Yakushima is a town located in Kumage District, Kagoshima, Japan. The town is on the island of Yakushima and Kuchinoerabujima. Yakushima is famous for its lush vegetation. Most of the island has at one time or another been logged but has been extensively replanted and reseeded since logging ended in the late 1960s, at which time a conservation regime was established. In addition to this secondary forest, there are some remaining areas of primary forest, composed mainly of a variety of Cryptomeria japonica, or Japanese cedar, known as yakusugi, the best known single example of which is named the Jomon Sugi, as its age is estimated to date to at least the Jomon period of Japanese history, 2300 years ago.
Yakushima Island, a compact, a generally circular island south of Kyushu, is an intensive, immersive nature experience. It is one of the first two UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites in Japan inscribed in 1993, and for good reason. The island is populated with endemic plants and animals. Not just that, it also hosts to numerous ancient cedar trees over a thousand years old. Also known as the “Alps of the Sea” with the highest peak soaring nearly 2,000 meters above sea level, it boasts a broad vertical distribution of vegetation that punches above its weight. Studio Ghibli’s animated movie “Princess Mononoke,” a fantasy about the conflict between man and nature, is aptly set in wild, untamed Yakushima.
Despite its obvious charms, it remains off the tourist radar. While a part of me prefers it kept a secret, at the same time my love for one of my favorite places in Japan needs some airing. In this article, I will introduce to you the best of Yakushima, and my experiences hiking in the land of the gods.