Travel bucket list: Yakushima

Yakushima ranks among the highest rated attractions in all of Japan. It is a small island south of Kyushu with UNESCO World Heritage status, no less. Having seen the photos and generally raving reviews, I needed little convincing to decide to come here as part of my whirlwind tour of Kyushu.

You have a choice to ferry-in or fly-in. I flew in since i hate to take ferry. Booking ahead will likely save you money.

The propeller plane that flies you in from Kagoshima or Fukuoka
The propeller plane that flies you in from Kagoshima or Fukuoka
The best way to see Sakurajima. On your left when flying towards Yakushima.
The perfectly conical Mount Kaimon, on your right when flying towards Yakushima

Getting a rental car is a must for maximum flexibility in getting around. I saw Nippon, Times and Orix rental companies located near the airport. I did my booking with Suzuki, via email. I can’t remember exactly, but I think I must have gotten a favourable rate from them to have chosen them. You basically get your car at the airport itself, convenient. It was an old car, but you don’t need a very good car for Yakushima.

Otherwise, without a rental car, you’ll have to sign up some kind of transportation arrangement with a tour agency, or take a bus, or a taxi (more like a concierge service, which is more suited for the Japanese speaking).

The top attraction on the island is none other than Shiratani Unsuikyo. I wasted no time in heading up there right after lunch which was right after touching down and getting the car. If you only have time to visit one attraction, this must be it.

Yakushima curry for lunch. Added rice to lap up all that curry.
Yakushima curry for lunch. Added rice to lap up all that curry.
The view towards Miyanoura on the way up to Shiratani Unsuikyo
The view towards Miyanoura on the way up to Shiratani Unsuikyo

There are a basically a choice of only 2 trails, the one hour and the three hours. I strongly recommend doing the three hours one, because you get to see so much more. The one hour return trail is boring in comparison, but if you can only do one, it is still better than nothing.

A grand waterfall at the start of the trail entrance
Another waterfall
And another
Yet another!
The entire floor of the forest is lined with moss covered stones. It’s quite a sight!
More moss. You’ll see more moss in one day than you will ever in your entire life!
Giant Cedar trees are an attraction on Yakushima island, and you will see a few on this trail
This is what the moss look like up close, in case you’re wondering
Another type of moss with translucent leaves. So cute.
Yet another type of moss with lattice like leaves. Too pretty.
Along the trail you get to see many streams swirling around moss covered boulders
Tree trunks used to lay the trail – beautiful and long-lasting at the same time.
Cedar tree that looks as if it had legs
Crossing a stream on boulders. You’ll be doing this 4 or 5 times along the trail. It’s fun!
The word that comes to mind, if i were to describe the looks of the tree branches, is “spooky”
Looking up through the hole from the inside of the stump of a Cedar tree that’s hollow
View of waterfall from the suspension bridge
Couldn’t help but to snap another photo of the same waterfall on the way out. The lighting seems to be better in the evening.
Flower that is commonly seen on Yakushima island
The water is so clear you can hardly tell it’s there
Yet another photo of the waterfall at the trail entrance

The most common type of eateries on the island are Izakayas. We went to the one right at the corner where the road leading to Shiratani Unsuikyo meets the main road (GPS 30.421866, 130.573793). The food was very good, and the price was very reasonable.

Stir fried beef was tender and tasty
Pan fried wheat noodles, nicely charred
Grilled flying fish. Very meticulously prepared.

The plan for the following day was to circle the island. The tourist map has a suggested drive and sights to see around the island, and we followed suit.

Fresh turtle tracks (from the night before) leading to the egg-laying spot, on Nagata Inakahama beach.
Turtle track
Majestic boulders protruding into the see, as seen from Yakushima lighthouse
Tranquility
Tranquility
Macaques. Both the one picking bugs and the one being picked seem to derive equal enjoyment doing it
Yakushima deers, the other animal you will most likely see on the drive through the narrow western coast road
Oko No Taki waterfall, one of the top 100 in Japan. It is huge.

There were few eateries in the south western part of the island, and we were wondering where to do lunch. We chanced upon the Iwasaki Hotel and it turned out to be perfect. The lunch sets were very reasonably priced, and the quality of the food does commensurate with the high class ambiance.

The western set, which also includes coffee and dessert
The western set, which also includes coffee and dessert
The Japanese set, with dessert as well
The Japanese set, with dessert as well
Kurobuta pork in thick gingery gravy
Kurobuta pork in thick gingery gravy, part of the Japanese set
An interesting dessert item that we added on. Red sweet potato from the Kagoshima region, wrapped in cake. The sweet potato was very sweet indeed.
An interesting dessert item that we added on. Red sweet potato from the Kagoshima region, wrapped in cake. The sweet potato was very sweet indeed.
Nice mountain view from the restaurant
Nice mountain view from the restaurant

To be honest, once you have visited Shiratani Unsuikyo, everything else on the island pales in comparison. Nevertheless, Yakusugiland, which showcases giant Cedar trees, is still worth a quick visit.

Magnificent river
One of the most iconic Cedar trees in Yakusugiland
Moss is naturally decorative

Anbo is the other large town on the island besides Miyanoura. We decided on Sampoutei, a modern cafe bar by the river, for dinner.

Nice view
Tankan liquor and Passion fruit Sangria, both originating from the island itself
Venison, tasty and tender
Cod roe is a staple in the whole of Kyushu, and Cod roe pasta is very popular
A quick visit to the pillow shaped lava field before the flight out
Seaweed
This pretty beetle decided to "gift" me some of its poo on my luggage
This pretty beetle decided to “gift” me some of its poo on my luggage

Well, i hope you were impressed enough by what you see in the photos to put Yakushima in your travel bucket list.

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