Yakushima, Japan’s third largest island, nestles in the warm sub-tropical waters off the southern coast Kyushu. What is surprising about Yakushima is the absence of crowds and over-commercialization. With a population of around 13,000, a small town feeling prevails. The largest settlement, Miyanoura, is little more than a village and restaurants, shops and hotels remain largely family run. It is an undiscovered paradise, far from the hustle and bustle of Japans Cities, and offers a glimpse of an older and wilder Japan.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, it has managed to maintain its pristine, otherworldly atmosphere and is one of the most rewarding islands in the southwest. The towering mountains of the island's interior are home to the world-famous Yakusugi (Cryptomeria Japonica) or ancient cedar forests, the oldest trees being over 7000 years old. These extensive, moss covered, hauntingly beautiful landscapes, and unspoiled natural beauty, attract visitors seeking respite from the hurried city life.
Yakushima is a place of extremes and its mountainous interior is one of the wettest places in Japan – locals claim it rains “35 days a month”. In the winter the higher elevations may be covered in snow, while on the coast is still relatively warm. Crystal-clear rivers tumble down from the high peaks, forming spectacular waterfalls, which carve their way through the granite bedrock. Lush dense, green foliage provides the perfect home for the Yakushima macaque and the Yaku deer, which are often spotted foraging near roadsides and along hiking trails.
In the summer months, endangered loggerhead turtles nest on Yakushima’s beaches, while coral reefs in the warm, shallow coastal waters offer sanctuary to tropical fish. Geothermal hot springs (onsen) are everywhere, and some are right on the beach.
Yakushima has long been revered by the Japanese as one of the country’s natural wonders, but only recenly have foreign visitors started to discover its secrets, and come here to hike its mountains and ancient forests, and soak in its rejuvenating hot springs.