September 10, 12 | Fumiko Magota
Toya lake, located in Toyako, features a quartet of floating islands of various shapes and sizes. Today I'm heading to trek around the biggest of the four, “Nakajima Island.” I signed up for the local Toya Guide Center's "Nakajima Deer and Giant Tree Tour," so let's go explore the island!
▲Nakajima Island, with a circumference of 9.6 km, was created by volcanic activity.
I met up with my guide, Mr. Yuji Ogawa, and we set off for the island on a small motorboat. We got off the boat, passed through the entrance gateway, and had just started down the wood chip covered trail when I spotted the first inhabitants of the island. A herd of Hokkaido deer!
▲In this photo the herd of deer appears calm and docile, but once they begin running they're a completely different animal. The loud sound of their hoofbeats and their graceful figures bounding quickly through the forest is a beautiful sight.
▲A pristine pine forest located near the entrance of the island.
After climbing a gentle slope through a pine forest the scenery took on a much wilder, almost primitive, feel. We soon came across one of the islands more mysterious features, the "air holes." From the mouths of these small holes blows a constant cool breeze. The day we visited was a warm 25 degrees Celsius, and yet, checking the thermometer placed at the entrance of the holes, I was shocked to find that the breeze was only two degrees. It's natural air conditioning!
▲These black holes are the "air holes." On a hot day, deer will come to sleep in front of these holes to cool down.
Later on we encountered a Hokkaido squirrel gnawing on the stump of a tree. (Sadly, I wasn't able to get a picture.) Soon after that the giant trees started to appear. There were many different varieties of trees, but they all had one thing in common, they were all huge! Really, really huge! Nestled deep in the center of the island, the trees were like massive, ancient guardians of the forest, quietly keeping watch through the ages.
It's time to head home. Luckily the way back is mostly downhill.
▲A strange scar on the trunk of a tree. It seems that this was the work of a deer's horns. Also, some beautiful foliage and a single branch of fall colored leaves.
▲New life on a fallen tree. Because the vegetation of this old forest is so lush, new sprouts have a hard time finding the sunlight they so desperately need. One way to find this is by growing on fallen trees.
Near the exit is a large grouping of tall trees, the atmosphere here was downright mysterious. There is very little human traffic on this island, so the air is clean and the forest serene. It's quite a peaceful place to visit.
The leaves on the Japanese Judas trees begin changing in September, so it seems I was there at the perfect time. But don't fret, the Japanese chestnut trees will be dropping their fruit in October, so you can still catch the beautiful fall forest in action!
〈Toya Guide Center〉
Location: 193-8 Toya-machi, Toyako-cho
Price: Nakajima Deer and Giant Tree Tour (Through 10/31) Adults- 5,300 Yen
※ Tour is about two hours and fifteen minutes. Cost includes the motorboat fee, insurance, and sales tax.
(Hokkaido Likers Photo Writer - Fukko)