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Yakushima Island

Soaring, spectacular sugi (Japanese cedars) and mountains cloaked in lush primeval forest - it is little wonder how Yakushima Island earned its UNESCO-protected status. Lying 38 miles south of Kyushu, this small, circular island is famous for its great wealth of cedar species, with the older cedars - dubbed yakusugi - dated to several thousands of years. Aside from incredibly scenic ancient rainforest and steep, 6,000-foot-plus slopes, Yakushima is an important site for loggerhead turtles, who lay their eggs on the island's beaches between May and August every year. Visitors to Yakushima come to experience the island's moss-covered forests, and if not to hike its challenging mountain terrain then to simply appreciate the majesty of its yakusugi. The landscapes here are truly enchanting; it was in fact Yakushima that inspired Hayao Miyazaki's iconic animation Princess Mononoke. Turtle viewing is another draw, with several options for seeing these incredible creatures without encroaching on their territory. As with many other Japanese destinations, Yakushima also offers a natural onsen experience, with some springs located by the sea.

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