Yakushima is a lush, green place where 90% of the island is covered forest. It is also known for being registered as a UNESCO world heritage site and is one of the most popular tourist attractions that you must visit once if visit Japan. In recent years, it has been gaining attention from foreign travelers as well. On Yakushima, there are several tourist attractions where people can feel the strength of nature. This time, the article summarizes sightseeing spots, gourmets, and so on that people should be checking on, before starting on the journey to Yakushima.
What kind of place is Yakushima?
Yakushima is popular as a sightseeing spot, but it is located in a place quite far from the mainland Japan. Yakushima is floating on the sea about 60 kilometers south-southwest from the Sata Cape at Osumi Peninsula in Kagoshima Prefecture. Near the island, there are islands such as Tanegashima and Kuchinoerabujima, forming an island county called the Osumi Islands.
Looking back on the history, since Yakushima is far away from the mainland Japan, many international incidents happened in Yakushima and islands nearby. In the Nihon Shoki (the oldest chronicles of Japan) that was compiled in the Kofun period (middle 3rd to 7th centuries), there was a description of some immigrants from Sui Dynasty (China). In addition, they were one of the first ones from foreign countries who permanently reside in Japan. During the Sengoku period (from 1467 to 1590), in the midst of 1544, it was told that fire guns given by Portuguese on the nearby island of Yakushima called Tanegashima. Those guns were used for a fight in Yakushima. It was also the first time in the Japanese history that guns were utilized in a conflict.
In 1966, one of the incidents that greatly change the Yakushima happened. By the locals in Yakushima, Jomon Cedar that presently a symbolic tree of Yakushima, was discovered. Its age is estimated to be over 3,000 years.
Shortly after the discovery of the Jomon Cedar, the forestry industry that supported the economy of Yakushima was sluggish as a result of a decline in demand for lumbers in the mainland. In addition, due to the discovery of the Jomon Cedar, a nature conservation movement has gradually increased in the island. By the mid 1970s, the government has prohibited to cut any trees on the island. As the result of the prohibition, many locals have moved out of the island. As most of Jomon Cedar and the islands were covered with forests, and this massive nature was highly evaluated, it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. As a result, the popularity of Yakushima soared rapidly and became a famous and popular sightseeing spot in Japan.
Why is Yakushima said to be sacred?
Many tourists who visited Yakushima for sightseeing tell others that they “received energy from the large nature,” “are happy that they were able to visit a sacred place.”
Cedars with the age of thousands of years including Jomon Cedar still live in the forest of Yakushima. Locals of Yakushima who have lived with nature from the early age still worship mountains and massive trees as sacred. By looking at things that are not artificial, but natural such as those trees and rivers in Yakushima, some strange power comes up to people. It cannot be described with words but this is something that people would not know unless they actually go there in person and experience it.
Speaking of Yakushima, it is Jomon Cedar
The famous symbol of Yakushima is Jomon Cedar. It is one of the largest cedars that grow naturally. In addition, Jomon Cedar is one of the reasons why Yakushima was registered as a world heritage site. However, in reality, the name “Jomon Cedar” is not a name for that species of cedars, but the name was given especially to this long-lived tree. In other words, other trees of the same kind as Jomon Cedar are called Yaku Cedars.
Jomon Cedar was found in 1966. Mr. Sadaji Iwakawa who was the manager of the tourism office of Yaku city found and introduced this tree which grows very strong and lively. That was the beginning when Jomon Cedar has become known to people. As it was a big rocky tree at that time, it was called by the name “Oiwa cedar,” meaning “big rock cedar.” As the investigation continued with this big rock cedar, they found out that its age is about 4,000 years old. They discovered that the tree was born in around the Jomon period (B.C. 14,000 - B.C. 4000). Also, because the shape of the rolling trunk like a Jomon pottery, it became known as Jomon Cedar and locals there started to respect the grand cedar.
