Ikushima Island is one of the wettest areas in Japan. The oldest cedar forest in Japan is located in the 107 km² protected area. Many of the huge trees are more than 1000 years old. The forest contains more than 1900 species of plants, in addition to the Japanese cedar, which is also called sickle fir, these include the Japanese fir and the southern Japanese hemlock.
Ikushima Cedar Forest: Facts
|Official title:||Cedar forest of Ikushima|
|Natural monument:||Parts of the Kirishima-Yaku National Park (since 1964) and the Yakushima Forest Reserve (since 1991) and the Yakushima Nature Reserve (since 1975); Area of the UNESCO World Heritage Site 107.47 km²; Rainfall up to 10 000 mm / year on average, Miyanoura (1935 m) as the highest elevation|
|Country:||Japan, South Kyushu|
|Location:||in the interior of the island of Yaku (Yakushima), in the north of the Nansei archipelago, south of Kagoshima|
|Meaning:||Region between the holo-arctic and palaeotropic plant kingdom with 200 plant species that have their southernmost distribution here|
|Flora and fauna:||1900+ plant species and subspecies such as Japanese Fir, Southern Japanese Hemlock, and Millennial Crescent Fir; 16 mammal species such as the macaque subspecies Macaca fuscata yakui and a subspecies of the sika deer as well as the forest and field mouse species Apodemus speciosus dorsalis; 150 bird species such as the field pigeon species Columba janthina janthina and the robin species Erithacus komadori komadori; also 15 reptile, 8 amphibian and 1900 insect species|
A pearl that is beyond human reach
In 1543 three Portuguese drove to the coast of the Japanese island of Tanegashima. It was the first Europeans to set foot on Japanese soil. They carried arquebuses and it was the first time that the Japanese saw such firearms. Because the island resembles these early firearms in outline, the Japanese named the arquebus after it “Tanegashima”.
Southwest of Tanegashima, Yakushima, an island as circular as a cannon ball, rises steeply from the sea and with one of its peaks reaches a height of 1935 meters. The Japanese call them “Alps floating on the sea”.
These two islands belong to the Kirishima-Yaku National Park, in which the volcano Takachihonomine rises, over which a deity – Ninigi, grandson of the sun goddess and ancestor of the Japanese imperial family – descended for the first time, as well as the active volcano Sakurajima in the Bay of Kagoshima, from which ash rains incessantly over the city of Kagoshima. According to thesciencetutor, the Japanese compare this bay with a hand and two pearls: one pearl, Sakurajima, is being held, the other pearl, Yakushima, has slipped from one’s fingers.
A crescent fir growing on Yakushima with a trunk circumference of more than 16 meters is the oldest in the country: Serious estimates vary between 7200 and “only” 2100 years. It would take ten adults to include them. According to the Japanese imagination, such ancient trees sprout from the chopsticks that the gods put into the ground after the meal was finished. Obviously, the Heavenly Ones have frequented this island for picnics…
The islanders gave their old trees names. The oldest crescent fir is called “Jomon”; translated: “string pattern”. Jomon is the earliest Japanese cultural stage (since 8000 BC). It remains to be seen whether this is alluding to the age of the tree or to the age-gray bark structure.
People rarely find their way inside on the few trails. This can only be fine with the animal and plant world. The peaks are almost constantly shrouded in clouds. “35 days a month,” as the saying goes, “it rains”. With an annual rainfall of up to 10,000 millimeters, Yakushima is one of the top places in the world. The uninterrupted rain feeds torrents that foam their way through deeply cut granite gorges. In the hot lowlands, veils of mist seem to solidify in lichens and mosses.
The continuous vertical succession of evergreen, large-leaved plants, flora of the subtropical mountain world as well as the temperate mountain zone, and finally small-growing plants of the high mountains is considered unique in East Asia. The most succinct description of the island is: “20,000 people, 20,000 monkeys, 20,000 deer”. It may have been like that when the residents lived well from logging. Today they have to look for other sources of income. Tourism would be obvious. But both topography and current regulations hardly allow the infrastructure to be expanded. So it is hardly surprising that the population is constantly decreasing. There are also only 3,000 monkeys and deer each. These are subspecies of the Japanese macaque, called “Macaca fuscata yakui”, and of the sika deer, Cervus nippon yakushimae.
In Japan people tend to reduce things to their essence and therefore speak of a »compact culture«. And in this sense, Yakushima is very Japanese, as flora and fauna of different climatic conditions occur in a sensually deafening abundance in a very small space.