Thursday, June 20, 2019

I'm not your mom (or dad) and neither is mother nature!

Look what treasures were left!
(Re-posted with permission.)
Several times a year, I sign up for "toilet patrol" duty and I usually come back with a grudge. This is the glorious job of hiking up the trail to lightly clean and inspect the huts and toilets. We do a little light maintenance work on the trail when we can and pick up litter along the trail, too. It would be fun, enjoyable work if we didn't also pick up the crap people leave behind (both in the huts and in the toilets).

The root of the problem is usually ignorance and poor preparation of both international and domestic visitors. So, I'm going to start off with a short list of some of the stuff I've personally had the pleasure of schlepping down the mountains, and then I'm going to follow up with a short quiz on mountain manners.

Things people carry up and leave behind (in no particular order):
  • Hats/socks/towels/shirts/glasses/lens caps (The late Douglas Adams would ask, Do you know where your towel is?)
  • Sleeping bags (If you've got the energy to carry a big, bulky bag up a mountain and the money to leave it behind, you could have rented a compact bag! )
  • Air mattress (And with battery-operated inflater-fan, too!)
  • Prayer flags (Disrespectful in so many ways!)
  • Christmas decorations (An emergency shelter is not your home. Santa does not come here.)
  • Fuel for camp stoves (Try leaving it at a rental shop, your accommodation, or an information booth, or even with the airport authorities.)
  • Used disposable toilet bags (The whole point of the bag is for you to carry it back with you!)
  • Chopsticks/toothpicks/rubber-bands/candy wrappers/drink cans/food packaging (Part of being thankful for food is not leaving behind the evidence.)
  • Orange peels, carrot peels, seeds/pits (Yes, these are contaminants that cannot naturally be found in the mountains of Yakushima. If you want to be Earth-friendly, ask your accommodation back in town to take your compostable waste.)
  • Rubber sandals (I swear these multiply like rabbits!)
  • Broken umbrellas (Trust me, I hate carry back broken umbrellas as much as you do!)
  • Cigarette butts (Leaving behind cigarette butts is the environmental equivalent of the American middle finger.)
  • Wallets/keys (Obviously accidental. The paperwork is atrocious, though! Check your room key with the front desk of your accommodation.)
  • Problems (Just kidding! You're welcome to leave your problems behind!)
The only things I am happy to pick up are chocolate bars and rubber tips for hiking poles that I can pass on to other hikers. Metal points damage trails.

Quiz Time
Okay, here's the quiz. Let's see what you know:

Question 1) Mountain Toilets

In every mountain toilet in Yakushima—excluding disposable toilet booths and the toilets in the Shiratani Unsuikyo Hut—what are you allowed to dispose of?
Check all that apply:
❏ a) Human waste
❏ b) Dissolvable toilet paper
❏ c) (Facial) Tissues
❏ d) Wet wipes
❏ d) Food scraps
❏ e) Disposable toilet packs
❏ f) Sanitary napkins
❏ g) Tampons
❏ h) Diapers

You should have checked a) and b) ONLY! 
In Shiratani Unsuikyo Hut, toilet paper and feminine hygiene products are separated. Feminine hygiene products can also be disposed of in buckets at toilets at trail heads and on the train tracks, but not at toilets at other mountain huts. Except in Shiratani Unsuikyo, or unless the toilet is clogged or it is otherwise posted, please dispose of toilet paper in the toilets.

Question 2) #TooGrossToPost
Who gets to fish out c) through h) and carry it out?
a) A hazmat team that works for the forestry agency.
b) Locals.
c) Nobody has too; it's automatically sorted.
d) Nobody has too; it all gets buried in the mountains.

b) Locals, including me. It's not part of the job description, but, yes, I HATE YOU! (No, I don't. Yes, I do!)

Question 3) Mountain Manners #LeaveNoTraceInYakushima
When you go hiking in the mountains in Yakushima, which of of the following actions are okay?
Check all that apply.
❏ a) Rinsing out dishes/cups.
❏ b) Making campfires.
❏ c) Taking a dump near the trail or a water source.
❏ d) Defecating (even urinating) in the bushes near popular trails.
❏ e) Defecating/urinating in a disposable toilet booth without a disposable toilet pack.
❏ f) Damaging tree bark.
❏ g) Stepping off the trail to avoid mud/puddles.
❏ h) Leaving behind "art" like finger-painting in the clay, stacking stones, creating faces in the leaves, etc.
❏ i) Collecting fallen leaves or rocks to bring home.
❏ j) Flying a drone (of any size) so long as it's away from people, buildings, and roads.
❏ k) Feeding the deer, as long as you feed them special food like "deer senbei."

