YAKUSHIMA HIKING TRAILS: YAKUSUGI LAND, SHIRATANI UNSUIKYO AND ARAKAWA TRAIL (JOMONSUGI)

ESPAÑOL

THE ROUTES

HIKING

Being a conical island, there are several paths that go from the coast to the interior; subsequently there is a circular path that connects the end of the following:

  • Miyanoura: road to Shiratani Unsuikyo, which connects with the circular route of Arakawa Trail on a stretch of railway tracks. From the neighboring Kasugawa you can make the trail avoiding much of the road.
  • From Anbo, the road gets to the beginning of Arakawa Trail, further on to Yakusugi Land, which connects to the former and even further on to the Kigensugi and Yodogawa mountain hut. There is an alternative parallel trail that passes through Ishizuka hut.
  • From the south, from Onoaida there is a trail that goes to Yodogawa hut, and from Yudomari there is another one that connects a little higher to the circular one, but the first section is paved road.
  • From the west there are two trails, both with an initial stretch of road. The first leaves Nagata; the second goes to the main circular road, several kilometers north of Kurio, the nearest town.

The official map of the hiking trails of the island from Yakushima Tourist Office can be downloaded at this link.

What I did: Shiratani Unsuikyo, Arakawa Trail to the Jomonsugi, Shin Takatsuka hut, Mount Miyanoura, went downhill to Yodogawa hut and finally I walked to the Kigensugi, where I took the bus. The next day I went to Yakusugi Land.

YAKUSUGI LAND

It is one of the most popular trails in Yakushima, for being relatively flat and simple and have a large number of yakusugis in it, also close, although not on the route, one of the largest and oldest, the Kigensugi. It is accessed from Anbo road, by private vehicle or by bus. You have to change at the entrance of Yakusugi Museum, which has information about these trees and which I personally did not visit (admission 600 ¥, open from 9 am to 5 pm).

Access to Yakusugi Land
Picture showing the acces by bus to Yakusugi Land and the nearby Kigensugi Cedar, from the official Kagoshima tourism website (kagoshima-kankou.com)

Open from 9 am to 5 pm, suggested donation 300 ¥. It has 4 routes of different length and difficulty:

  • The 30 (800 meters) and 50 (1.2 km) minutes courses are basically flat and in some sections you walk on boards.
  • Those of 80 (2 km) and 150 (3 km) minutes are steeper, in some areas there are stairs.
yakusugi Land
Official Yakusugi Land map from the official Kagoshima tourism website (kagoshima-kankou.com)

For me, Yakusugi Land was the icing on the cake. I started my two-day route at the Shiratani Unsuikyo, reached the Jomonsugi and slept in a mountain shelter near the top of the Mount Miyanoura. I went down south, but instead of continuing to the coast as most hikers do, I veered east, connecting to Kigensugi road, so I arrived at Yakusugi Land relatively late and tired, so I decided to go to rest and return the next day with plenty of time, without an 11 kg backpack on my back.

Following the official map, the route begins at point (1) and ends at (15). The trails are all circular, with the shortest included in the course of the longest.

Before reaching the first famous cedars, we will pass under the trunk of this one.

Yakushima 1. Yakusugi Land, Kyushu Japon Japan
Double trunk cedar

We will continue through a beautiful and green forest.

Yakushima 2. Yakusugi Land, Kyushu Japon Japan
Yakusugi Land forest

A few minutes later we arrived at the first cedar with its own name, the Sennensugi (4), whose name means “a thousand years old cedar”, which agrees with its “young” age.

Yakushima 3. Sennensugi Yakusugi Land, Kyushu Japon Japan
Sennensugi

Those who want to hike the 800-meter route, should turn left at the next intersection. The rest will continue to reach a suspension bridge, the Arakawabashi (5). Before crossing it there is a detour to the left for those who hike the 1.2 km route. If we continue, just 120 meters further on is the detour to the left for the 2 km route. If we have not taken any detour, we will continue along the 3 km route. Take into account that the two longest routes run through steep areas and require a certain physical shape. In this area there are enough cedars, some with their own name, and others that without having it were in my opinion more beautiful; following the route are cedar trees Higchoro (6), Jamonsugi (7) (not to be confused with the famous Jomonsugi) and Tenchusugi (8).

Yakushima 4. Yakusugi Land, Kyushu Japon Japan
Beautiful unnamed cedar next to the path
Yakushima 5. Yakusugi Land, Kyushu Japon Japan
Part of the trail

In this area there are fewer tourists, so it is the quietest and most peaceful.

