Five Things to See at the World Heritage Site Covered with Primeval Forests, Yakushima
Yakushima, an island that is a part of Kagoshima, is famous for its virgin cedar forest, including the Jyomonsugi that are as old as 7,200 years old. Here are five famous tourist spots on this island that is designated as a World Heritage site.
What is Yakushima?
Yakushima is an island approximately 60km to the south of the main island of Kyushu. It is a small island with a circumference of about 130km but has many mountains that are higher than 1,000m. The area from the western coastline to the mountains in the middle of the island is registered as a World Heritage site.
Its biggest attraction is the forest that covers all of the island. Here, you can see a mystic scenery created by a primeval rainforest. It is famous for the clusters of sugi (Japanese cedar), tall evergreen trees unique to Japan, including some trees that are more than 1,000 years old. More than 70% of the flora native to Japan can be seen on the island, and approximately 40 of them are unique to the island. It is referred to as the Galapagos of the East for its unique ecosystem.
1. Jomonsugi Cedar
Natural sugi trees in Yakushima that are more than 1,000 years old are referred to as Yakusugi. Those that are particularly old are called Jomonsugi and are estimated to be between 2,000 and 7,200 years old.
To go see the Jomonsugi, you will need to take a 19km hike that will take about 10 hours, starting at Arakawa Tozanguchi, which can be accessed by bus. There are observation decks near the Jomonsugi to prevent hikers from damaging the roots.
2. Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine
Shiratani Unsuikyo is a Natural Recreational Forest that spreads out around the upper reaches of Shiratani River. It is a popular area for hiking at an altitude of 600~1,100m and with about 424ha of virgin forests of Yakusugi and other evergreens. There is much to see in the moss-covered forest, such as massive rocks, a steep ravine, and 3,000-year-old Yayoisugi. There are three trails with the shortest one that is on a paved path taking about an hour and those on hiking trails taking three to four hours.
2. Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine
In Miyanouradake/Ishizuka National Forest, Yakushima-cho, Kumage-gun, Kagoshima
3. Yakusugi Land
Yakusugi Land is a Natural Recreational Forest that spreads out around the upper reaches of Ara River, which flows in the middle of the island. There are four trails in an area spanning 270ha at approximately 1,000 to 1,300m in altitude including a path that you can casually walk on (30 to 50 minutes) and hiking trails (80 to 150 minutes). Here, you can see massive 3,000-year-old trees as well as Yakusugi with unique names such as Futagosugi (twin sugi), Kugurisugi (pass under sugi), and Hige Choro (bearded elder). Get your fill of its rich nature with the sound of the stream, the moss that seems to cover everything in sight, and the diverse flora.
4. Okonotaki Falls
Okonotaki Falls on the west side of the island is one of the largest, in terms of water quantity and size, among the many waterfalls on Yakushima. You can walk right to the water basin under the fall, so you can see the dynamic way in which the water falls from an 88m-high cliff up close. It is great to visit all year round, but is particularly powerful during the Japanese rainy season of June and July.
5. Hirauchi-kaichu Onsen
Hirauchi-kaichu Onsen to the south of the island is an unusual onsen hot spring that springs out of the ocean. It is covered by water during high tide, so it is only available for bathers twice a day for about two hours before and after low tide. During the day, you can enjoy a bath with the ocean spread out in front of your eyes, and at night, the sky full of stars coupled with the sound of waves. Be aware that it is expressly forbidden to bathe with bathing suits or underwear.
Yakushima is located about 30 minutes by air and two to three hours by boat form Kagoshima. Anyone who wants to have their fill of beautiful nature should visit.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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