Enjoy the unspoiled richness of nature on a mysterious island where time stands still and giant prehistoric cedar trees that are thousands of years old reign supreme.

Yakushima is a round-shaped island situated approximately 60km south from the southern end of Osumi Peninsula in the southern part of Kagoshima prefecture. One fifth of the island is registered as a Natural Heritage Site. There are as many as six mountain peaks over 1,800 km high including Miyanoura-dake (1,935m above sea level), the highest mountain in Kyushu, and this is what gives the island its other name - the 'Alps on the ocean'.

Mt Miyanoura, Yakushima Island ©Yasufumi Nishi

The bedrock of the island is granite, and it is said that a ridge thrown up by movement in the earth's crust is what formed the island. The influence of the climate and air masses is very complex, and the main feature of this area is that temperature and seasonal changes are the largest on earth. It is possible to see plants from both subtropical zones and cold temperate zones on the island.

It rains so much in this area that it is said that it 'rains 35 days of the month', and we can see many rare animals and plants due to the abundance of water and the changes in temperature at different altitudes. The range of flora is very wide, from coral reefs to alpine plants, and among the animals, there are those that display traits unique to Yakushima such as the Yaku monkey and Yaku deer.

Mt. Tachu, Yakushima Island ©Yasufumi Nishi

The term 'Yaku sugi (Japanese cedar)', the symbol of Yakushima, is used only for cedar trees over 1,000 years old. Yaku sugi growing in the area covered by clouds and mist sometimes extend roots even from the leaves and stalks and form themselves into strange shapes. A cedar discovered in 1996 and situated at an altitude of 1350m is assumed to be the largest and the oldest in the world, and is called 'Jomon sugi' (there are various theories as to its age, from 2,170 to 7,200 years old).

Apart from this, there are many other good sightseeing spots such as 'Shiratani Unsuikyo' where you can take a walk in the forest of Yaku sugi; 'Hirauchi Kaichu Onsen' where you can bathe in a spa right next to the sea; 'Ooko-no-taki' as the tallest waterfall with the largest amount of water in Yakushima and selected as one of the best 100 waterfalls of Japan; 'Senpiro-no-taki' where the water falls approx. 66m on to a gigantic granite monolith; 'Yakushima lighthouse' where you can see the deep blue ocean spreading out to the horizon and a beautiful sandy beach 'Sango-no-hama (coral shore)' that is known as a spot where you can collect star-shaped sand. You can also experience canoeing or forest bathing or take a tour of the whole island with a veteran guide.

Access: From Kagoshima City - approx. 2hrs 35mins to either Abou Port or Miyanoura Port by jet foil from the north pier of Kagoshima Honko, or approx. 4 hrs to Miyanoura Port by ferry. Or, approx. 40 mins to Yakushima Airport from Kagoshima Airport.

Further information: JNTO Travel Tips – Yakushima Island (PDF)