Yakushima is one of the Ōsumi Islands belonging to Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. Yakushima's unique remnant of warm/temperate ancient forest has been a natural World Heritage Site since 1993. In the Wilderness core area (12.19 square kilometres ) of the World Heritage Site, no record of past tree cutting can be traced.
Yakushima is located approximately 61.3 kilometres south of the southern tip of Osumi Peninsula in southern Kyushu, or 135 kilometres south of Kagoshima. The Vincennes Strait (Yakushima Kaikyō) separates it from the nearby island of Tanegashima, which is home to the Japanese Space Centre. The bedrock of the island is granite, and as such it hosts no active volcanoes. It has an area of approximately 504.5 square kilometres. The island is roughly circular in shape, with a circumference of 89 kilometres and a diameter of 28 kilometres. The highest elevations on the island are Miyanouradake, with a height of 1,935 metres, and Nagatadake, with a height of 1,886 metres above sea level; however, Yakushima has another 30 peaks of over 1,000 metres in height. There are numerous hot springs on the island.
You came to see the yakusugi cedar forests. There are three general areas to do this: the trail to and from where the Jomon sugi was, the Shiratani Unsuikyo (白谷雲水峡) forest, and the trails of Yakusugiland. Because of the (dubious) reputation of the oldest but deceased tree on the island, the Jomon sugi is the premier destination for most visitors. It can only be reached on foot, and to get there, hikers must be reasonably fit and start before dawn in order to complete the arduous 10 or 12-hour round trip. It is a beautiful and interesting enough hike, but the steep trail to and from Jomon sugi does not go through the most impressive forest on the island. To see the silent, mossy, primeval forest pictured in the tourist brochures, the better destination is the Shiratani Unsuikyo forest, and it doesn't require an early start and hours of tough hiking to get there.
There are several waterfalls on the island, including Ooko-no-taki which is justly rated as one of Japan's best. It is on the remoter southwest coast of the island, a 60- and 90-minute bus ride from Anbo and Miyanoura respectively. The 90-metre falls are easily accessible, being a short walk away from the main highway on a paved road, and visitors can approach the base for a good view. Those wanting to get closer and wetter can scramble over boulders to the plunge pool.
Yakushima has a humid subtropical climate with hot, humid summers and mild winters. Precipitation is extremely heavy, with at least 250 millimetres in each month and as much as 773 millimetres in June alone. Yakushima is Japan's wettest place, and annual precipitation in Yakushima is one of the world's highest at 4,000 to 10,000 mm. There are drier periods in autumn and winter, while the heaviest downpours occur in spring and summer, often accompanied by landslides. It is the southernmost place in Japan where there is snow in the mountains, often for months, while the ocean temperature is never below 19 °C.
There are ferry connections to Kagoshima and Shimama.
The "Toppy" and "Rocket" Jetfoil ferries (formerly two separate companies) can be taken from Kagoshima; they both take approximately 2 hours depending on if there are stops at Ibusuki and Tanegashima. They run 4 times a day, although regular ferry as well as jet foil ferry services are canceled in bad weather (waves more than 3 meters high). It is also better to make a reservation at least the day before, some boats can be fully booked. Ferries can arrive at either Miyanoura port or Anbo port, so take care to plan the following transport and accommodation accordingly.
Keep in mind this is a small island with few people. Relying on buses alone to get around can limit your ability to get places quickly. Private rentals are the way to go - rent a scooter if luggage allows as the one road around the entire island takes 3 hours to circumnavigate.
A small car comfortable for 1 or 2 people can be had for around 5,000 yen.
A highway runs around the island's coast. Buses travel most of this outer ring around once an hour from 07:00 to 18:00, taking in the airport, the two major ports, the beaches and hot springs.
There are also infrequent buses to the entrances of the hiking trails in the island's interior: 4 daily to the Arakawa trail (Jomon sugi) and 2 to Yakusugiland, and 6 times daily to Shiratani Unsuikyo. Buses to the Arakawa trail departs either from Miyanoura or the Yakusugi Museum in Anbō. If you take the bus early in the morning at the museum, make sure you know how to get there. For most of the buses, there is no public transportation to get there! From Anbō, it's a 50 minutes-long walk uphill along a road with parts without sidewalk and lighting.
Local specialties include flying fish and two varieties of orange: tankan and ponkan.
The local shochu is worth sampling. The most famous is called Mitake, and comes in a 25 percent and 32 percent variety.
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