This discovery of Jomon Cedar became one of the events that changed the idea of people living in Yakushima. In order to preserve the nature remaining in Yakushima, including Jomon Cedar which grows naturally after many thousands of years, people decided to completely prohibit the logging of trees naturally growing in Yakushima. Prohibiting the logging was partly because of how the forestry industry in the mainland Japan was becoming sluggish. However, behind there, there was a nature conservation movement, which the people of Yakushima worked on.
As a result of the prohibiting logging, young people in Yakushima started to move into the cities to work, and depopulation in the island progressed. On the other hand, the nature of Yakushima including Jomon Cedar has been protected. Now, the fantastic world that such nature of Yaku Island creates is something that invites the feeling of nostalgia. Even though depopulation has progressed, a lot of people still reside there. However, the overwhelming nature still exists in that island which was highly evaluated as mentioned above, which is the main reasons why it was chosen as the World Heritage in 1993.
As an additional information, in order to go to see Jomon Cedar, it is necessary to climb for about 8 to 10 hours. Also, there are some strict rules laid for the sightseeing of the Jomon Cedar. For example, for the protection, people cannot touch Jomon Cedar directly but, people can only see it from a deck several meters away.
Even though people have to see Jomon Cedar from a little distance, it is certain that the beauty of Jomon Cedar living for thousands of years is undeniable. For sightseeing in the Yakushima, we recommend going to see the Cedar as well.
How to get to Yakushima? What kinds of transportation system should be used?
Yakushima is located in a remote location from major domestic cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. Tourists must be careful on how to arrive at Yakushima and what means of transportation to use. Yakushima is at distance from both Kyushu and Honshu. In order to get Yakushima, it is necessary to go to Kagoshima which is located the closest to the Yakushima. From Kagoshima, there are both air and sea routes to get there.
● Air Route
When travelling from Kagoshima to Yakushima by airplane, it only takes half an hour. It is just a blink of an eye. It is a suitable method for those who want to arrive at Yakushima quickly. Also, since the travel time is short, there is an advantage of not getting very tired compared to any other methods. Furthermore, there are direct flights from Osaka's Itami Airport to Yakushima, so for those who are planning to visit the Kansai area will have a better access to Yakushima.
However, since it is much faster to arrive at the destination, the fare for one way might cost slightly over 10,000 yen.
● Sea Route
High-Speed Ship Route
Sea route can be selected from two types: high-speed ship or ferry. As the name suggests, the high-speed ship is a ferry at a decently fast speed from Kagoshima to Yakushima, the time required is about two hours. The price of one-way fare also fits within 10,000 yen so is affordable compared to air routes. In addition, since there are many ships going across the Kagoshima and Yakushima every day, there is a short waiting time.
However, wearing a seat belt is a rule while on board. Also, as the speed increases, watching the scenery while on board is less enjoyable due to the speed.
● Ferry Route
“I want to enjoy the scenery while travelling.” “I have some spare time.” If you are one of those people taking a ferry is highly recommended. Since there is no obligation to wear seatbelts like a high-speed ship, you can watch the scenery slowly from the deck. It is very exciting to see the everlasting oceans from the ferry. In addition, the price of the one-way ticket is only around 5,000 yen. For people who would rather spend more money on food and souvenirs, going to Yakushima by ferry is a recommended option.
However, because it moves slowly, compared to the high-speed ship, the ferry takes twice as much time, which is 4 hours. In addition, there is only one ferry a day. It would be a serious trouble if you miss a boarding time. Please be aware if you are taking the ferry.
I want to go to Yakushima! Where would I stay?
■Guest House Yakushima
This newly built guest house has opened in 2014. It is one of only a few fully equipped guesthouses in Yakushima. Under the concept of “fine quality clean inn,” bunk beds with curtains are set up in the dormitory, and there are spacious communal rooms and verandas to interact with other customers there. In addition, bathroom and shower room are available 24 hours at any time. It is a great feeling not to worry about what time to take a shower. Not only Japanese guests but often foreign tourists come to visit there as well.
