow it`.
I remember that the first Japanese anime I had seen in cinemas in Germany had been Studio Ghibli`s Princess Mononoke (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Mononoke), a movie in which the landscapes appearing were inspired by Yakushima`s forests. Now, being in Yakushima for the first time, I was really surprised how much everything resembled the scenery in the movie. The various shades of vibrant green colors, the long intricate roots, moss-covered trees and paths that seemed to lead to ancient mysteries. All this seemed to be full of energy, while transmitting a unique calmness.
As I live in the big city now, I sometimes I like to think back and dream about my hiking adventure on Yakushima, even though I still remember how much my feet had hurt from all the walking. Every single step, on the abandoned railway line, the Suspension bridges and rocks, had been worth it.
In the anime, the story ends with the people winning over the nature and destroying the forest spirits, without thinking about the consequences. In reality, this magical place with its nature will remain like this for the next 100, 1000 oder 10000 years, or so I hope.
(*) Yakushima is a small island in the south of Japan, on Kyushu (Kagoshima prefecture); it is famous for its ancient cedar forest that has been a natural World Heritage Site since 1993. Only about 13,000 people are currently living there, with supposedly the same amout of monkeys and deer.