Yakushima is a beautiful island which belongs to Kagoshima prefecture. About 90% of the island is covered by mountainous areas and forests, and visitors can have a memorable experience in the abundant nature. Some parts of the island are designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and appear in some scenes in the famous Ghibli animation film “Princess Mononoke”.
Several hiking trails are made for visitors so they can go to famous sightseeing and photogenic spots. In this article, we will introduce the three best Yakushima hiking trails for the first-timers!
1. Yakusugi Land Course
Yakusugi Land Course is the easiest hiking trail, also suitable for beginners and children. It consists of four courses with different length and sightseeing spots. The shortest one takes only 30 minutes with satisfying experiences in beautiful nature. There are several pathways and bridges which offers a safe hiking experience for visitors.
“Sennen Sugi” is a huge cedar tree which can be found along the trail. It is relatively young, but you can easily feel the strength and vitality from it. The scenic tree creates a sacred atmosphere in harmony with the peaceful surroundings.
“Kuguri Sugi” is another sightseeing spot on Yakusugi Land Course. It was once two different trees, but one of them leaned to the other and merged into one tree. It currently has two trunks and visitors can walk through it!
There are other famous trees such as “Tenchu Sugi” which is claimed as one of the tallest cedar trees in Yakushima. You can choose a preferable course from 30, 50, 80, and 150-minute-long depending on the length. Although the trails are easy to explore and relatively flat, make sure to wear suitable shoes such as comfortable sneakers!
2. Shiratani Unsui Gorge Course
Shiratani Unsui Gorge Course is recommendable for those who have some hiking experience or confident in physical strength. It has three different courses, and the length of each trail varies from three hours up to over six hours. It is said that a famous Ghibli animation “Princess Mononoke” is set there, and visitors are impressed by the sacred atmosphere of the mysterious forest.
The forest is entirely covered with green moss which is one of the representative plants for Japanese traditional gardens. The peaceful scenery fascinates visitors with a crystal-clear river running through “Shiratani Usui Gorge”. Some unique leaves with human-like faces on it, can be found on the trail. They are made and placed by professional local guides to entertain tourists. Don’t you think they look like the adorable Kodama in the movie of Princess Mononoke?
“Taiko Iwa” is a giant rock which offers a stunning view of the forest. Visitors can climb up on the rock to enjoy the entire view of the island! It is a perfect place to take a short break and relax, you can enjoy all year round with different view created by seasonal plants.
Thanks to the well-preserved environment, Yakushima is a home to various kinds of animals creating an ideal eco-system. You will get a chance to run into wildlife on your way exploring the deep forest such as deer and monkeys. Please keep an appropriate distance and avoid touching them though!
3. Jomon Sugi Round Trip
Jomon Sugi Round Trip is the hardest and most difficult hiking trail in Yaushima. It takes about 9 hours for a round trip, and you need to walk over 22 kilo meters which includes steep trails and mountainous areas. As the course has a difference in elevation of 700 meters, it is for advanced people with enough hiking experiences. Better hiking gear and equipment is required to support a safe hiking as well.
“Jomon Sugi” is one of the highlights among the all tourist attractions in Yakushima and you may have seen pictures of it in travel books before. It is estimated to be over 2,000 to 7,000 years old, and known as one of the oldest and largest trees in Japan! It has been visited by a number of tourists as an iconic attraction every year. The extraordinary size and powerful appearance will give you an unforgettable moment! It is undoubtedly included in a part of UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“Wilson Stump” is another symbolic spot along the trail. It is a remaining of a huge cedar tree which was cut and used to build Hojo-ji Temple in Kyoto by Toyotomi Hideyoshi who unified the whole country in the 16th century. Visitors are allowed to enter inside the stump to observe a unique shape of a natural whole which looks like a heart!
For a safe and enjoyable hike, we highly recommend you to join a guided tour.
English guided tours are available for each hiking course.
Yakusugi Land Course; Yakusugi Cedar Forest Walking Tour on Yakushima Island
Shiratani Unsui Gorge Course; Shiratani-Unsuikyo Trekking Tour
Jomon Sugi Round Trip; Full Day Jomon Sugi Trekking Tour in Yakushima island
Don’t forget to check out our private tour!
If you need some help to organize your trip to Japan, you should definitely check out our private tour including English guide. We’re glad to help you make your trip to Japan a safe, comfortable, and unforgettable memory!
Kagoshima 1–Day Highlight Private Walking Tour (8 Hours)
Join our private walking tour in Kagoshima before you go to Yakushima!
[Online] Ghibli Spots in Japan Virtual Tour
Get to know about some of the Ghibli movies locations at home including Yakushima!
Where to stay in Yakushima
Sankara Hotel & Spa Yakushima – Luxurious hotel with a spa, exceptional hospitality and delicious French dishes served at the restaurant.
Guest House Views – Lovely private cottage built with eco friendly materials, the owners who run this guest house moved to Yakushima from Tokyo in 2013.
Wa no Cottage Sen-no-ie -Japanese style cottage with very unique traditional Goemon-buro bathtub which looks like a big cauldron heated from the bottom.
Despite of its’ inconvenient location, Yakushima is definitely worth a visit to experience the rich and beautiful nature. It always welcomes visitors with the calm atmosphere and unchanged nature. It will help you get a refreshing break and immerse yourself into a sacred environment while building physical health!
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