At 900 meters above sea level, we stop for lunch. Steve hands us each a vintage aluminum bento box from the 1950s, filled with rice balls and other sides. By now, I’ve worked up an appetite. However, in my haste to eat, I clumsily drop a sausage into the dirt on the ground at our feet. Steve promptly offers me some water. I look at him quizzically.
“If that were me,” he says, eyeing the sausage, “I would just rinse it off with water and eat it.”
I hesitate. Steve does not. No sooner said than done, he picks up the sausage, rinses it off, and pops it into his mouth. I am impressed.
Steve explains that we shouldn’t leave anything behind in the forest, not even organic waste, and especially not food. Yakushima’s endemic wild populations of yakuzaru monkeys and yakushika deer both outnumber the island’s 12,000 human inhabitants. If these animals were to get used to eating the same food as we do, not only would our currently healthy relationship with them in the forest deteriorate, but they could end up venturing into local farmlands, with devastating results.