Yakushima is an island south of Kyushu where legend meets history. A place where you can truly understand why people believe that forest and mountains, are magical living things where spirits and gods reside.
Japanese legends tell of the gods coming down from the sky to the mountains in Kyushu. These places, at least by name and resemblance exist in Yakushima. A short hike will enable you to understand why; such legends have been retold for thousands of years. Misty moss covered forests, vast powerful waterfalls, and awe-inspiring mountains invoke an almost ineffable sense of mystic reverie. Thoughts of Tolkien’s elves living in amongst the trees filled my mind. Trees so old they almost defy time: contorted, green, so ancient the feeling is palpable on the skin.
There are eighty-seven named mountain peaks on Yakushima. Including Mt Miyanoura: the highest mountain in Kyushu. Within the interior mountains lives the oldest claimed tree in Japan: Jomon Sugi. This tree is alleged to be between 2500 and 7000 years old. So revered it is one of the most popular Japanese pilgrimage destinations. The island is also home to many unique animal and plant species. A defining factor in gaining UNESCO world heritage status. You will often happen upon deers and monkeys in the mountains. In late spring you can watch sea turtles giving birth to their offspring on the islands beaches. The weather in Yakushima can be likened to warm yogurt: wet, ever changing, and evolving. Often dubbed ‘the wettest place in Japan’ one writer joked that it rains ’35 days a month’ on the island. Despite the writer only spending five days on the island in which it didn’t rain, the description is surprisingly accurate. It has been known to rain up to 50cm in a day. Effortlessly turning a mountain path to an impromptu river. This will of course not dissuade you my fellow adventurer.
If you are drawn to the island for it’s great outdoors, its legends, or it’s mysterious allure. I can assure you one thing. You will fall in love with Yakushima’s pedigree uniqueness.