With the 2020 Olympics just around the corner, there’s never been a better time to visit Tokyo. But with a little imagination, your trip to the land of the rising sun can include breathtaking scenery and wildlife. Here’s how…
Yakul dashing through a lush ancient forest with Ashitaka on his back. Kodamas watch surreptitiously from mossy rocks as Moro approaches, with San, the Princess Mononoke, riding tall and ready to protect her forest. These images came easily to mind as my ferry, Yaku 2, pulled into Port Miyanoura one misty morning. I’d been dreaming of visiting Yakushima and walking in Yakul’s and Moro’s footsteps ever since I found out that Yakushima had been a key inspiration for Princess Mononoke, one of Studio Ghibli’s best and one that sends a strong message about environmental protection. So when I found a volunteering opportunity in Yakushima on Workaway, it was a no […]
Japan is an increasingly popular tourist destination for visitors from all over the world. In fact, by 2020, the country is aiming for 40 million tourists! The country offers more beautiful landmarks than one could visit in a lifetime, as well as culture, tradition, innovation, great food, and entertainment. Japan is also home to a number of National Treasures and globally recognized UNESCO World Heritage Sites scattered all over its territory. These locations are gorgeous, and are all worth visiting. But time is always running against you when you’re visiting Japan, and it can be tough to choose what to add to your itinerary. So to help you make your choice, we compiled a list of the most popular UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan, according to number of photos on Instagram, as well as the top 10 National Treasures!
Where to stay, eat, and explore on the remote subtropical island off Japan’s southern coast.
The small, remote island of Yakushima, which lies off the southern coast of the southernmost of Japan’s four major islands, Kyushu, is shaped something like the Hawaiian isle of Kauai. And just as on that other circular bit of rock over 4,000 miles away across the North Pacific, visitors arrive here seeking respite in subtropical rain forests and mountains — and along the miles of untouched coastline, where endangered loggerhead and green turtles nest. But what’s startling about Yakushima is the absence of crowds and over-commercialization, even with its easy proximity to Osaka, an hour-and-a-half-long flight away. (There are also two ports on the island — in Miyanoura and Anbo — from where multiple daily ferry services connect to the town of Kagoshima on Kyushu.)
Designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1993, Yakushima has managed to maintain its pristine, otherworldly atmosphere.
Explore the breathtaking Tottori Sand Dunes or head into the icy waters against the rocky shores north of the town of Utoro
The crotchety-looking camel stamps its feet and kicks up a miniature sandstorm that drifts away across the dunes. Beyond the creature’s shaggy hump, the ocean of sand is marked by footprints and slopes away to a pale green oasis of grass and shrubs. A little further on, another dune rises almost sheer and, from the top, the view is of a completely different type of sea.
In front of me are the blue-grey waters of the Sea of Japan, flecked with the occasional whitecap, while away to the west is the mouth of the Sendai River and a port.
The Tottori Sand Dunes are part of Japan’s Sanin Kaigan National Park and a breathtaking and unique natural formation that is sufficiently expansive to give the visitor the impression that they are tramping through a stretch of North African desert or the American badlands.
Studio Ghibli has produced some of Japan’s most memorable and beautiful films, including the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, the Oscar-nominated The Tale of thePrincess Kaguya and the children’s classic My Neighbour Totoro. In preparation for these and other movies, the studio’s directors – most famously master animators Hayao Miyazaki and the recently departed Isao Takahata – and their art teams would visit real locations around Japan in search of inspiration. The resulting background art by the likes of art director Kazuo Oga are stunning and as much a visual identity of Studio Ghibli’s films as their wonderful characters and fantastical plots.
Whether or not you are an anime fan, going in search of some of these locations around Japan is a memorable way to see the country: ranging from the lofty mountains and hot spring resorts of Northern Japan, to the sub-tropical forests of the Unesco World Heritage listed island of Yakushima in the archipelago’s south.
A Japanese professor has blamed high levels of mercury in frost in forests in southern Japan on pollution from China.
The study, by Osamu Nagafuchi, a visiting professor at the Fukuoka Institute of Technology, coincides with a United Nations treaty on the use of and trade in mercury going into effect, but will also raise new fears in part of Japan that has become synonymous with one of the worst cases of mercury poisoning.
Nagafuchi has been monitoring pollution in Kyushu and the surrounding islands for nearly three decades and has previously blamed the die-off of the primeval forests on the Unesco World Heritage island of Yakushima on airborne pollutants from China.
As far back as 1992, Nagafuchi began monitoring patches of blackened snow in remote areas of the island.
The island of Yakushima is undeniably one of the most beautiful places in Japan. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and its scenery has inspired the anime film Mononoke Hime. While it is a fairly small island, there are many things to do in Yakushima. You can go snorkeling or white water rafting, walk along beaches, see waterfalls and visit an onsen. However, its main draw is its ancient forest with Yakisugi cedar trees that are over a thousand years old. If you take a trip to Yakushima, here are two of the best nature reserves that should be at the top of your list.
1. Shiratani Unsuikyo
Shiratani Unsuikyo is one of the most famous spots on the island, and given its unspoiled beauty, it’s easy to understand why. It has various walking trails, the longest of which take around five hours to complete.