Experience a mysterious dynamic island, an island of diverse ecosystems, an ancient forest, and a culture that has evolved around it. In 1993 Yakushima was recognized as a treasure of mankind and was registered as a World Natural Heritage Site. Come and see and experience for yourself the wonders and sensation that Yakushima has to offer.
Yakushima is an island situated alongside the warm “Kuroshio” current bringing with it warm and moist air which encounters the high mountains of Yakushima, flows up the 1,000 to 2,000 meters mountains, cools, and forms rainclouds. It is jokingly said that it rains 35 days a month on Yakushima. The rain moistens the forest, creates countless streams and rivers, and finally returns to the sea; starting the cycle again. Yakushima is dependent on this. Everything on Yakushima, diverse ecosystem, mystical forest, village lifestyles exist due to this water cycle.
Approximately 90% of Yakushima is mountainous, many of which are steep and treacherous and covered with an ancient forest. The combination of its terrain, cyclic water source, and mystical forest makes for a unique natural environment. An island that is only 30 kilometers across is home to ancient cedar trees, Yakusugi, over 1,000 years old and 78 species of endemic plants that can only be found on Yakushima. With its rich and abundant sea brought about by the Kuroshio Current, boasting the largest fish species in Japan and having one of the world's leading sea turtle spawning grounds, and a diverse ecosystem; Yakushima is like a microcosm of the earth.
Yakushima has many mountains over 1,000 meters high: Mt. Nagata, Mt. Kuromi, Mt. Anbo, and Mt. Miyanoura which is the highest mountain in Kyushu at 1,936 meters. For this reason, Yakushima is also called The Alps on the Ocean. There is a tradition in each village called Takemairi, mountain visits. During Takemairi rice, sake, and sand collected from the beach are offered to the mountain gods, and flowers blooming in the mountain are brought back to the village and offered to the shrine as a souvenir of the mountain visit. It is a symbolic ritual of the people of Yakushima who have lived with nature, being embraced by the majestic mountains, respecting the gods, purifying themselves in the water, and entrusting their days to the blessings of the ocean.
Yakushima has a population of about 12,000 with 24 settlements along the coast, each of which is separated by deep valleys and rivers. Each village has its own history and culture; tobiuo maneki (flying fish invitation), where women sing and dance in hopes of a big catch of flying fish, nagare bune (flowing boat), where you can enjoy a relaxing meal while letting the boat flow with the river's current, enjoying a nice bath at Hirauchi kaichu onsen (Hirauchi underwater hot springs), that is accessible only a couple of hours before and after low tide, and so on. Each village on Yakushima has its own lifestyle. The real pleasure of traveling is to discover and experience it.
Surrounded by the sea on all sides, Yakushima has a food culture that makes use of the rich seafood. The catch of tobiuo (flying fish) is the highest in Japan. Not only sashimi (raw fish) and kara-age (deep-fried) other flying fish products such as tsuke-age (deep-fried minced fish patty), smoked fish and ago dashi (fish soup stock) are famous. Due to the influence of the Kuroshio Current and the rapidly deepening undulations of the seabed, many delicious fish such as mackerel, grouper and amberjack are caught. In addition to the seafood, you can also enjoy many beverages that take advantage of the rich forest and water, such as fresh ponkan and tankan juice made from abundant citrus, Yakushima tea, imo shochu (locally distilled liquor), and craft beer.
On Yakushima, you can enjoy trekking while feeling the rich nature of the ancient forests, mountain climbing to challenge the majestic mountains, and various other activities in nature. One of the characteristics of Yakushima is that you can experience many ecologically friendly activities in nature, from those that allow you to sense the benefits from the abundant water resources brought by the water cycles of Yakushima, such as SUP (standup paddle-boarding), kayaking, diving and snorkeling, to activities that can satisfy your mind and body such as yoga and meditation.
The rich and mystical nature of Yakushima is said to have been the inspiration for the forest depicted in the movie Princess Mononoke.
The People of Yakushima
I think it is very important for people to enter the forest of Yakushima and feel "comfortable". People are also a part of nature, so I think a place where you can feel that you are living in nature is the forest of Yakushima. Yakushima is an island that is entirely blessed with its water cycle and filled with life. Listening to the wind, rain, birds, etc. will make you feel that you are also a part of nature.
Moss Ocean House representative
I was originally a mountain guide. From a mountain guide’s perspective, walking around Yakushima’s nature I had come to recognize the splendors of Yakushima's water cycle, which connects its mountains with the forests, rivers, and the sea, and makes it possible to bring nature to life. We opened an inn that offers an experience that tells a story of nature that is unique to Yakushima and to invoke the sensations you felt from the mountains even after you had descended and returned to the village. At the inn, we prepare meals using Yakushima’s spring, summer, fall, and winter seasonal ingredients and offer a variety of activities so you can sense the unity of nature and the cyclic water of the mountains, forests, rivers, and the sea.
Fisherman's life experience in Fuku no Ki
Yakushima has everything nature can offer, from the highest mountain peaks in Kyushu, to rivers, and ocean. Since people live between the mountains and the ocean, we experience nature in our daily lives. Many things that were normal to the islanders were shocking to me as I moved from the city. Unlike Yakusugi, Fuku no Ki (urajiro-enoki gunpowder tree; Trema orientalis) is everywhere in the village and is a common tree. The reason I want to continue living here on the island lies in my daily life; people's warmth, tradition, culture, and a way of living that is not convenient but close to nature. I hope I was able to convey my thoughts to you.
Tea Farmer / Tea Shop "Hachimanju"
In Yakushima, there are many farms that organically produce tea. On my tea plantation, weeds are used as fertilizer. The soil is not mechanically or manually cultivated, but softened by the activities of natural organisms in the soil. No pesticides are used, only the natural environment, the power of nature and the integration of the surrounding Japanese cedar forest produce a tea that has a distinctly clear aftertaste. Once you start drinking it, it would be hard to stop. I think that it is the charm and attractiveness of Yakushima’s nature and charm of Yakushima tea that makes us remember our gratitude for nature.
Moss Ocean House Chef
Unlike urban areas, Yakushima is not an environment where you can choose various ingredients readily. To have something anytime anywhere may not be possible, that might be a feature of Yakushima. There are ingredients that grow on this island and are available to us in the right season, which can be had and eaten. When I look at the natural scenery of Yakushima, I think I have never seen the same scenery twice. I don’t just want to serve dishes that are made from ingredients that can only be obtained at a particular time on an island that is not surrounded by any artificial objects. It is very important for me to serve it with a story in keeping with Yakushima.
After 12 years logging Yakusugi, cedar trees that had grown for thousands of years in the forest of Yakushima, I started working as a woodworker. Having said that, I use jisugi, cedar trees planted locally for commercial use, in my woodwork. Presently on Yakushima, the logging of Yakusugi, which had lived for thousands of years, is prohibited for conservation reasons so I use jisugi, instead. I hope by using jisugi I can increase the value in my woodworking in-order to show my appreciation for Yakushima's forest, and to ensure its future.
Fisherman / Fishing boat "Sakana no Mori" (Fish Forest)
I usually work as a fisherman, so I feel connected with the sea around Yakushima. When my friends first fished with me on my boat and remarked "this is fun", I knew then I wanted to start my fishing boat business. Yakushima’s sea has a rich and abundant marine life but the number of fish is steadily decreasing, like other seas. In such an environment, I hope that many people will be able to connect with the nature of Yakushima through the enjoyment of the sea.