Yakushima 6. Yakusugi Land, Kyushu Japon Japan
Tuorist resting next to the river

Then there is the Oyakosugi (9), whose name means “mother and son”, one of the most beautiful by having two trunks, each of 2,600 years old and circumferences of 9 and 6.3 meters, although one is dead. Immediately afterwards we found the Mitsunesugi (10), which is another example of a tree that remains on “legs”, after the stump on which it grew has disappeared.

Yakushima 7. Oyakosugi, Yakusugi Land, Kyushu Japon Japan
Oyakosugi
Yakushima 8. Yakusugi Land, Kyushu Japon Japan
The path goes under these to trees whose branches form an arch
Yakushima 9. Yakusugi Land, Kyushu Japon Japan
Gangway to a rock with views of the river

About 500 meters from the above is perhaps the most attractive of the Yakusugis in this area, the Butsudasugi or “Cedar Buddha”, for its large number of knots and folds in the bark and being hollow, 1,800 years old.

Yakushima 0. Butsudasugi Buda Yakusugi Land, Kyushu Japon Japan
Butsudasugi

The last ones are the Futagosugi (13) and more peculiar, the Kugurisugi (14), which has two very well defined trunks under which the road passes.

Yakushima 11. Yakusugi Land, Kyushu Japon Japan
Trunk over the path
Yakushima 12. Alwashere y Kugurisugi, Yakusugi Land, Kyushu Japon Japan
Under Kugurisugi

If we are more into to see cedars, about 15 – 20 minutes by car or public transport to the west, right next to the road, is the Kigensugi, one of the oldest, 3,000 years old.

Yakushima 15. Kigensugi, Kyushu Japon Japan
Kigensugi, 3.000 years old

SHIRATANI UNSUIKYO

This route is, along with Yakusugi Land, the most popular in Yakushima, since it also allows to appreciate huge and ancient cedars next to the path, with a difficulty that can be overcome for most users. However, although the beauty of the trees on both routes is comparable, the forest is greener and fuller of life here than anywhere else on the island, this area being the inspiration for the film Princess Mononoke, having spent one of its main cartoonists here many hours.

It is accessed from Miyanoura. In private vehicle or public transport (550 ¥ one way) it takes about 30 minutes (for more details see TRANSPORTATION IN YAKUSHIMA).

Always open, suggested donation 300 ¥. At the entrance a pamphlet is given in which the suggested routes and their difficulty are listed:

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo 1, Miyanoura, Japon. Japan. Momonoke Hime.
The entrance to Shiratani Unsuikyo and the official pamphlet, map included
  • Yayoisugi course: easy; in about 20 minutes you reach the great Yayoisugi. The full route requires approximately one hour.
  • Bugyosugi course: although it is not particularly difficult, it takes approximately 3 hours; there are at least 6 relevant yakusugis. In case of heavy rain some sections can be cut by streams.
  • The last part is an extension of the second course to reach Taikoiwa Rock, a viewpoint. It is therefore the steepest area.
Official Shuratani Unsuikyo map, from the official website of Kagoshima (kagoshima-kankou.com). Marked points do not correspond to those on the map given at the entrance

Shuratani Unsuikyo was the first part of my two-day trek, continuing to Jomonsugi and Mount Miyanoura summit.

First, I hiked the course to Yayoisugi, one of the largest and oldest trees on the island, 3,000 years old.

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo 2. Yayoisugi, Miyanoura, Japon. Japan. Momonoke Hime.
Main cedars are indicated by informative panel in Japanese and English
Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo 3. Yayoisugi, Miyanoura, Japon. Japan. Momonoke Hime.
Yayoisugi

I continued on the red route until I reached point 4, the bridge, so I skipped points 2 and 3. I kept going on the yellow route. The first great cedar is the Nidai-ohsugi (5), whose base is immense, if it is not the largest in diameter of the island I do not know which one can be. It is partially covered by other trees and moss and is one of my favorites.

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo 4. Nidaiohsugi, Miyanoura, Japon. Japan. Momonoke Hime. (2)
The massive trunk of Nidaiohsugi
Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo 4. Nidaiohsugi, Miyanoura, Japon. Japan. Momonoke Hime.
Another tourist next to the huge trunk of Nidaiohsugi

We continue through a beautiful forest, probably the greenest on the island, passing under stumps of dead trees until we reach the Sanbon-ashisugi (6), another cedar held on 3 legs after having disappeared the tree stump on which it grew.

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo 5. Sanbonashisugi, Miyanoura, Japon. Japan. Momonoke Hime.
Under the three legs of Sanbon-ashisugi

Its neighbor Sanbon-yarisugi (7) is the opposite, on a very inclined main trunk three secondary trunks have grown.

