Yakushima Time

Shinichiro Chuman / Guide & Member of the Yakushima Lifesavers Club

The ocean along the north coast of Yakushima is popular among families and travelers who enjoy diving in the summer. On the floor of the deep blue sea, there is an extensively beautiful world with coral and fishes dancing wildly between the rocks.

In the village of Shitoko the massive banyan trees grow right down to the water’s edge, and the Kuchierabu island is visible across the sea. Shinichiro Chuman was born and raised in the village of Shitoko, but he left Yakushima to attend a high school on the mainland. Now Mr. Chuman is back on Yakushima where he works as a guide, taking clients into the ocean and the mountains.

Mr. Chuman says “I’m now so much more appreciative of how wonderful Yakushima is, appreciative of things I hadn’t noticed when I was living here as a child.” He also takes part in lifeguard activities. Mr. Chuman belongs to the “Yakushima Lifesavers Club” which was founded to support the annual Yakushima Open Water Swimming (OWS) event, a long-distance race with more than 300 swimmers. Now, the organization – comprising about 10 people – primarily protects swimmers on the island’s beaches.

OWS is an official Olympic event and Issou beach, on the north side of Yakushima, will be used as a competition venue for the Japanese National Athletic Meet which be held in Kagoshima in 2020.

In fact, this is the second time Yakushima has been chosen as a competition venue. In 1972, the last time Kagoshima was the site of the Japanese National Athletic Meet, the mountains of Yakushima were chosen as a venue for the hiking competition. 44 years have passed and the islanders are looking forward to the competition’s return.

Mr. Chuman says “I want to share Yakushima’s many wonders, expanding tourism into the ocean and coastal towns rather than depend entirely on mountain-based sites such as the ancient Jomon cedar and the Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine.

Yakushima is colorful and has more to offer than just green. Blue Yakushima is also attractive.

(By Urara Ogata)

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