Kenichiro Mogi’s “From Yakushima with Love”
Yakushima is a small island located in the south-west of Kyushu, Japan. But every year, many tourists come here to enjoy sightseeing, hiking, snorkeling and so on. We are trying to spread news and information not only about Yakushima’s nature, but also its fantastic people and culture.
―Yakushima will soon celebrate its quarter-century anniversary since it was designated a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site in 1993. As the island becomes more well known internationally, it’s seeing an increasing number of foreign visitors. However, what is it about Yakushima that makes it so attractive? Kenichiro Mogi, the influential neuroscientist, travels the island to find out.
“The weather can be extremely challenging. The language barrier can be extremely challenging. But I can’t think of a better place in the world to explore.” – Jennifer Lue, nature guide
“it’s so green here and the air is so good.” – Lukas Gehring, workawayer
“Yakushima is a hidden treasure. If you really want to see amazing nature and real Japanese people who are super friendly you absolutely have to visit Yakushima.” – John Daugherty, teacher
Kenichiro Mogi’s “From Yakushima with Love”
Narrator: Phoebe Amoroso
Yakushima is a circular island situated about 60km off the coast of Kagoshima in the south of Japan.
The island has a circumference of roughly 130 kilometers.
Because the center of the island hosts a concentrated range of mountains that average about 2000 meters in height, it is sometimes called “The Ocean Alps”.
The island’s unique topography features a variety of climates, from subtropical to subarctic, and experiences some of the highest levels of rainfall in the world.
In 1993, the United Nations, recognizing the island’s natural beauty and the uniqueness of its wildlife, designated Yakushima a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it the first World Natural Heritage Site in Japan.
Kenichiro Mogi, the Japanese Neuroscientist
One of the gateway to Yakushima is “Yakushima Airport.” Among the crowd of travelers is neuroscientist Kenichiro Mogi. He has visited the island many times.
Mogi: Not only does Yakushima have beautiful nature, the locals are also extremely charming. During this trip, I like to enjoy not only the beautiful nature but also spending time with the people from Yakushima.
“Senpiro Falls”, the Beginning of the Journey
His travels on Yakushima had begun.
The first area Kenichiro sets off for is “Senpiro Falls”, on the southern side of the island. This waterfall, which flows from the top of a gigantic slab of granite, is one of Yakushima’s most famous locations.
Mogi: Now I’m heading towards the Senpiro waterfall. I heard that there is a nature guide who came from the United States. I’m looking for the guide… Oh, there are two guys…
Mogi: Do one of you happen to be a guide?
Jennifer: Yes, can I help you?
Mogi: Oh, you’re the guide?
Jennifer Lue, the Official Nature Guide on Yakushima
This is Jennifer Lue. She works as an official nature guide on Yakushima. Jennifer came to Japan after graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.She has worked for 4 years as a mountain tour guide, helping to spread Yakushima’s appeal both within Japan and worldwide.
Mogi: Can you give the gist of what you were saying?
Jennifer: I think what I was talking about was that this is one of the best places in Yakushima to see the granite that makes up most of the island. Just that bare exposed granite. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking Yakushima is a volcano. But actually it can’t erupt, it’s not a volcano, it’s a huge piece of granite; it’s still rising.
Mogi: Oh! It is rising, still?
Jennifer: It is rising. It moves at less than a millimeter a year.
Common Story of Living on Yakushima
Mogi: Tourists come to this island from time to time and enjoy their holidays, but you are here basically all the time. But do you ever get bored?
Jennifer: Not yet. I still have many place in Yakushima that I just haven’t had time to go to yet. There are new things, new restaurants popping up all the time. There are many trails I still have not had time to hike and explore yet.
Mogi: Oh, so even after four years…
Jennifer: Even after four years there’s still a lot more. I didn’t have so many plans when I first came here but there’s just so much that I can’t imagine myself finishing in one life time.
Mogi: After this book maybe you get on the net, or maybe make a film.
Jennifer: We’ll see where it goes. One thing about living in Yakushima, and this happens to so many people, is that you come with an idea‐“I want to do this in Yakushima”‐and you get here and think “or I could just not”.
Mogi: But that’s the best part of it.
Jennifer: It’s fantastic.
Mogi: Can you say something to the camera? This film is about bringing people from all over the world to this island to share in the experience. Can you say something?
Well, she’s going to give you a message!
Attractive Points of Yakushima from Jennifer
Jennifer: To the folks coming from all over the world. I know Japan is an island so it takes a lot of work to get here. Then you have to take a trip to an even smaller island called Yakushima to get here. I know the weather can be extremely challenging. The language barrier can be extremely challenging. But I can’t think of a better place in the world to explore. The nature, the culture. You’ll discover new things about yourself. And just open your eyes to a new world here. It’s really exciting and I hope you’ll have a chance to enjoy that excitement with me.
Mogi: Good! That’s our program for this week’s wonderful nature from BBC 2. Ok so, have a nice weekend.
Next Destination is an Organic Farm
Kenichiro continued his journey on Yakushima. He next arrives at a plantation in the middle of a harvest.
Mogi: I heard that there’s a young man from Germany harvesting the tankan orange around here. I wonder if it’s true, So I’m here to find out… Where is the orchard? There he is!
Wow! Look! He is actually harvesting.
Mogi: Hi, I’m Ken.
Lucas: Hi, I’m Lucas.
Mogi: Nice to meet you. Are you from Germany?
