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The Official Kyushu Travel Guide

Yakushima

屋久島

This subtropical island is 60 km south of the southernmost tip of Kyushu. Around twenty percent of the island was declared a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site in 1993, and the island is a National Park. The forests here are said to have inspired the landscapes of Studio Ghibli’s famous mythical anime Princess Mononoke. Visitors come to these primeval forests to see the majestic moss-covered Yakusugi, or Yaku cedars, which are over 1,000 years old—some of Japan’s oldest living trees.

The interior of the island is covered in dense, mossy forest, with rivers and waterfalls fed by the frequent rainfall. Higher altitude areas get snow in winter. There are hiking trails from beginner level to advanced, with times ranging from one to five hours. The most popular hike is to the Jomon Sugi, a cedar tree believed to be up to 7,200 years old, making it the oldest tree in Japan, and one of the oldest in the world. It takes about ten hours to hike there and back. Guided hikes are available, and there are rest huts along the way.

Around the coast, you can go kayaking, snorkel, and look for loggerhead turtles, or relax in the ocean hot springs. There are many accommodation options on the island, from simple hostels and guest houses to a luxurious spa resort.

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