Also, for the customers in the guesthouse, special prices are offered for visiting Shiratani and Taiko rocks. In addition, there is a Jomon Cedar tour exclusive only to the guests here. Since various tours are prepared, it might be a good idea to check out some of the tours if you are planning to stay here.
“Guest House Yakushima”
●992, Mugio, Yakushimacho, Kumage-gun, Kagoshima Prefecture
This well-established inn in Yakushima is called Tsuruya and was founded in 1959. Under the mind of “conveying the charm of Yakushima to as many people as possible,” the dishes that are offered with only those of local produce and they are mainly from Yakushima. It is ideal for those who want to enjoy Yakushima’s cuisine using fresh fish and Jibie（wild game meat）. In addition, you can also enjoy local sake on Yakushima, which is also one of Japan's leading shochu producing region, so if you are a gourmet person do not hesitate to choose here.
There is also a number of exclusive activities and tours only for guests at this inn. Popular tours are of course the one with Jomon Cedar, but a night tour to see the life of sea turtles is likewise popular.
●410-156, Anbo, Yakushimacho, Kumage-gun, Kagoshima Prefecture
Don’t miss it on Yakushima! To do list on Yakushima.
Forest walk is by far the most popular activities on Yakushima. Among the different types of forests, the forest called “Yakusugi Land” in the Arakawa area is reputed as one of the best to watch Yaku Cedars. People can also see some Yaku Cedars there which are known for its unique nicknames. For example, for larger ones, there are nicknames such as Buddha Cedar, Mother Cedar, Oda Cedar. Also for the other ones, there are Twin Cedars, Tunnel cedar and Beard Elder. Also, in the Yakusugi Land, there is a forest inside a Kohanayama mountain. At this place, people can enjoy the quietness of the forest. The forest is a little known but it is a very nice place.
Also for a reminder, trekking to Jomon Cedar, the symbol of Yakushima, is 19 kilometers round trip. For that reason, normal trekking would take around 8 hours, sometimes up to 10 hours. Please be aware of that and challenge it with your own risk.
“General Yakushima Outdoor Activity Center”
●368-21, Miyanoura, Yakushimacho, Kumage-gun, Kagoshima Prefecture
Since the ocean currents join in the sea around Yakushima, the ocean there is abundant in its diversity of sea creatures. It is also known as one of the best spots for snorkeling. Unlike diving that carries massive and expensive equipment, it is also popular for how easily people can experience snorkeling.
Watching the underwater world from the sea while floating on it is sure to excite both adults and children. In addition, sea turtles often come to the sea around Yakushima, so if you are lucky, you may be able to see sea turtles swimming in the sea.
“Yakushima Guide Club”
●739-145, Anbo, Yakushimacho, Kumage-gun, Kagoshima Prefecture
■ River Kayaking
Yakushima has a lot of rain. The soil of the mountain first sucks up all the water. As a large amount of water purifies through the soil, water flows into the river. Therefore, the river is very clean and is perfect for the river activities. Among the several activities, there are kayaking is the most popular one.
The Anbo River is the best kayaking spot on Yakushima. Since the Anbo River flows as if it is sewing between valleys, the scenery and the level of thrills is the best for kayaking. There is also much fish living in the river. Kayakers can enjoy the view of nature from all angles.
“Yakushima Guide Club”
●739-145, Anbo, Yakushimacho, Kumage-gun, Kagoshima Prefecture
Souvenirs from Yakushima
■ Potato Shochu (Alcohol) from Mitake Brewery – Mitake
Since the water is clean on Yakushima, it is known to make tasty Sake. Among all of the sake on Yakushima, the most popular one is Mitake Brewery's potato shochu “Mitake.” It is very popular for the unique characteristics of potato shochu, which is its sweet smell and refreshing aftertaste.
