Although living on the Japan Islands with over 300 inhabited islands, I had only visited a few of them. After visiting Hachijojima Island in Tokyo, I was motivated to visit more rich, natural islands. The pleasure of island hopping is that you can pick and choose the best activities related to both water and mountains. Yakushima Island’s best charm is hiking in order to see the old Yakushima Cedar and here are the best day hikes to take.
Located 135 km away from Kagoshima Prefecture, Yakushima Island is a subtropical island with nearly 2,000 meter high mountains and it offers a wide range of plants. About 90% of the area of 500 km2 is covered by cedar forest and other vegetation. Around the year, it rains almost on a daily basis and this promotes the growth of beautiful green moss. We saw Yakushima monkeys and Yakushima deer which are endemic species during our hikes, but the moss was the most impressive nature on Yakushima Island.
We examined the tree-ring of Yakushima Cedar which was said to be more than 1,600 years old at at Yakusugi (Yakushima Cedar) Museum near Anbou Port. The center of the log was about 37cm in diameter with over 500 rings, which means Yakushima Cedar grows very slowly and the timber becomes dense and strong. The slow growth is one of the reasons cedar has such a long life.
A 30-minute drive from Anbou Port leads you to the Yakusugi Land, the gateway to adventurous day hikes. The most popular day hike is just 2-3 hours return and offers incredible views of an extensive cedar forest. Though not a long hiking route, the Yakusugi Land offers some great scenery along the hiking routes.
Shiratani Unsuikyo trails are more enjoyable, have more spectacular scenery and are all-round more epic. There are a number of hiking trails on offer at Shiratani Unsuikyo depending on your fitness level. We had a beginner hiker in my family, so we went to the Moss Forest and got back on the same track. It took about 2 hours in total without much strenuous hiking. During the hiking, we spent time by the clear water of the Shirotae Fall. One of the highlights is the Nanahon-sugi cedar (18 meters) whose top had fallen down with 7 branches growing from the broken part. It’s huge, so I couldn’t see the top of the tree. It’s fascinating to feel the scale of the Yakushima Cedar. A 200-meter walk from the Nanahon-sugi cedar leads you to the Moss Forest. If it rains, you might be a little bit disappointed to walk, however, you will never regret seeing the Moss Forest, even in the rain. The moss turns vividly green and it becomes a huge balloon shape. A boardwalk is offered leading to the Satsuki suspension bridge, and well maintained hiking trails run along the ravine after the bridge. Be sure to come prepared with suitable walking shoes and plenty of water, rain gear and windbreakers.
If you want to see one of the highlights of Yakushima, the Senbiro Falls is the best place to go. This track offers reasonable views over the island.
How to get there & around
Take a direct flight from Osaka, Fukuoka or Kagoshima to Yakushima or board high speed jetfoil boats from Kagoshima Port taking 2-3 hours depending on stops. If you’re heading elsewhere on Yakushima Island or planning day trips, I highly recommend hiring a car for your time. It’s a three-hour drive round the island.