Japan: Yakushima Island

Oaks and Soaks
  |  Gorp.com

The Skinny
Once you've gawked at the exquisite temples of Kyoto and marveled at Fuji's conical beauty, why not step off the tourist trail and head south to Yakushima, home to Japan's oldest tree and an indigenous population of Yakusugi cedars? Located 80 miles south of Kagoshima, mainland Japan's most southerly city, Yakushima can be reached by ferry, jetfoil, or air. Listed as a heritage site for its rich array of flora and warm-temperate ancient forest, the island boasts some excellent hiking, which will lead you from sub-tropical forest to sub-alpine mountaintop. The island's highest peak, Mt. Miyanoura, stands at 6,365 feet and demands three to four days to hike.

Visitors flock to the island for its trees, in particular the gnarled, ancient roots of Jomon-sugi and Wilson's Stump. The most accessible area for tree viewing is Yakusugilando (literally, "Cedar Land")—don't worry, this is an all-natural Magic Kingdom. Another popular hike is the cross-island route from Nagata in the north to Anbo in the south, taking in Yakusugilando en route. Public buses circumnavigate the island and allow for trips to some of the island's other attractions, such as the pristine Okawatake waterfall and Onoaida Onsen.

The Short
When to Go: October to April (typhoon season is from May to September).
Other activities: Soak in an onsen—Japanese hot tub—after a long day's hike. You'll not want to get out.
Farther afield: Keep going south to Okinawa for some excellent biking or diving.
Best not to:

  • Forget your rain gear—annual precipitation is more than double that of the mainland.

Published: 22 Aug 2002 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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