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Yakushima was registered as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site in 1993. It is also called “the island of ancient forest and water” because of the huge Yaku cedars, which are over 1,000 years old, moss and abundance of rain.


According to wikitravel, the island’s forests are not virgin. Hundreds of years ago, most of its ancient trees were cut for lumber. The stumps remain everywhere, often uncorrupted and covered with moss or sprouting other trees, including second and third-generation Sugi – in the continually regenerating forest. The remaining Japanese cedar trees over 1000 years old are termed yakusugi, and many revered trees have been given individual names.

Sennensugi (千年杉, thousand year cedar) in photo below.


The symbol of Yakushima is Jomon-sugi or the Jomon cedar that is estimated to be between 2100 years old (the oldest date that can be confirmed by carbon-dating of core samples) and 7200 years old (based on its size). The course to visit this tree is 10.7km (6.7 mile) long one way from the entrance of the mountain and it takes about 10 hours for a round trip. Obviously we did not attempt this journey.


The Jomon-sugi was probably first discovered hundreds of years ago by Edo period loggers, and, like the other ancient cedars, it escaped logging due to its irregular shape. It was rediscovered in the 1960s and has since been protected along with the rest of Yakushima’s forests when the area became a national park.


Yagusuki Land 屋久杉ランド is not a theme park despite the “Land” in its name. It’s actually a wonderfully scenic area of forest that was logged in Edo times and now offers a variety of easily accessible hiking trails that pass a number of fine yakusugi specimens.


There are 4 circular trails to follow: ranging from 30 mins to 150 mins. After our daylong hike in Shiratani Unsuikyo the day before, we took it easy and followed one of the shorter trails.


The scenery here is beautiful and similar to what we saw at Shiratani Unsuikyo  – lots of moss-filled forests.


Streams with moss-covered rocks.


Yakusugi Land is just south of Anbo and from there a 30-minute ride by bus up an increasingly narrow and winding mountain road.  We saw families of monkeys on the roadside sunning themselves.


Human activity being a relatively small part of island life, there is abundant wildlife, notably a large deer and monkey population. Unlike some places where monkeys and humans interact, Yakushima monkeys are not fed by residents or tourists and so do not approach cars or persons for food.


On my return trip, we stopped by the Yakusugi Shizenkan 屋久杉自然館 where a lot of interesting facts and history are on display.


A tree limb of the Jomon-Sugi that fell due to heavy snowfall several years ago is exhibited here. One can attempt counting the annual rings  – magnifying glass provided.


There are photos, movies and hands-on exhibits showing the island’s natural wonders and the history of the logging industry.


The cedar tree harvesting began in the 1650’s which were made into shingles for roofing (hiragi) due to its high resin content and resistance to rot.


A short walk away is the World Heritage Conservation Center. More photos and models were shown here about the island. Perfect for middle schooler as a field trip.  Parts of it were under renovation.


Overall, because of the remoteness of the island and difficulty of the terrain generally, there are relatively few tourists. And the fact that it was offseason, we had the places to ourselves. We loved it.

Comparable to the red wood forests in California, this is Japanese treehuggers’ mecca. See our post on Shiratani Unsikyo here.




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