Shochu is popular for its capability to enjoy them with several different ways. For example, shochu is suitable for drinking on the rock or with hot water. The fact that shochu allows more than a couple of ways to drink it, it is very fitting souvenirs for people who like to drink often.
“Mitake Brewery Ltd.”
●2625-19, Anbo, Yakushimacho, Kumage-gun, Kagoshima Prefecture
■ Baba Suisan(Fishery) - Dried Mackerel
This dried mackerel from Baba Suisan uses Yakushima's indigenous product, mackerel. This product from Baba Suisan is made by first boiling mackerels and smoked. It is easier to eat for people who don't like fish because it has already once been cooked. Also, the smell of smoked mackerel triggers appetites. It tastes great as is, but having this dried mackerel with cheese would increase the umami.
As it is ideal for both snacks and side dishes, it is also recommended for souvenirs since it lasts for a long period of time.
●2289-9, Isso, Yakushimacho, Kumage-gun, Kagoshima Prefecture
■Takeda-kan - Yaku Cedar, Octagonal Chopsticks
A pair of chopsticks is essential items on the table of Japanese households. This is a gorgeous souvenir as they are all made with Yaku Cedar. Those chopsticks are carefully made one by one with the hands of craftsmen. It is famous for how they are easy to hold and grip.
Because the pattern of wood grain is different one by one, and it is also the point that you get a premium feeling of “only one chopstick in the world.”
“Takeda-kan Anbo Main store”
●650-18, Anbo, Yakushimacho, Kumage-gun, Kagoshima Prefecture
If you go to Yakushima, have a meal here!
After all, what people want to eat the most here is seafood. This restaurant gains large popularity among locals on the island. All of the fish served in this restaurant is caught in the same day or so. Tempura and sashimi using those fresh fish are exquisite. Also, large sized deep-fried shrimp is very popular among children.
It is a restaurant where you can enjoy the delicious and unique cuisine of Japan such as sashimi and tempura. It may be a good idea to visit there as one of the memories of your journey in Japan.
●305-3, Miyanoura, Yakushimacho, Kumage-gun, Kagoshima Prefecture
●Opening Hours: 11:30-14:00/17:30-22:00
●Closed on Thursdays
■Nami no Hana
Speaking of Yakushima's indigenous food, seafood always comes up, but if you are not good at raw fish, how about pork shabu-shabu? Kagoshima Prefecture is known for having a major production area for Kurobuta (black pigs). Black pigs from Kagoshima Prefecture is popular for growing a pork with a fine umami. The shabu-shabu using this pig is delicious. Even the local guides endorse this restaurant.
“Nami no Hana”
●2351-7, Miyanoura, Yakushimacho, Kumage-gun, Kagoshima Prefecture
●Opening Hours: 11:00-14:00/16:00-21:00
●Closed on Mondays
■ Kagoshima Horumon Yakushima store
Kagoshima Horumon is a popular grilled meat (BBQ) restaurant among foreign tourists. Not only classic menus such as beef or pork barbeque, this restaurant cooks venison as well. Also, this restaurant grills the meat with Japanese unique cooking utensils called “Shichirin.” It would be an unforgettable experience here with cuisines and cooking utensils traditional in Japan.
“Kagoshima Horumon Yakushima store”
●378, Miyanoura, Yakushimacho, Kumage-gun, Kagoshima Prefecture
●Opening Hours: 11:00-14:00/17:00-22:00
●Open all year
Summary of Yakushima
Yakushima is a sightseeing spot where its popularity boosted as it was selected as a world heritage site. Overwhelming nature, various activities such as trekking and snorkeling, tours to see Jomon cedars, and excellent gourmet are everywhere and they are full of fun. Once in a lifetime, you will definitely want to visit here. During your visit to Japan, please extend your journey until here.
*This information was last updated on August 18, 2018. For the updated details or inquiries, please contact the facility directly.
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