There are many great hikes for visitors looking to explore Yakushima Island. After its World Heritage site designation, the island has become incredibly popular, with up to 30,000 visitors in a busy month. Many visitors choose to explore in summer, lining up to hike, so we decided to visit in winter with fewer crowds to explore snowy-topped mountains wearing skiwear.
Arakawa Trail head to the Jomon Cedar
Arakawa Trail leading to the Jomon Cedar is the highlight of Yakushima Island allowing visitors to enjoy ancient specimens of the Japanese cedar. If you visit Yakushima Island and are looking for a day hike to challenge you, Arakawa Trail would be one of the best choices. Undeniably the island’s most iconic hike (22 km) it is an all-day trek that starts early in the morning and finishes some 8-10 hours later. The track leading to the ruins of the Kosugidani Village is about one hour from the starting point of Arakawa Trail. In the 1920’s, about 500 people used to live at the Kosugidani Village to work in the Yakusugi Cedar forest industry and you can take a rest at an old school building from those early days.The trail leading to the Kosugidani Village is almost entirely flat, but it gets more strenuous with dirt footpaths and steep wooden steps on the approach to the Jomon Cedar. The height difference is 700 meters between the starting point (596 meter) and the Jomon Cedar (1,292 meter). A one-night stay at Takatsuka Hut, about 200 meters past the Jomon Cedar, is also one of the options.We knew it took about 10 hours to see the Jomon Cedar, so we departed in the early afternoon and planned to return from the Kosugidani Village, one hour walk away from our starting point. However, literally each person we met asked us whether we were going to the Jomon Cedar with minimum mountain gear and accompanied with small children in the afternoon. Everyone had worried expressions on their faces and I felt a little bit guilty for my late start. Visitors need to start to climb from 5:30 am and arrive at the Jomon Cedar around noon at least and leave before dawn in order to return by sunset.
Miyanoura Dake (1,936 meters) is one of the highest peaks in the Kyushu region of southern Japan. We were eager to challenge Miyanoura Dake, but we couldn’t reach the starting point due to snow. Instead of climbing the mountain, we enjoyed playing with the snow in this area of Kyushu where we would not usually expect much snowfall.
How long to stay
There’s plenty to explore, see and do on Yakushima Island, so be sure to spend at least 3-4 days getting to know the area and walking a reasonable distance each day.
Where to stay
There are a number of options for accommodation on Yakushima Island. After one week staying on the island, I can outline my top picks of where to stay.
The owner of Soyotei Inn relocated an old Japanese-style house, built in 1907, near Nagata Beach and renovated it as a guest house with three guest rooms and time shared baths. The interior decor of the Soyotei was what made it so peaceful and relaxing. The house completely blends into the surrounding colors of nature.The owner told us many old tales as he continually poured his Shochu liquor into our glasses without charge. That was exactly what they were selling to customers though. He told us each islander had their own mountain in the area which they climbed at around 10 years old as a rite of passage and they didn’t climb mountains in other areas often.
A sad water accident had just happened near his site the year before and he emphasized that we shouldn’t force ourselves to play in nature without enough preparation. He explained that we had to have spare time and space in our mind. The increasing number of visitors was positive for the islanders, but tragic accidents were not welcomed by anyone. He and his family looked so sad when they talked about the accident.
We stayed at the Fuyo Lodge from New Year’s Eve to the first day of the New Year. New Year’s Day is the most auspicious day for the Japanese and we usually celebrate with homemade dishes, including special prayers for health, happiness and prosperity. Although we were the only guests at that time, the couple who owned the Fuyo Lodge welcomed us from their heart and offered special New Year’s dishes for us.