Yakushima Island (Japan) is a forest paradise and the Shiratani Unsuikyo forest is one of the best places to go hiking in Yakushima to see the ancient cedar trees the island is famous for.
Two friends visited Yakushima Island and this is their experience hiking in the Shiratani Unsuikyo forest.
Arriving at Yakushima Island by ferry from Kagoshima on Kyushu.
Yakushima Cedar Forest Hiking
The main real reason to visit Yakushima is to get into nature and the best way to do that is go out hiking.
Hiking through the moss covered ancient forest is a very mystical experience.
Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo Forest
The Shiratani Unsuikyo Forest is an easy enough hiking area to see some of the cedar trees.
Some of the cedar trees on Yakushima date back 1000’s of years and are the main attraction to see.
Yakushima has some of the oldest trees on planet earth.
Hiking the mountain you will have to take ‘cloud’ stops as the clouds prevent you from seeing anything around you which can be hazardous.
Some cedar trees may even date back 7000 years.
The cedar trees are some of the oldest trees in Japan and are protected as a national park.
It is a beautiful area to explore and go hiking in for all ages.
The hike itself is pretty easy like mentioned but I advise you to wear grippy shoes as it can get pretty slippy, even just from the clouds.
Map for the Shiratani Unsuikyo hiking trail.
The hiking trail takes you through the pristine preserved forest to see some of the cedar trees.
Part of the trail is put together with stones while other areas are more rougher.
Stone hiking trails.
It rains a lot on Yakushima Island.
Its highest mountain is around 2000 metres high and traps a lot of rainfall year round, with the chase for rain everyday (although some might just be light rain).
That’s why they call it a rainforest!
So make sure you pack a rain jacket for your trip there.
The trails can be to narrow for an umbrella so definitely take a rain jacket.
There is also a ravine with a stream running down through the area with small waterfalls.
Take a dip into the cool waters to refresh yourself if you feel like it!
Hiking in the forest.
There is some drinking springs you can get very cool fresh water from, but stick to the recommended ones that come from underwater sources.
Drinking fresh pure water from a stream mid-hike.
Princess Mononoke Forest on Yakushima Island
If you like Japanese animation then be sure to watch Princess Mononoke.
The director Hayao Miyazaki got some of his inspiration for Princess Mononoke from the Shiratani Unsuikyo Forest.
It’s easy to see why as the Yakushima forest gives the air of magic.
Princess Mononoke is actually one of the greatest environmental movies of all time, teaching that humans and nature must find a balance to survive together.
Princess Mononoke rides a wolf surrounded by tree spirits called kodama.
Tree spirits (kodama) from Princess Mononoke. They are super cute and funny in the movie.
A friend poses next to a kodama.
Disclaimer: I own none of the Princess Mononoke images. They are used under fair use terms to discuss the movie.
Hiking to The Top of Yakushima Island
As for the main hike up to the top of the mountain when we went was right at the start of the rainy season so it closes/opens based on the weather.
Some people had even been people stuck on the top for three days as the paths got flooded out by heavy rain. So it’s advised to take extra food and prepare for that outcome!
There are cabins along the route that are usable by the public.
Wildlife on Yakushima
As for wildlife there are plenty of miniature deer are everywhere and lots of monkeys.
The monkeys do not bother you unless you get to close to the young (which will come close to you). One group of monkeys actually chased us down the mountain as we rode our bikes.
Monkeys by the side of the road.
There is also a sea turtle nesting ground on the north-east of Yakushima that they frequent at regular times.
Visiting Yakushima Island
So get out to Yakushima is all I can say!
At the end of some hiking head to Yakushima’s south coast and take a dip in the Hirauchi Kaichu Onsen (hot spring).
Interested in more islands to explore in Japan?
Then take a look at my post on Rishiri and Ruben Islands in the far north of Japan which are some of the most remote you can visit.
And Naoshima Art Island near Okayama and Hiroshima for some surreal art.
And finally, but not least, my ever expanding guide for Japan.
If you plan to be moving around a lot in Japan then take a Japan Rail Pass (get one with that link) before going to save money on train travel, especially on the fast Shinkansen trains.
Looking for a Yakushima hotel?
Advice for budget travellers: One thing that should be noted is that hostels and hotels on Yakushima can be expensive.
But camping was not. The beachside campsite charged 300 yen per night.
The only thing is it’s best to be in your tent by dusk otherwise the bugs get very bad and can get into the tent.
How to get to Yakushima Island
There’s a bunch of different ways to get to Yakushima Island with the favourite being the daily car ferry from Kagoshima. The ferry costs around 8000 yen one way.
If you want to go from Tokyo to Yakushima it’s probably best to take a flight to Kagoshima and then a ferry from there.
For more information on how to get to Yakushima Island take a look here.
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