Taro Watanabe / President of Yakushima Guide Office “Sangaku Taro”
50 years have passed since the ancient Jomon cedar was found and became famous. The cedar had been there, deep in the forest, for a long time before it was registered as a world natural heritage in 1993 and became a symbol of Yakushima. Nowadays, nearly 60,000 hikers visit the Jomon cedar over the course of a year.
Mr. Watanabe is from Tokyo. He fell in love with nature when he was in college, studying abroad in New Zealand. Wanting to live near nature, he moved to Yakushima 16 years ago. Mr. Watanabe manages a guide company called “Sangaku Taro” (literally Mountain Taro) that offers climbing and hiking tours of Yakushima’s mountains and forests, and kayaking too. Located in the town of Anbou, “Sangaku Taro” also rents camping and mountaineering equipment.
“Let’s create events that expose people to the many wonders of Yakushima and not just shower praise on the Jomon cedar!” With that in mind, in 2017, various 50th Anniversary of the Discovery of the Jomon Cedar Events were held.
One such event was a Bouldering Festival which made use of nature close to home and did not require participants to hike deep into the mountains. This was a perfect fit for an island where nature comes right up to the edge of town. World-class climbers joined in and it was a great success.
Another event was designed for children living on Yakushima. As a matter of fact, many of the children living on the island had never seen the Jomon cedar. Guides, who know these mountains well, worked together in this effort to introduce this symbol of Yakushima to the children who will inherit and create the island’s future. On that day, they were blessed with good weather and under a blue sky they hiked through a snowy landscape. Another purpose of this event was to improve communication among the people who are taking part in the island’s tourism industry.
The 50th Anniversary of the Discovery of the Jomon Cedar Events got people thinking about the future of Yakushima. People working separately in a wide variety of tourism-related trades came together to re-assess what Yakushima has to offer. “Through these events I realized that there are many interesting people here on Yakushima.”
The events gave Mr. Watanabe a new perspective and a newfound appreciation of life on the island. “I want to share its interesting nature, and its interesting people as well. I’m trying to create tourism that is a good fit for Yakushima. In addition to going to see the Jomon cedar, I want tourists to meet the island’s people as well.”