What is Yakushima?
Yakushima, a microcosm of Japan’s diverse natural beauty, unveils a breathtaking tapestry of enchanting landscapes. At its heart lies an ancient untouched forest, surrounded by mangroves along its coastline, while beneath the sea’s surface, vibrant coral reefs teem with tropical fish. The island, often referred to as the “Alps of the Ocean,” is a paradise for nature enthusiasts and those who want to discover a different side of Japan.
A view of Mt. Miyanoura on Yakushima on a sunny day from Miyanoura Bridge
Be guided through Yakushima's Enchanted Forest
Yakushima is home to primeval forests that could have sprung from the very pages of a fairytale. Trees that date back to the Jomon period, eery moss-draped stones, and native plants inhabit its forests. Yakushima’s unique ecology, home to some 19,000 species and subspecies of plants, has rightfully earned its UNESCO World Heritage status.
Stepping into this mystical woodland, you’ll understand why it served as the awe-inspiring setting for Hayao Miyazaki’s anime masterpiece, Princess Mononoke. In this Ghibli animation, the forest comes alive with enigmatic spirits - the Kodama, ancient tree-dwelling beings.
Views within the enchanted forests of Yakushima that inspired Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke
These trees are more than mere plants: they are living, breathing guardians of a magical world. Japanese culture has long recognized the special nature of certain trees. Whether it was due to their uniquely shaped trunks or the presence of knots resembling human faces, some trees were designated as the dwelling places of spirits. According to ancient belief, when a tree falls in the forest and someone hears it, it can be the sorrowful cry of a Kodama.
Learn more about Japanese folklore and its deep connection to nature while exploring the ancient Yakushima forest with an expert local guide. There are many hiking trails to explore, accessible to all fitness levels.
Enjoy Yakushima’s Abundance of Water
Yakushima is renowned for its frequent rainfall, with a reputation for raining 35 days a month, it is the wettest island in Japan. Don’t let this deter you, as this surplus of water gives rise to dramatic waterfalls, babbling streams, and pristine emerald rivers that crisscross the island. A local guide will take you to see some of the most beautiful waterfalls in all of Japan, one reaching up to 88 meters tall, and another emerging from a granite gorge, these breathtaking waterfalls are not to be missed.
Okono Falls on Yakushima
Despite its mountainous terrain, Yakushima has stunning sandy beaches and coral-lined coasts supporting an array of both tropical and cold-water fish. It is no surprise that fishing is a cherished pastime of the island with locals celebrating Ebisu, the patron God of fishing. Enjoy a half-day fishing experience with a local fisherman and try to catch an Ara or a Grouper fish, which can be enjoyed and served at a restaurant afterward.
If you prefer to experience the beauty of Yakushima’s water firsthand, you can kayak or SUP along the pristine waters of the Anbo River. Paddling along the river surrounded by picturesque mountains and lush green forests is an adventure to remember.
Observe Turtle Nesting Sites
Yakushima’s beaches play a crucial role as nesting sites for endangered loggerhead and green sea turtles. These remarkable creatures make approximately ten thousand landings each year during the nesting season, making Yakushima the largest spawning area for loggerhead sea turtles in the Northern Pacific.
Female turtles visit Yakushima between May and August, returning to the area where they were born approximately 25-30 years earlier. In the past, turtle eggs were a valuable source of protein for the locals. However recent conservation efforts have protected these turtles and preserved their nesting and hatching habitats. During the summer months, you can join an eco-tour to observe this awe-inspiring spectacle of nature.
A baby Loggerhead turtle making its way to the ocean shortly after hatching.
Relax at a Luxury Hotel Surrounded by Nature
After a day of exploration, indulge in a range of spa treatments, relaxation therapies, and wellness activities to rejuvenate amidst the embrace of nature. Take a dip in the pool while taking in the panoramic views of the ocean from the top of the hill and listen to the symphony of wildlife from the surrounding forests.
Relax in the Villa Suite at the Sankara Hotel & Spa Yakushima
Afterward, delight in a specially curated meal that can only be enjoyed on the island. Yakushima’s seas, mountains, and local villages provide an abundance of seasonal ingredients that come together to create a delectable culinary experience, unique to the area.
Indulge in the local fares of seasonal produce and fresh seafood
Untold Japan is dedicated to making your trip to Japan an unforgettable adventure. If you’re interested in planning a journey of a lifetime to Yakushima and other unique destinations in Japan, allow our expert tour planners to craft a personalized itinerary tailored to your interests.