Friday, July 12, 2013

Exterior Peak # 4: Tachuu Dake

You just couldn't ask for a better monolith
than Tachuu Dake's 40 m celestial pillar.
"You don't have a rain jacket?" the young man on my left asked. There were four of us huddled under the open shelter where the route to Tachuu Dake branches off from Yakusugiland's 150-minute course.

"I've been up several times, and every time—regardless of the weather forecast—it's rained. You get used to it." I explained, "Actually, I have to wear proper rain gear when I'm working, so it's a bit of a luxury to get a little wet." And maybe if I believe it will be sunny, it will be sunny. . . right.

The couple across from us dissented. They were from Okinawa, and they knew all about rain, but preferred to stay warm and dry. After all, it's a six hour round trip.


A map of Yakushima, as folks
living in Anbo see it.


Tachuu Dake is easily recognizable by the large flame-shaped pier on top. This natural obelisk stands 40 m tall (according to several websites) and is visible from the town of Anbo. It speaks of Yakushima's origins as a bubble of granite that continues to rise up (1 mm every year!) as the top layers of sediment are worn away.

The celestial pillar and natural altar make Tachuu Dake an obvious destination for those seeking a spiritual journey, but the hike is also popular among hikers seeking a shorter, less crowded route than the hike to Mt. Miyanoura or Jomon Sugi.



Tachuu Dake is one of the traditional destinations visited on an annual pilgrimage from Anbo. Now, living in Anbo where I can see the celestial pillar, I know it's quite often, perhaps even usually, clear at the top of Tachuu Dake, but it wasn't until this past March, when I climbed it with my boyfriend, that I was finally greeted with sunshine at the peak.

Don't forget to enjoy
Yakusugiland on the way!
Entrance to Yakusugiland.
That's Tachuu Dake on the right.

The route to Tachuu Dake begins in Yakusugiland, where you'll find a building with restrooms, a payphone, a souvenir shop, and an area where visitors can sit and eat lunch before entering the park. The entrance fee is ¥300, and you'll receive a brochure (English available) and postcard. Bring a small water bottle to fill from brooks along the way.

Just follow the signs to the
Tachuu Dake fork.
The snake-likeroots of fallen
Jamon Sugi.
Once inside Yakusugiland, you'll follow the 150-minute course around to the back of the park. Beside Yaku-sugi trees, you'll also pass stumps left over from Edo logging as you head through a mossy forest thick with spruce and fir trees and over a beautiful tributary of the Anbo River. Just before the fork to Tachuu Dake you'll see the roots of JamonSugi (Snake-Crest Sugi), which fell over in a typhoon about 15 years ago, and an open shelter with signs depicting local wildlife.

Shiratani isn't the only place with moss!

Bring a disposable toilet pack
if you want to use the only
toilet on the trail!
A grand evergreen forest!

Time for a drink!

The trail through Akahoya
is a bit washed out.
The next stop is Tenmon no Mori, a survey forest where you can sit or lay down on the benches and listen to the bird song. Look for a large sugi shortly after. This is Shaka Sugi. From here, the path gets rougher, steeper, and also muddier as you climb. There are one or two places where the red soil (Called Akahoya, this is the pyroclastic flow from a nearby volcanic eruption 7,300 years ago. ) is washed away and you'll have to use exposed roots to pull yourself up, but the trail is well marked and not highly prone to flooding.


A few more steps. . .
I know you'll be tempted to
gawk at the celestial pillar,
but please watch your step
 when you climb that rope!
 After Tenmon no Mori and Shaka Sugi, you won't find any obvious resting points other than a huge boulder, which you will walk around one kilometer from the peak. When you reach the peak, you'll approach the celestial pillar from the back and the forest will abruptly give way to rocks. You'll carefully scramble down a short rocky drop, walk around to the front of the "alter" and climb up a rope to stand in front of the celestial pillar for a spectacular view.

. . . and you can finally relax and eat
lunch or find religion.
That lake in the distance marks
the dam where Yakushima gets its


The hokora behind the
celestial pillar.
From here you can see the park entrance, the reservoir behind the damn on the Anbo River, and the town of Anbo in the distance. Unfortunately, there's not a view of the Interior Mountains, and you can't climb on top of the celestial pillar itself, but if you climb down from the alter and continue to walk around to the far side of the pillar, you will find the small shrine, called a hokora.

Assuming the rain gods have been kind, I'll leave you alone now for a siesta. . . or to contemplate your newly found religion. . .

Peak Elevation:1497m
Trail Head Elevation: ~960m
Map time: 5~8 hours (About 7 km) round trip
Bus stop: Yakusugiland

ViewTachuu Dake  in a larger map

Okay, this has little to do with the hike, but. . .
Something I once saw on the way.
Anybody know what the heck
this is??