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo 8. Sanboyarisugi, Miyanoura, Japon. Japan. Momonoke Hime.
With Sanbon-yarisugi

Then we will arrive at Bugyosugi (8), a cedar important enough to give name to this part of the route. Its surface is practically covered by moss and other trees.

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo 9. Bugyosugi, Miyanoura, Japon. Japan. Momonoke Hime.
Bugyosugi
Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo 10. Miyanoura, Japon. Japan. Momonoke Hime.
An old wooden bench devoured by nature

Further on there is a cedar with no name that is one of my favorites, because, although it is very low, it is held on 4 legs.

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo 11. Nidaiohsugi, Miyanoura, Japon. Japan. Momonoke Hime.
4 leg cedar

The path continues along dirt tracks that alternate planks completely reincorporated into nature, and it is not surprising that this part was the main inspiration for the forest of Princess Mononoke. We will pass under 3 beautiful cedars that are supported on two legs, very different from each other. The first one has no name, although it is my favorite because it is so slender, the following are the Nidaikugurisugi (9), where we probably have to bend down to pass, and finally, already starting the route number 3, is the largest and imposing, the Kugurisugi (11), which has the same name as the last great cedar of Yakusugi Land.

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo 12. Miyanoura, Japon. Japan. Momonoke Hime.
A section of the forest
Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo 0. Miyanoura, Japon. Japan. Momonoke Hime.
The path going under the slender cedar
Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo 13. Kugurisugi, Miyanoura, Japon. Japan. Momonoke Hime.
And then going under the vigorous Kugurisugi
Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo 17. Miyanoura, Japon. Japan. Momonoke Hime.
Another part of the extraordinary rain forest

Immediately afterwards, there are toilets and drinking water. The road continues through the magnificent forest passing by another huge cedar, the Nanahonsugi (12); its name means “7 trees”, since the main trunk disappeared and from its stump 7 secondary grew so straight and together that from a distance they look like one, although currently only 5 of them survive.

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo 14. Nanahonsugi, Miyanoura, Japon. Japan. Momonoke Hime.
Nanahonsugi next to the trail

The final point is a viewpoint, called Taikoiwa Rock (15), from which you get good views of the mountains of the island on a clear day.

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo 16. Taikoiwa rock, Miyanoura, Japon. Japan. Momonoke Hime.
View from Taikoiwa Rock

ARAKAWA TRAIL, JOMONSUGI, MOUNT MIYANOURA AND YODOGAWA TRAIL

Arakawa trail starts at a branch of the road that comes from Anbo before getting to Yakusugi Land, there are restrictions to access in high season (see TRANSPORTATION IN YAKUSHIMA). In my case, I connected with this path after touring the Shuratani Unsuikyo. It took me approximately 2 hours to get to the connection, carrying a 10 kg backpack.

YAKUSHIMA 1. Arakawa Trail, Japon. Japan
Final part of Shiratani Unsuikyo, next to connect to Arakawa Trail

Unfortunately, when choosing this route I missed the first part of the trail, which has a point of interest, the old abandoned lumber town of Kosugidana, but you can not walk everywhere…

Map (japan-guide.com) showing the two possible trails to Jomonsugi and Shin Takatsuka hut, with distances and times

Most of the trail runs along the old restored railway tracks, a total of 8 km from the start of the trail (Arakawa Tozanguchi) and turned into a path, or about 3 km from the connection with Shiratani Unsuikyo; it kind of charming. I spotted deer, and although the monkeys are supposed to abound, I did not see any.

YAKUSHIMA 2. Arakawa Trail, Japon. Japan
Arakawa Trail
YAKUSHIMA 3. Ciervo en el Arakawa Trail, Japon. Deer in Japan (2)
A deer in Arakawa Trail
YAKUSHIMA 4. Baño, toilet, aseo, en Arakawa Trail, Japon. Japan
This is a toilet. Inside there’s a hollow chair designed to place a hermetic bag that we must have bought before starting the hike and that we must carry with us after used

Very close to the end of the railway there is a detour through a wooden staircase, which is the beginning of the Ohokabu Trail. The path becomes very steep as we continue, there are sections of wooden stairs in good condition.

YAKUSHIMA 5. Union de Arakawa con Ohokabu Trail, Japon. Japan
Detour to Ohokabu Trail
YAKUSHIMA 7. escaleras en Ohokabu Trail, Japon. stairs Japan
Stairs in the forest

An exciting place is Wilson Stump, a gigantic hollow stump of 32 meters in circumference (double that of the current major in all Japan, the famous Jomonsugi), whose interior is bigger than the bedroom of a house, in which it has even been placed a small altar. It is estimated that the tree, cut 400 years ago, should measure about 45 meters high, which would make it the highest on the island, and had an age of 3,000 years. If you look up from inside, you can see a heart shape, detail that I did not know when I was there.