None of those acts is okay!
a) Soap and food/drink leftovers can kill the moss and attract bugs. Also, do you know where that stream goes?
b) The wood in the forest is NOT YOURS TO BURN! But you may use portable gas stoves.
c) GROSS AND DANGERUsing dish soap.OUS! Are you trying to spread disease?! I hope I never meet you!
d) In the past, off-trail defecation was the norm, but it got out of hand, and the town of Yakushima doesn't want to take chances anymore. I highly encourage hikers to bring a disposable toilet kit—available at information booths, rental shops, and even in the ¥100 store last time I checked—so that you are never caught off-guard. They work great for car sickness, too!
e) I have a special hate for people like you.
f) There are thousand-year-old trees along the trails. I see people scraping their boots on the roots, absently picking at the bark, or kicking/trampling parts of the tree to get close to the trunk. While some trees (like tall stewartias, which I hug all the time) are fairly resilient, Yakusugi trees are not. Some Yakusugi are just barely scraping by, and the damage you inflict today could be a death sentence served a hundred years hence.
g) Stepping off the trail to avoid mud/puddles makes the mud puddles grow even bigger.
h) Okay, maybe I'm not 100% innocent here, but a lot of people go to the forest to get away from evidence of people.
i) Much of Yakushima is part of special conservation zones where this is illegal. Also, there's the old adage about if everybody did it. . .
j) Actually, you can fly drones in most areas as long as you abide by basic safety rules AND HAVE PERMISSION OF THE LAND OWNER. In a national park in Japan, that means you need the permission of the forest agency (I'm not going to go into the details because I personally find drones obnoxious. If you're scheduled to hike with me and you want to use a drone, then you can ask me by email.)
k) Deer senbei is only in Nara. Most animals in Yakushima do not know about human food and we want to keep it that way, thank you.

Question 4) Smoking
Where/when are you allowed to smoke on the trail in Yakushima?
a) Anywhere in Yakusugiland and Shiratani Unsuikyo, as long as you are not walking and you are not around other people.
b) Along the trail to Jomon Sugi, but only at designated areas at the Arakawa Trail Head, behind the Kosugidani rest area, next to the toilet building at the end of the train tracks, and behind the hut beyond Jomon Sugi.
c) Anywhere along other trails, as long as you are away from other hikers.
d) All of the above, but you must bring a portable ash tray.


d) All of the above, but you must bring a portable ash tray.
However, most smokers do not realize how obvious the smell of cigarettes (even e-cigarettes) is to other hikers and how far the smell travels. You know how you can smell the toilets before you can see the toilet building? It's like that.

Bonus Question: Park Donations
How can you donate to park/trail maintenance in Yakushima?
Check all that apply.
❏ a) Make park donations at the entrances to Shiratani Unsuikyo Park and Yakusugiland.❏ b) Ask to donate at an information booth.
❏ c) Look for collection boxes along the trail.
❏ d) Leave change at mountain shrines.
❏ e) Pay-pal or credit card form on the Yakushima Town home page.
❏ f) Donations are already included with your bus ticket in 2019.

a) and b) only.
Please note that money collected in Shiratani and Yakusugiland stays in those parks and is not pooled with money collected for other trails. If you donate at an information booth, you are welcome to ask for a receipt.
Wrong answers:
c) Collection boxes along the trail have gone out of style (although you may still find a couple).
d) Metal coins (particularly zinc-containing one-yen coins) are bad for the environment and hardly worth the effort of carrying down from shrines. If you want to donate to a shrine, please do so in town. On the other hand, please do not remove offerings that have been left at shrines.
e) If you'd like to donate online, please comment or message me so I can suggest this feature to the town council.
f) Because of a long-term robbery incident reported in 2019, we are not currently actively asking for donations, even when you buy a bus ticket to the trail head. This activity is scheduled to resume in July, 2019.

Well, that's my rant after returning from toilet duty. I hate to pass on my bad mood, so to lighten things up, here's a picture of a monkey sitting on a fungus:

I'm sure I'll be adding to this post when my next round comes up. Thank you everybody for doing your part to make Yakushima evermore pristine and beautiful!

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