Our reporter Seiji hopes that first-time visitors to Yakushima’s Shiratani Unsuikyo will avoid some of the same pitfalls that he ran into.

For our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa, Princess Mononoke was the very first Studio Ghibli film directed by Hayao Miyazaki that he went to see in the movie theater. He was so enraptured by the gorgeous visuals in the mystical, Japanese-influenced world of the film that he subsequently watched a recording that he made from a TV airing of the film hundreds of times. Last year, he also finally got to visit the real-world location in southern Kagoshima Prefecture that inspired the film’s setting for the first time in person.

That particular locale is Shiratani Unsuikyo (“kyo” meaning “gorge”) on Yakushima Island. Perhaps due to the release of the latest Ghibli film, The Boy and the Heron, Seiji recently found himself reflecting back on that experience almost one year later. There were certain things that he wished an inexperienced traveler like himself would have known at the time. While a bit cringeworthy for himself, he’s compiled this haphazard series of 42 thoughts and lessons learned that first-time visitors to Princess Mononoke’s Holy Land should take note of. He’ll be quite happy if even one person can take away something from the following internal monologue he had during his trip.

▼ Seiji, the self-professed “amateur traveler”

Seiji’s 42 Thoughts and Lessons Learned from visiting Yakushima

1. When you look into coming to Yakushima via Okinawa, the traveling expenses are gonna be way higher than you think.
2. Google, is there seriously no cheaper way to get there?!
3. You’ll eventually settle on using Toppy [the name of a high-speed hydrofoil service].
4. The choice comes down to saving either money or time, but not both.
5. “If only I can make it to Yakushima, things will be fine…!”

6. …or so you’ll think, but things won’t be fine.
7. It’s going to be incredibly hard to find any buses.
8. On top of that, it’s going to be incredibly hard to find any taxis.
9. All of the rental cars will be booked.
10. Even so, it’s too far to walk to town from the arrival ferry.

11. In fact, if you get careless, you’ll be stuck at the harbor for a night.
12. You’ll find yourself vowing to reserve a rental car ahead of time the next time you visit.
13. That tip is even written in a ton of travel blogs that you read–Seiji, you idiot!
14. If you have little patience for such things, you’ll almost be ready to snap.
15. The next morning you’ll rent a car first thing.

16. And be deeply moved by the convenience of cars.
17. That feeling of almightiness could be trouble, though.
18. First things first, you’ll want to drive a loop around the island.
19. You’ll meet monkeys.
20. And be reminded of the scene in the movie when the Apes throw tree branches.

21. You’ll also meet deer.
22. And will think of Yakul.
23. The next day you’ll head to Mt. Oita, where Shiratani Unsuikyo is located.
24. When it’s too late, you’ll realize that the A-Coop market waaay before the trailhead was your last chance to stock up on anything you need.
25. The start of the trail isn’t fancy with shops or anything.

26. While online blogs say that it’s an easy hike up the mountain for beginners, that’s a LIE.
27. But you’ll get some energy back by being surrounded in the Princess Mononoke-like atmosphere.
29. Tree limbs come out of nowhere.
30. Everything is covered in moss!

31. You’ll definitely appreciate moss more since you’re going to a moss-covered forest.
32. On the other hand, by the time you enter the forest you’ll be so used to it that it won’t really matter anymore.
33. The view from Moro’s cavern in the movie and the same view from the real-world Taikoiwa boulder are beyond scary.
34. The wind is really strong since the rock juts out into the open.
35. Ashitaka did really well to stand up there, didn’t he?

36. In fact, you’d definitely fall off if Moro snarled “Silence, boy!” at you.
37. However, you can also feel life in that fear.
38. While the scenery is the same, there are some things that you can’t feel through just anime.
39. Among them is the shock at how Ashitaka can walk so recklessly in such a place.
40. “Live!” [also a famous tagline from the Japanese promotions of the film]

41. There are many kinds of humans, you’ll realize.
42. You’ll be so glad that you came.

Despite all of the challenges in getting to to the top of the ravine, it will indeed be so worth it in the end. Hopefully his next trip to the upcoming Princess-Mononoke-themed area at the Ghibli Park outside of Nagoya will be a LOT easier to get to on his end.

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