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Trekking Yakushima's Shiratani Unsuikyo

Lush Old Growth Forest and Towering Cedar Trees.
  • Duration
    1Day / 5Hours
    Highest Point
    1050m
    Elevation Gain
    438m
  • Skill Level
    Fitness Level
    Gear Level
Yakushima is a remote island about 135 kilometers south of Kagoshima. It was recognized in 1993 as Japan's first World Natural Heritage site. Covering roughly 424 hectares, Shiratani Unsuikyo, located in the eastern region of Yakushima, has everything from leafy evergreen forest to stands of Yakusugi cedar. Its pure water, ancient and oddly shaped trees, and lush mossy forests create the dream-like scenery that made Yakushima famous. Deep in the forest you'll find the granite outcrop known as Taiko-iwa Rock at the end of the trail. It protrudes from the mountain with an amazing, unobstructed view of Yakushima's primeval forest.

Start walking from Shiratani Unsuikyo's entrance along a large granite rock. As there are no slopes or high spots, it's not particularly difficult. Proceeding with the river on your left, you'll encounter the enormous Nidai-sugi cedar. Continue your ascent and the waterfall at Hiryu Bridge (Hiryu bashi) will come into view.

Cross the suspension bridge and you'll come to Kusugawa Trail (Kusugawa Hodoh). The ascent is a bit steep from there. Use stones to help you cross a small stream, and after a while you'll encounter the giant Kuguri-sugi cedar that looks like it's standing on two legs. Pass under the tree to continue.

Then you'll pass a large stump called Shikano-yado and the Nanahon-sugi cedar before arriving at a moss-covered forest (Kokemusu-mori) that often appears in photos of Shiratani Unsuikyo. The lush green expanse feels like a mystical jungle. After passing a number of other large cedars, you'll reach the Tsuji-toge Pass junction and proceed on the left. It's not far from there to Taiko-iwa Rock, but the trail is full-on.

Ascend the steep slope through the trees, and the enormous granite outcrop of Taiko-iwa Rock will appear before you. The view opens as you hike up, letting you take in the mountains of Yakushima.

Head back down past the Kuguri-sugi cedar and start hiking the Bugyo-sugi Course from the juncture. There are a number of streams you'll use stones to cross along the way.

After passing several large cedars, you'll reach the Nidaio-sugi cedar (NidaiOh-sugi). From there a maintained trail will bring you back to the trailhead.

Other Info

Yakushima, with its heavy rains, is home to about 600 species of moss. Different types cover the trees and rocks, and some carpet the forest floor, creating Yakushima's green wonderland.

The unique names of certain trees like “Shikano-yado” and “Kaminari-onji” were provided by elementary school children in 2013 through a project to provide nicknames to trees that didn't yet have them. This was in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Yakushima’s World Heritage Registration.

Notes

When visiting Yakushima with its heavy rains you’ll need proper rain gear. Be aware that when typhoons occur between summer and autumn, transport to the main Kyushu island may be interrupted.

This course requires you to use rocks to cross streams at numerous points. Depending on the season and the weather the previous day, the streams may be flooded at times. Don't attempt to cross them when flooded.

The only toilets are at Shiratani Hiroba and Shiratani-goya mountain hut. You should bring a portable toilet.

Route Map

Elevation Map

Height (m)
Horizontal Distance (km)

Spec

Duration
1Day / 5Hours
Highest Point
1050m(Taiko Rock)
Elevation Gain
438m
Horizontal Distance
5Km
Skill Level
Fitness Level
Gear Level

On the Trail

Sleeping

Shiratani Sanso

Eating
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Hot-Springs

Yunokono-yu

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Access

Yakushima is a remote island about 135 kilometers from Kyushu's Kagoshima, which is located southwest of Tokyo. It's approximately 2 hours to Kagoshima Airport from Narita Airport or Haneda Airport, approximately 1.5 hours from Chubu Airport, and approximately 75 minutes from Kansai Airport. Take a public bus from Kagoshima Airport to Kagoshima's main port (Kagoshima Honko). From there take a high-speed boat to Miyanoura Port (Miyanoura Koh) (approx. 2 hours).
From Miyanoura Port, take a public bus bound for Shiratani Unsuikyo and get off at the Shiratani Unsuikyo stop.

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