Okinawa, Japan 9: The Jungles of Yonaha-Dake
Written & Directed by James Knott
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Aunt Tsuneko and Uncle Haru hike with James to the top of Okinawa's highest point - Yonaha-Dake. It's a fairly intense trail made scarier because of the fear of habu snakes along the path. They see several cool specimens of wild-life - Ryukyu robins, lizards and frogs.
Okinawa is Japan's southernmost prefecture. Over 1.25 million people are scattered across nearly 150 islands.
Okinawa has a unique culture that goes back several hundred years to when it was an independent country known as the Ryukyu Kingdom. This kingdom was known to trade frequently with China and as a result adopted much more from the Chinese than the rest of Japan.
The main island, Okinawa-honto, is surrounded by vivid, bright blue ocean and coral reefs. It is densely populated and urbanized in the south, while the the mountainous northern part of the island consists of just a few fishing villages and dense forests.
The beautiful, sub-tropical setting combined with historical roots that are more intertwined with China than Japan, have created a wonderful culture that is distinctly Okinawan.
Okinawa, Japan 9: Yonaha-dake
High above the ocean, in the hills and jungles of the yambaru mountain
region, is okinawa honto¹s highest point yonaha-dake.
uncle Haru and aunt Tsuneko decide to escort me on my quest to reach the
pinnacle of the island. They have never been there and none of us is really
sure what we will find.
The path starts out wide and easy. occasionally there are a few rocks and
ruts underfoot but nothing too intense.
the jungle off of the path is thick and It¹s a good time to check out some
of the lush foliage along the route.
There is a wide variety of ferns
-tree ferns with unusual spots running down their scaly trunks,
huge sections of Thick bamboo blocking our visibility,
and these little guys growing on the rocks.
Nothing too intimidating yet, but The path changes dramatically with this
short rocky climb.
³This is the path to the top. Pretty small. Totemo Chisai²
I¹m driven to reach the top, but after having a 5 foot snake almost fall on
my head earlier this week, I¹m feeling a little cautious.
³Walking up this trail to the top of yonaha-dake. and, the trail is pretty
small and I¹ve got to say that I¹m a little freaked out right now. But, I
my anxiety is eased by the fact that my fearless guide in her flimsy
flip-flops will keep me safe.
I walk through a few spider webs and pray I don¹t run into one of the giant
wood spiders I¹ve seen around the island.
³So, waving my little stick here to get all the spider webs cuz I don¹t
think anybody¹s been up here today. We¹re in a wildlife protection area i
think so hopefully we¹ll see some wildlife²
we stumble on several ryukyu robins, playing along the path.
The yambaru mountain region spans the central part of northern okinawa and
is home to many of japan¹s natural treasures.
haru-san is great at finding the animals as he hikes along in the forest, he
found at least half a dozen lizards clinging to trees along the trail.
We soldier on along the clastrophobic path wondering if we are even going
the right way.
I give haru and tsuneko several opportunities to turn arounD, but they
insist on continuing through the dense jungle.
It seems like we¹ve been hiking way to long in this humid forest. It
averages more than 118 inches of rain each year in this region. My shirt is
so sweaty that it might as well be raining now.
finally, we find a stone marking the top of yonaha-dake.
³We managed to hike to the top of yanaha-dake and this is what we have to
show for it this little pole. But I gotta tell you the fun was in the
The bamboo is so thick that we have to climb a tree to see the view.
haru climbs down and challenges me to climb the tree.
I can¹t pass up this opportunity. I can see for miles swaying in the
treetops 1600 feet above the ocean. very few okinawans see this view due to
the tough climb, the lack of trail markers and their fear of poisonous habu
We take a short rest to appreciate our achievement, eat rice and drink some
water before our long walk back.
³Look at me I¹m the tallest man in okinawa woo hoo hoo hoo hoo²
³we climbed to the top of mt yonaha-dake and now we are returning down the
path. WhOA!!! daijyobu. Daijyobu. my camera tripod got stuck on an
overhanging branch and but we are good.²
We survive the hike back to the car. Proud that we have gone somewhere that
few people get to go okinawa¹s highest peak yonaha-dake.
we get back to civilization in future episodes.
We still have to see ocean expo park, okinawan bull-fighting, and dozens of
sites in the more populated southern end of okinawa.
Check out my new web site straycompass.com to see great travel videos from
all around the globe.
You can also view this video on agileh.com.
don¹t forget to subscribe to my videos on other video sharing sites. I¹m
james knott. Thanks for watching.