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Japan

Yakushima: in the heart of Princess Mononoke Forest

Located in the south of Kyushu, this island is rather subtropical. With its own unique atmosphere, you can easily imagine the spirits of the forest - the Youkai - strolling amid the trees and living hidden in the moss.

Lush vegetation

A local proverb says that it rains 35 days a month. These almost-daily rains, even if brief, are one of the reasons the forest is green. This island has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993, and has been considered a biosphere reserve since 1980.

The vegetation is particularly varied with more than fifty flowers native to this island. Over 1,600 plant species and several tropical fruits grow in the Yakushima Fruits Garden, the orchard of the island. There are also many monkeys, deer, and sea turtles.

To explore the island, you can go on eco-tour hikes, or you can go rafting, diving or canyoning. It's up to you to see what you prefer!

Yakushima forest

Natural wonders

Mount Miyanouradake is the island's highest peak. You can reach the top by spending a day hiking through the heart of the primary forest and mountains and through the Shiratani Unsuikyo ravine. You will come across rare land plants, imposing rocks which have been embedded into each other, and narrow gorges. Have good equipment to hand and feel free to take a guide.

Jomon Sugi sits on its throne in the centre of the island. This cedar is probably over 7,000 years old and could therefore be the oldest in the world. For conservation reasons, you are not allowed to touch it. The view of the surrounding mountains is very pretty, and even more so in the spring when everything is in bloom. In the forest of Yakusugi Land, there are cedars several thousand years old which can survive at altitudes of between 1,000 and 3,000 metres. There are several hiking trails of varying difficulty.

The largest waterfalls in Kyushu are Oko no Taki which rise up 88 metres high. You can pass underneath them, but be careful not to slip.

Nagata Inaka-hama beach is a granite beach and is a major site for egg-laying sea turtles. It's possible to observe these animals from a distance during the nesting season, but, for conservation reasons, it's important to avoid the beach at night so you don't disturb them. While you can swim in these waters, the waves can be strong and dangerous.

After spending a few days on Yakushima island, you'll feel as though you're in the heart of a Miyazaki film set and in a rather mysterious and magical world. However, you mustn't forget to bring your rain clothes and waterproof shoes with you, as being soaked all day can quickly ruin your hike! 

Marielle Awad
62 contributions
Updated 11 May 2016

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