Lucas: Yes, I’m from Germany.
Mogi: How come a guy from Germany is picking tankans?
Lucas: I’m here with a Workaway project. There’s a website. And this village has a host. I wrote them and asked if I could join. I was on a journey to Japan and I thought it would be nice to visit Yakushima.
Mogi: Do you have any experience in harvesting?
Lucas: No. These ladies showed me how to.
Mogi: So these ladies are your teachers, right?
Lucas: Yeah, they are my teachers.
Mogi: Let me ask the ladies. What do you think of him?
Ladies: He is so cute!
Mogi: Lucas, did you try tasting Tankan?
Mogi: How did you like it?
Lucas: Very Oishii ( delicious in Japanese)!
Lukas Gehring, the Workawayer from Germany
Lukas Gehring came to Yakushima on the “Workaway” program. Here he receives food and lodging in exchange for volunteer work.
Lukas, who works as an elementary school teacher back in Germany, is enjoying life on the island while helping to pick fruit at the tankan orange plantation.
Mogi: So are you enjoying staying on this island?
Lucas: Yeah, it’s very nice. It’s very great nature, it’s green, there are some wax trees also.
Mogi: What actually brought you here?
Lucas: I’ve been traveling to Japan, and I was looking for a place I could stay for cheap. Like working a little bit and staying there with free accommodation and food. And I saw this on workaway, that’s the website…
Mogi: What was your first impression?
Lucas: I was pretty tired because I had a long journey. I took the night ferry.
Mogi: Oh, you took the night ferry!
Lucas: Yeah the night ferry was very shaky. But then it was like whoa, it’s so green here and the air is so good.
Mogi: How do you like the food here?
Lucas: It’s pretty good. I like the flying fish.
Mogi: Oh, you like the flying fish?
How do you Like Workaway?
Mogi: So you also had some working experience here and elsewhere in Japan.
Mogi: How did you like working?
Lucas: It’s pretty good. It’s not so hard, it’s like five hours a day. So with five hours you have enough time to go around, see the island.
Mogi: So do you recommend this type of holiday to other people?
Mogi: Maybe you can talk to the people of the world. Could you say something nice about Yakushima so that people would want to come here? To the camera…
Attractive Points of Yakushima from Lucas
Lucas: People of the world, please come to Yakushima. It’s great here.
Mogi: That’s it?
Lucas: That’s it yeah. I said a lot to you.
Mogi: Ok. I think that is a very German way of saying, “this is the best place in the world”. So yeah, nice talking to you. I hope you will pick up some more Tankan.
Lucas: Yeah, of course.
Mogi: Thank you very much.
Lucas: Nice talking to you.
Diversity of Yakushima
Yakushima is situated in the path of the Kuroshio Current. This gives it a warm climate that varies little throughout the year.
However, in winter, the high mountains in the middle of the island are covered in snow.
Yakushima hosts a wide variety of flora that can be viewed while sightseeing, including plants from subtropical to subarctic regions.
It is popularly known for its diverse and rare ecosystem.
The next morning, Kenichiro sets out for “Seibu Forest Road”. In this region filled with virgin forest, you can spot Yakushima Deer and Yakushima Monkeys.
Kenichiro is participating in an educational nature walk around the island, joined by students from “Yakushima Ohzora High School”.
Student: It’s John-san!
Mogi: Oh John, hi !
John Daugherty, who Teaches Holistic Education
While walking, they are joined by John Daugherty, who teaches holistic education at Yakushima Ohzora High School. John and Kenichiro are old friends. They met when Kenichiro was asked to help with a project to create the school song. Now they have come to share an interest in the future of education.
Mogi: How many times have you visited this island?
John: Seven or eight or so. Atleast.
Mogi: That’s quite a lot. Maybe this is a tricky question but, do you see any creative way of combining English education with nature education?
John: I think the core goal of any language is just communication. I think we can probably use that idea, the communication. Not just to communicate with each other, but also communicating with nature. A big part of that is listening. If we can take the idea of listening to each other into listening to nature and back and forth, then maybe we could combine not just English, but language.
Locals on Yakushima
Mogi: How would you describe the people on the island?
John: It’s a really interesting mixture of farmers and people living off the land. Then there’s a community of artisans, like some really amazing artists and other creative people here. This place is amazing artistically. So there’s a really interesting juxtaposition of this down to earth farming community along with this really fashionable art community. But everyone has always been very friendly, regardless of who they are.
Mogi: So you’re sure that you’ll be coming back to this island?
John: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Mogi: So there’s the camera.
Attractive Points of Yakushima from John
John: Yakushima is definitely a hidden treasure. If you’ve been to Osaka and Kyoto, and you’ve seen all of those things that’s great, but if you really want to see amazing nature and real Japanese people who are super friendly, you absolutely have to visit Yakushima. I highly recommend it.
Mogi: Thank you for the interesting position.
John: Thank you.
Something Uniquely Beautiful about Yakushima
Drawn to the ancient forest on Yakushima, many travelers visit the World Heritage Site throughout the year.
Like Jennifer, there are people who have come to live on the island as nature guides.
Lukas came from Germany through the Workaway Program. Spending time with local people, he is enjoying a new style of travel.
John calls Yakushima a “hidden treasure.” Through the educational program, he is trying to promote the island’s abundant nature to students.
Each person finds something uniquely beautiful about Yakushima. What kind of “treasure” will you find on this island?
See you in Yakushima!