Yakushima is known for it’s hiking trails through the deep and dark mountain forests, covered in moss and ferns. The forest is home to the gigantic Yakushima cedar trees – some so large that the hiking trails actually passes through the trees. The trails cross wild rivers and burbling streams, as they lead you past the incredible flora and fauna that lives in this virgin forest. Clearly, hiking and nature experiences are the main attraction on Yakushima, which is why this itinerary’s recommended activity is hiking.
This itinerary aims to give you a taste of Yakushima in just 1 day. Generally, one day is far from enough to explore Yakushima. It is recommended to spend 3-4 days on this beautiful island of ancient nature. It is therefore necessary to make some tough choices about what to experience and what to save for your next visit.
To help you choose, two suggestions are presented, and you can choose the one that suits you best.
Jomon Sugi: the famous 7000 year old tree is a dream destination for many hikers in Japan. The tree is located deep in the forest, and is not included in this itinerary because it requires 10-12 hours of hiking. Should you wish to do it anyway, then you can find a guide to Jomon Sugi here. You can either add an extra day to the itinerary, or substitute the suggested activities. It is important that you prepare well for the Jomon Sugi hike.
1-day itinerary Yakushima
The road trip is suitable for a rainy day, so should you encounter one such, then going for that option might be an idea. Otherwise just pack good rain gear, and you will be fine hiking too.
Can’t decide? How about selecting a short-medium length hike from Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine for the morning (Bugyosugi Cedar Course is a good choice), and then select a couple of highlights from the road trip to see in the afternoon.
Details of itinerary
Recommended option – Full day hike
Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine
Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine is probably the most popular destination in all of Yakushima. The park is known for it’s hiking trails through the deep and dark mountain forests, covered in moss and ferns, and home to the gigantic Yakushima cedar trees – some so large that the trail actually, physically passes through the trees. The trails cross wild rivers and burbling streams, as they lead you past the incredible flora and fauna that lives in this virgin forest. It is not without reason that this forest has been the inspiration to the wild nature seen in the popular Miyazaki anime movie Princess Mononoke.
You will be exploring this exciting forest and it’s wild nature. There are hiking trails for all levels. Click the “read more” button to find out what trails are suitable for you. It is possible to get to the park either by car or by bus. The park entrance is a 20 minute drive from Miyanoura town. Remember to bring supplies of water and food for the day. On your way out of Miyanoura you pass the A-COOP supermarket which opens at 9:00 in case you want to stock up on the way.
Entrance fee: ¥500
Alternative – full day road trip
Yakushima Full-day road trip around the island
While Yakushima is known for it’s amazing hiking, it does also have a lot beautiful and interesting attractions outside the deep forests. You can venture out on a 1-day road trip around the circumference of the island. This alternative is great if you encounter a rainy day, or hiking is not an option for you.
Yakushima has a road running around it’s entire perimeter – a 135km circular path which makes for a perfect day trip. You will experience beautiful views, stunning beaches, wild waterfalls, majestic lighthouses and maybe best of all: Yakushima’s wildlife. The island is known for it’s monkeys (yakushima macaque) and deer (yakushika). There are many of both species, and they don’t mind hanging around the road, especially on the far western side of the island, where you are almost guaranteed to encounter them.
Planning your visit to Yakushima
Where to stay
Yakushima has multiple villages around it’s perimeter. The island is very mountainous, so all villages are near the coast. The two primary towns on the island are Miyanoura (north) and Anbo (east). Both towns have a port with a ferry connection to the main land. The airport is located between the two towns, on the north-eastern part of the island.
It is recommended to stay in either Miyanoura or Anbo, as both towns have restaurants and supermarkets. There are, however, hotels and guesthouses in other villages too, which may be advantageous depending on your plans and schedule.
Activities for rainy days
Yakushima has a reputation for being a rainy island. While it might be slightly exaggerated, it’s always good to have some backup activities for days where the rain is too heavy for outdoor activities. Bring proper rainwear and hiking won’t be a big problem.
- Yakusugi Museum
- Yakushima World Heritage Conservation Center
- Yakushima Sea Turtle Hall
- Sigonoya – make your own chopsticks (reservation required)
- Oko-no-taki waterfall (extra strong and impressive during rain)
- Yakushima circumference road trip
- Onsen bathing – enjoy a traditional hot spring bath
Renting a car is by far the best way to get around Yakushima. The bus system is infrequent and slow, but with a car you can cover many attractions on the same day, and get to places the bus doesn’t go to. You will also avoid the stress and rush to catch the last bus after a day of hiking.
Tourist Information Offices
There are three tourist information offices around the island.
- Tourist Information Center (airport)
- Tourist Information Center (Anbo)
- Tourist Information Center (Miyanoura)
Busses in Yakushima
There is a local (and reliable) bus system in Yakushima, but busses are infrequent. If you plan to see a lot (more than one place per day) then taking a bus is generally not an option – renting a car would be better. If you must take a bus, then here are some details to help you:
Busses on Yakushima. Left: Tanegashima Yakushima Kotsu. Right: Matsubanda Kotsu. All photos by TangoDiscovery (wikimedia commons). CC BY-SA 3.0.
There are two bus companies operating in Yakushima; Tanegashima Yakushima Kotsu Bus and Matsubanda Kotsu Bus. There are day and multi-day bus passes available, but they can only be used in the busses of the specific company you buy it from.
The time tables are generally posted at the bus stops, but the most recent time tables can be found in the download section of Yakushima Tourism Associations website.
Getting to Yakushima
Yakushima can be reached by ferry or plane. The options are listed below.
Yakushima airport (KUM) is located between the two town os Miyanoura and Anbo. It is quite a convenient and fast way to get to Yakushima. It is, however, usually a bit pricier than taking a ferry.
The airport in Yakushima has connections to Kagoshima Airport and Fukuoka Airport. All flights are operated by Japan Air Lines sister company Japan Air Commuter. Tickets can be purchased through Japan Air Lines or travel agencies.
There are numerous ferries connecting to Yakushima. The ferries operate out of two main ports on the island; Miyanoura Port (northern side of island) and Anbo Port (eastern side of island).
There are three types of ferries that go to Yakushima:
|Ferry name||Port||Transport time||Price|
|Toppy Boat (rocket hydrofoil)||Kagoshima Port ⇆ Miyanoura or Anbo||2-3 hours||¥9’200 one-way|
|Yaku 2 Car Ferry||Kagoshima New Port ⇆ Miyanoura Port||4 hours||¥5’000 one-way|
¥39’000 car return
|Hibiscus overnight freight ferry||Kagoshima Taniyama Port ⇆ Miyanoura Port||13 hours||¥3’900 one-way|
Car varies by size