Rainfall is high throughout the year, and with its variety in altitude from the coast to the mountain summits, the the island’s microclimate changes from subtropical to subarctic as the altitude increases. The vegetation reflects this, and it is as if all the natural landscapes and flora of the whole of Japan is condensed into one location. The island is covered with lush green forests, which includes many Yaku cedars which are more than 1,000 years old, giving the place a mysterious atmosphere. There are many other noteworthy attractions such as the Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine with beautiful valleys and primeval forests, the Yaku Cedar Land with magnificent trees, and the Inaka-hama beach where sea turtles spawn (mid-May to late July).
Some of the forest trails such as the Kusugawa trail are quite tranquil and empty. One of the island’s main attractions is the so-called “Jomon-sugi”, a cedar tree believed to be around 7,000 years old, and named after Japan’s prehistoric Jomon period. The path from Shiratani to this famous tree can be very crowded at popular times.
Guided hikes – of varying difficulty – can be arranged around the island, and many other activities such as turtle-watching, cookery and chop-stick making.
THE INSPIRATION FOR “PRINCESS MONONOKE”
The Studio Ghibli animation, Princess Mononoke, was inspired by the thick forests of Yakushima. The famous Ghibli animator Hayao Miyazaki stayed in Anbo and explored the island’s lush forests with his crew before drawing up the storyboard for the film. There are many scenes in the animation which exactly match Yakushima’s distinct scenery.
To recognise this, there is now an area called ‘Mononoke’s forest’ on the Kusugawa trail just up from the Shiratani mountain hut which has become a major draw for tourists.
- 1h 50 min by air from Tokyo Haneda to Kagoshima Airport.
Then onwards either by air from Kagoshima to Yakushima Airport (30-40mins),
or by jetfoil from Kagoshima Port to Yakushima (Miyanoura or Anbo Port) (2h 30 min).
- 1h 10 min by air from Osaka(ITM) to Kagoshima Airport, then onwards as above, either by air Kagoshima to Yakushima, or by jetfoil.