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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Shiratani Unsuikyo Forest

There are two main hiking options: a 3 to 4-hour route through an moss carpeted forest with a half-dozen or so yakusugi trees, and a 30-minute there-and-back hike to the magnificent 3000-year-old cedar called Yayoi sugi. The longer route begins with a series of wooden steps and walkways past waterfalls.Here and there you may come across Yakushima monkeys (“yakusaru”) and Yakushima deer (“yakushika”). After about two hours of walking with stops to take in the natural sights of the forest, the trail divides, with an option to turn right to Shiratani hut and Mononoke-hime no Mori, a part of the forest named after Hayao Miyazaki’s anime movie Princess Mononoke.

Yakushima Environmental and Cultural Village Center

Visit the Yakushima Environmental and Cultural Village Center which provides an introduction to the island’s varied ecology and history. The center features exhibits about the island’s natural environment as well as a theater which screens a large format film that takes you on a ride across the island. Please note that commentary is in Japanese.

Yakusugi Land

Visit Yakusugi Land, a nature park populated by a number of yakusugi, the Japanese term for Yakushima cedar trees over 1,000 years old. There are a variety of hiking options based on time including 30, 50, 80 and 150-minute round trip trails.


There are several waterfalls on the island, including Ooko-no-taki which is rated as one of Japan’s best. It is on the remoter southwest coast of the island, a 60- and 90-minute drive from Anbo and Miyanoura respectively. The 90-meter falls are easily accessible, being a short walk away from the main highway on a paved road, and can be approach the base for a good view.

Yakusugi Museum

There are photos, movies and hands-on exhibits showing the island’s natural wonders and the history of the logging industry. You can also hug a section of a 1660-year-old yakusugi. A short walk away is the World Heritage Conservation Center.

Yakushima Fruit Garden

Walk among the hundreds of tropical fruit trees and plants, with seasonal fruit like papaya, mango, guava and starfruit which may be available to eat or drink.

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