YAKUSHIMA 8. alwashere en Wilson stump Ohokabu Trail, Japon. stairs Japan
At the entrance of Wilson Stump

The route continues very uphill, mostly on stairs and wooden boards, passing by several huge cedars.

YAKUSHIMA 9. Ohokabu Trail, Japon. stairs Japan
Ohokabu Trail

But all are eclipsed by the desire to reach the Jomonsugi. This tree is the oldest and largest on the island, and although its exact age could not be determined by the need for aggressive methods to know it, it is very likely that it will be determined soon, since this forest elder died a few years ago, although luckily decades will pass until its trunk disappears. It is estimated to be between 2,200 and 7,000 years old. Its ashen color in comparison to the other cedars back in 2013 seemed to presage its imminent death, the others are covered in moss and other trees, which do not survive in a trunk without life. The tree is protected by a fence and the public is not allowed to approach, which is disappointing, since after having seen so many magnificent cedars from so close, from 20 meters the Jomonsugi does not seem that big.

YAKUSHIMA 10. alwashere Jomonsugi Ohokabu Trail, Japon. stairs Japan
With Jomonsugi

Most visitors will start the way back. It takes at least 9 hours to get to the Jomonsugi and back. We will continue uphill to one of the two mountain huts, the Takatsuka (restored in 2013, capacity 20 people), very close to the Jomonsugi, or the newest, largest and most remote Shin Takatsuka (1 km from the previous, capacity 40 people), in which I stayed, since the first one was full. Both are wooden and basic; camp stoves are allowed. Staying in one of these shelters guarantees having photos of the tree without the bulk of tourists, who are concentrated at noon and early afternoon, since at that time they still have at least 4 hours on the way back. In mid-April the temperature up there was 0ºC.

YAKUSHIMA 11. nieve en el Miyanoura mountainTrail, Japon. snow Japan
Some snow near the huts

The next day I continued the route to the top of Mount Miyanoura. The section is complex, very steep, sometimes requiring the use of ropes to continue. After this peak, the path continues on the ridge to some more peaks, among them the tops of mounts Kurio, Okina and Anbo. A short distance from the main road there are detours to the tops of the Kuromi and Nageshi mounts.

YAKUSHIMA 12. Miyanoura mountainTrail, Japon. Japan
There we go
YAKUSHIMA 13. Miyanoura mountainTrail, Japon. Japan
The upper part needs ropes to get to the summit
YAKUSHIMA 14. cima monte Miyanoura mountainTrail, Japon. Japan
Mount Miyanoura summit
YAKUSHIMA 15. Miyanoura mountainTrail, Japon. Japan
Passing nearby other peaks
YAKUSHIMA 16. Miyanoura mountainTrail, Japon. Japan
A huge rock, quartered by the climatology

Once we pass the last peak, there are three possible ways down:

  • To the east, the Ishizuka trail, which leads to the refuge of the same name and connects to Yakusugi Land.
  • To the south, Yudomari path, which leads to the town of the same name on the coast.
  • And to the southeast, Yodogawa trail, the one I took, to the hut of the same name.

In this area there are no large trees and although it is beautiful, it is somewhat monotonous compared to the rest of the route.

YAKUSHIMA 17. Miyanoura mountainTrail, Japon. Japan (2)
One river in this section of the forest
YAKUSHIMA 18. Miyanoura mountainTrail, Japon. Japan
Information next to the end of Yodogawa Trail

When arriving at the hut we have two possibilities:

  • To the south, Onoaida trail, to the town of the same name, on the south coast, famous for its hot springs. It is the most logical and usual continuation of the route, and the one made by the majority of hikers.
  • Or continue on the road, what I did. I thought I had had enough forest, especially when I was going to Yakusugi Land the next day. Next to the road there are several large yakusugis. After about an hour of walking from the hut, we will arrive at Kigensugi, one of the oldest and most impressive cedars of the island, which we already refer to in the Yakusugi Land section. From here I took the bus back to Miyanoura.
YAKUSHIMA 19. Alwashere con el Kigensugi, Japon. Japan
With Kigensugi after two hiking days
MORE IN YAKUSHIMA:
<WHEN TO GO, WHERE TO SLEEP AND EAT                  TRANSPORT>

∇ Destinations∇ Japan / ∇ Kyushu / ∇ Kagoshima∇ Yakushima

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3 thoughts on “YAKUSHIMA HIKING TRAILS: YAKUSUGI LAND, SHIRATANI UNSUIKYO AND ARAKAWA TRAIL (JOMONSUGI)

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