Lesson 7 Eco-tour on Yakushima

(Part 1)
Good morning, everyone. Welcome to Yakushima! Thank you very much for joining our eco-tour. My name is Suzuki Kenta, and I’m your guide for the tour. First, I am going to give you a short orientation. After that, we will start the tour. We’ll return to this office tomorrow evening.
By the way, do you know what an “eco-tour” is? It is a trip in which people are asked to be more responsible for the environment. In other words, we need to be more careful not to damage the environment while we’re on the tour. Yakushima was registered as Japan’s first Natural World Heritage Site in 1993. Since then, the number of tourists to this island has greatly increased. Of course, we’re very happy to have so many tourists, but this has caused some problems. For example, plants along some mountain paths have been stepped on and damaged by the tourists. So, before starting the tour, I want all of you to understand the meaning of eco-tours.

(Part 2)
Now we’re going to take a look at the land features of Yakushima. This is a picture of the island. Yakushima is a round island which is covered with green forest. It’s about 500 km2 (square kilometers). If you compare Yakushima with Tokyo or Osaka, you can understand its size. On the island, there’re over 40 mountains which are more than 1,000 m (meters) high. So, Yakushima is called “the Alps of the Sea.”
The climate of Yakushima is usually warm and humid throughout the year. The average annual temperature is 20℃ in the areas along the coast and 15℃ in the central area. It is surprising that the temperature can fall below zero in the mountain top area in winter. During this time, it is covered with snow. Yakushima has a lot of rain and it is said that “it rains 35 days a month!” The humidity is high, about 73–75% on average. The annual rainfall is about 4,000 mm (millimeters) in the low-lying areas. In the mountain areas, it’s about 8,000–10,000 mm. This climate, along with its land features, has created a unique ecosystem on Yakushima.

(Part 3)
Next, I’ll show you the three sites where we are going. Look at this picture. You’ll find something mysterious in it. It’s a dense forest with a thick carpet of moss in Shiratani Unsuikyo. Have you seen the animated movie, Princess Mononoke? When he was making this movie, Miyazaki Hayao, the director, was strongly inspired by this mysterious forest. We’re going to go there this afternoon.
The next picture is Wilson’s Stump, a great tree stump with a diameter of 4.39 m. The inside of the stump is empty, and we can go into it. Surprisingly, we can see some water flowing out of the ground there. You’ll also find a small shrine. It is said that this tree was cut down in 1586 by the order of Toyotomi Hideyoshi to build Hokoji-temple. By the way, do you know the reason why it is called Wilson’s Stump? It was named after Dr. Wilson, a famous botanist. He was the first person to introduce this stump to the world in 1914. I think you will enjoy this site, too.

(Part 4)
The last picture is, as you all know, Jomon Cedar. It’s one of the oldest and largest cedars on Yakushima. It was discovered in 1966. Can you imagine how old and how large it is? It is considered to be 2,000–4,000 years old. Some people say it is 7,200 years old! It is 25.4 m in height and it is 5.2 m in diameter. Tomorrow we will look for this tree on the tour.
In the Edo period, people on Yakushima began to cut down cedars. They had a poor rice crop because there was little land for growing rice there. As a result, they had to offer boards of cedars as nengu (land tax). Fortunately, some cedars over 1,000 years old were left uncut then because they were not suitable for making boards. That’s why we can still see them as well as Jomon Cedar!
I’m very sorry to say that we can’t touch or get close to Jomon Cedar. We can only look at it from a distance. That’s because many tourists stepped on the roots and damaged the tree. This fact makes us think about the meaning of eco-tours.
That’s all for the orientation. Do you have any questions?




Lesson 7 屋久島エコツアー

(Part 1)

(Part 2)

(Part 3)

(Part 4)