The secluded island of Yakushima is a mysterious dark horse replete with ancient cedar forests and an awesome destination for forest bathing - Shinrin-Yoku (Japanese Term for " Forest Bathing"). A Unesco World Heritage destination, this magical forest scape is sacred for healing. Having small villages connected by a single main road, it offers a plethora of adventures as well.
What To Know About Yakushima Island
A subtropical island off the southern coast of Kyushu and a part of Kagoshima Prefecture, this place beholds Japan's oldest living trees. Hailing from the Edo period, this place is known for Yakusugi (Japanese term for "Cedar Trees"). A cedar discovered in 1996 called " Jomon Sugi" is assumed to be the largest and the oldest cedar in the world. Its estimated age ranges from 2170 to 7200 years old.
Away from the hustle and bustle of cities, this place is a retreat with sacred forests and mountains. Miyanoura-dake, one of Japan's famous mountains nearby, provides a good hiking trail that is also filled with snow nearby. There are six mountain peaks and the highest mountain lies in Kyushu, Miyanoura-dake which is around 1935 meters. Thus, the island is also known as "The Alps Of The Ocean".
The dense foliage, extremely wet climate, colossal waterfalls intersecting in between, and also the beaches around with endangered species make it an otherworldly destination. The bedrock of this island is particularly granite and the prime differences in temperature and climate of this land are the largest on the earth. Thus, the flora can be viewed from both subtropical and cold temperate zones. Animals such as Yaku monkey and deer are sole of this island as well as coral reefs, alpine plants can be traced here. Having rainfall throughout the year, this rich tropical heaven attracts a lot of visitors from across the world.
History of Yakushima Island
Dating back to 17,000 years, Yakushima's mention has been in the Chinese Sui Dynasty of the 6th century. Back then, the most influential priests of Japan visited Yakushima and the most prominent priest was Ganjin. He discovered that the island has been abundant in natural medicines and later, the island was acknowledged for precious shells called Yakugai. Fishing and agricultural produce have always been a huge part of Yakushima island.
What can you do on Yakushima Island?
Visit Forest Of Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine
Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine is one of Yakushima's most beautiful nature parks. This park is home to ancient cedar trees, including Nidaio Sugi, Kuguri Sugi, and Yayoi Sugi. Also, this ravine is a great spot for hiking. These hiking trails date back to the Edo period and have been an inspiration for the anime film, Princess Mononoke.
Visit the Land of Giant Turtles
The giant turtles over here swim up to the iconic Nagata-inaka-Hama Beach on the Yakushima island. Generally, they can be spotted from June as they come to shore to lay eggs till August until the eggs hatch. To visit this turtle land, you need to sign up for an official tour and can't walk in directly.
Visit Hirauchi Kaichu Onsen
This place is a natural hot spring along a rocky shore even though Yakushima is not a volcanic island. A short 10 min drive from Shiki no Yado is Hirauchi Kaichu Onsen. Although, this is only accessible at low tide for a few hours in the morning and evening. The other hot spring is Yudomari Onsen in the neighborhood of Yudomari.
Visit Umigame-kan museum
An NGO known for conservation efforts and educational information about turtles. This museum is dedicated to the ecology of turtles on Inakahama beach. Also from summer to autumn, the museum conducts a short-term program to raise fresh turtles.
Visit the Yakusugi Museum
An in-depth display of Yakusugi trees and the operation of the logging industry on Yakushima island for years, this museum also reflects the history and cultural importance of this place. A Yakusagi tree dating from 1660 is still retained in this museum.
Visit the Famous Jomon-sugi Tree
As Yakushima island is popular for Yakusugi trees, the most famous and oldest tree is the Jomon-sugi tree. Its age is deemed to be between 3000 to 7000 years old and this impressive sight can be accessed through a hike from Arakawa-tozanguchi and further extends with eight to ten hours to reach the spot.
Visit the Beaches of Yakushima Island
As a lush island, it is bound to have some gorgeous beaches. Nagata Inakahama is prominent for its turtles. Isso beach has crystal clear waters making it perfect for snorkeling and swimming. Haruka Hama, a half natural pool is located 2km south of Anbo town and Kurio Hama along with the quaint village of Kurio are a few beaches one should definitely pay a visit to.
Visit the Yakushima Island Waterfalls
Senpiro Waterfalls is the largest on the island and has carved a beautiful gorge. Toroki Waterfalls and Ohko Waterfall, Yakushima's highest waterfall are the island's other two gorgeous waterfalls.
Reaching Yakushima Island & Accommodations Found There
One can hire a car at Miyanoura port or the airports. The nearest airports are Yakushima (KUM) airport, Kagoshima, and Miyazaki.
Also, island taxis are available but they can be a tad bit expensive. There are also few buses which connect. Yakushima Youth Hostel is one of the best options for accommodation having information about activities around, bus timings, bikes fares, etc.