Saturday, August 10, 2013

Ja no Guchi Waterfall

Just a bit further. . .
It was September of 2009 when I first got on the Jetfoil to Yakushima with a bunch of curry packets, a tent, and a jacket stuffed into my bag and not a clue as to what I was doing. On the way to my seat, I picked up the largest brochure with a map of Yakushima, and the first thing to catch my eye was the Ja no Guchi waterfall.

Parasitic plants commonly
seen in autumn.
The hike to Ja no Guchi shares none of the fame of Shiratani's moss forests or Mt. Miyanoura's sub-alpine grandeur, but it has some good points. For one, there's no big steep elevation change, so if you've already hiked a big one, and you're looking for a low-key day for recovery, this route may fit the bill. Oh, you'll still want your hiking boots: You might even miss Jomon Sugi's staircases and boardwalks when you have to scramble over boulders at the brook adjacent to the waterfall, and there's a detour along the way that takes you over a small hill where you'll probably use your hands to pull yourself up and ease yourself down.

Onoaida Onsen
Another highlight is Onoaida Onsen, just next to the trailhead. For ¥200 you can enjoy this hot spring favored by many locals.

Charcoal making:
Wood is left in the kiln for ten days.
The forest through which the trail winds is a great example of the low-altitude broadleaf evergreen forests Yakushima's inhabitants have traditionally depended on for their daily needs. You'll even pass an old charcoal kiln. Keep your eyes open, and you may spot plants including orchids and balanaphors. There are also quite a few streams along the way, but don't expect them to be as pristine as water bubbling up in Yakushima's mountainous interior. The trail is a bit unclear in places where it has been eroded by typhoons or where trees have fallen down, so you'll also want to keep your eyes on those pink tape ribbons so you don't get lost!

When you get to the open shelter at the fork, make sure to turn left instead of heading up into the mountainous interior. No matter what the Lonely Planet says, that's a long, long hike better attempted in the reverse direction. Needless to say, that's exactly the route I decided to do on my first oh-so-clueless visit to Yakushima, and while I had a good time and I came out alive, I highly encourage everyone to plan a little bit better than me.

After the fork, there are a couple beautiful little river that you'll cross. (Oh yeah I wouldn't recommend this trail in bad weather, because you'll have to turn back if they are overflowing.)

And shortly after that you'll reach the destination. Hopefully you've brought lunch!

Final Elevation: ~500m

Trail Head Elevation: ~100m
Map time: 3.5 hours (About 7.5 km) round trip. I recommend 4 hours for this trip.
Bus stop: Onoaida (Follow the signs to Onoaida Onsen)

View Ja no Guchi Waterfall in a larger map