Yakushima, a World Heritage island with an ancient forest
Yakushima is a World Heritage island. Beginning with the 7200-year-old Jomonsugi cedar tree which is the symbol for the island, lush and beautiful nature continues to flourish. 107.47 sq. km. or 21% of the total area of Yakushima has been registered as a World Heritage site. The roughly disc-shaped island measures some 130km in its circumference and has Kyushu’s highest peak, Mt. Miyanoura, at 1935m, with mountains in the 1,000m-1,900m range covering most of the island so that they have been referred to as the Alps-on-the-Sea. Yakushima can be reached by plane from Kagoshima Airport in 35 minutes or by high-speed boat from Kagoshima Port in 2 hours.
The name of Yakusugi reserved only for those cedars 1000 years and older
With the island climate ranging from subtropical to subarctic, Yakushima is seen as an island which incorporates weather from Kyushu to Hokkaido. It is 90% covered in mysterious forest, has 1500 types of special ecosystems, more than 70% of the flora and fauna native to Japan, 40 indigenous species which can only be found on the island, 140 species of plant life at the southern end and 20 species at the northern end. Japan’s southern limit for cedar trees is Yakushima, and the normal life span of a cedar tree is 300 years but with an annual precipitation rate of 4000mm-10000mm, there are many cedar trees which live for 2000-3000 years on the island, with only cedar trees living beyond the millennium mark being called Yakusugi.
Take a day to head for the 7200-year-old Jomonsugi
The most popular sightseeing spot on Yakushima is the 7200-year-old Jomonsugi which has been called the world’s oldest tree measuring 30m in height and 43m around its root. From the Arakawa trailhead, it takes 4-5 hours one way to walk up the 7km lorry track and the 3km mountain trail which requires basic mountain-climbing gear. On the way there, you can also see the 3000-year-old Wilson stump with its hollow interior which has the shape of a valentine when seen from below, and other Yakusugi trees such as the Daiousugi and the Meotosugi. In addition, the Shiratani Unsui Gorge where you can easily view the primeval forest of Yakusugi, and Yakusugi Land where you can enjoy trekking even with the kids are also popular.