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Difficulty: 4/5

Hiking Distance: 14-30km

Time: 1-2 days

Elevation Gain: 900m

Prefecture: Kagoshima

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宮之浦岳

Hiking in Yakushima

Elevation: 1936m

Trails Described

3

Distance

14-30 km

Elevation Gain

900m

Time

1-2 Days

Difficulty

4/5

Accomodation

Huts & Campsites

Overview

Yakushima is a subtropical island south of Kyushu famous for its unique mountainous landscape filled with stunning rainforests and ancient cedar trees known as Yakusugi. It features a beautiful old railway that meanders along the river, providing hikers with a picturesque trail unlike anything else. This railway continues for 8km before turning into a well maintained hiking trail that eventually leads to Jomon Sugi, said to be the oldest tree on the island. Yakushima is also known as the rainiest place in Japan, locals often joke that it rains 40 days every month. However, the rain creates a beautiful atmosphere, so just be prepared and you'll have a wonderful experience.

Mt. Miyanoura is the highest mountain on Yakushima and is part of the Hyakumeizan, it can be completed as an out-and-back day hike with a car, or an overnight loop hike with public transport. The trails are well maintained and feature occasional ropes, deer, monkeys, and some huge boulders which can be quite fun to climb.

The only downside to hiking in Yakushima is the web of inconvenient transport required to get there, and the associated cost. So, along with a high chance of rain, you will need to accept that travelling to the island (and to the trailheads) is not a well organised system. However, most people consider the hiking trails, unique environment, and rainforests to be worth it. Plus in summer the warm rain can also be combined with swimming in the beautiful Anbo river which runs along the Jomon Sugi hiking trail. We'll summarise all the transport options below to make planning your trip easier. 

 

You can jump to each section by clicking below:

  —  Access to Yakushima Island

  —  Access to the Hiking Trails

  —  Camping and Mountain Huts

  —  Weather & Seasons

  —  Trail Descriptions

  —  Gallery

Access/Flights

Access

 

Maps

Access to the island of Yakushima really comes down to two options:

- A flight to Yakushima airport

- The ferries from Kagoshima

The ferries tend to be the most popular option due to the lower cost, plus Kagoshima has some amazing attractions such as the Sakurajima volcano or the Kirishima National Park.

Flights

Useful Links

Flights to Kagoshima are pretty reasonable, with a variety of options. Flights to Yakushima can be pretty expensive, but much more convenient. The prices can fluctuate a lot depending on which day, which season, and how far in advance you book. The differences can be extreme, flights are often 4x higher during weekends and holidays. Skyscanner will give you the best options. 

Tokyo/Osaka  Kagoshima = Starting from $120 USD, check flights here.

Kagoshima Yakushima = Starting from $130 USD, check flights here.

Osaka Yakushima = Starting from $240 USD, check flights here.

Tokyo Yakushima = Starting from $280 USD, check flights here.

The Ferries

Ferries

There are 3 options for the ferries to Yakushima:

1. Jet Foil Toppy Rocket

     —  ¥12,2002.5 hours

2. Ferry Yakushima 2

     —  ¥5,6004 hours

3. Hibiscus Freight Ferry

     —  ¥3,9008 hours or overnight

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The view from the deck on the Ferry Yakushima 2

Jet Foil Toppy Rocket

 

The jet foil ferry is the fastest option. It has multiple daily trips and takes reservations, so it's often the best choice during busy periods. However, the high cost is only for convenience, the experience itself is not really worth the high price. The journey is mostly downtime because you can't go outside to enjoy the ferry or the scenery, you're forced to stay inside for the 2.5 hour trip. but you still have windows and it provides a good opportunity to review your plans for Yakushima. Unfortunately, the short travel time isn't always ideal because the ferries don't leave early enough (or late enough) to avoid spending an extra night on the island. 

Google Maps: Kagoshima Toppy Port

Online Bookings: DirectFerries.com

Website and Timetable: Jet Foil Toppy Rocket

Kagoshima → Yakushima 

The earliest ferry departs at 7:45am, and the latest ferry departs at 4:00pm.

Yakushima → Kagoshima

The earliest ferry departs at 7:00am, and the latest ferry departs at 4:00pm.

Ferry Yakushima 2

 

The Ferry Yakushima 2 provides the nicest journey to the island. Picture the fresh sea breeze flowing through your hair, volcanoes passing you by, and birds flying along your boat as they try to catch beautiful flying fish skimming the water's surface - this is the journey onboard the Ferry Yakushima 2. There is ample space inside with tables and chairs for relaxing, some udon if you're hungry, and tatami matts if you want to take a nap. The downside? There's only 1 each day and they don't take online reservations, so it's best to call them to confirm availability the day before your trip, if you can't speak Japanese just be polite, speak slowly, and use basic words. 

Google Maps: Kagoshima Port

Website and Timetable: ferryyakusima2.com

Kagoshima → Yakushima 

Departs at 8:30am, arriving at 12:30pm.

Yakushima → Kagoshima

Departs at 1:30pm, arriving at 5:30pm.

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Hibiscus Freight Ferry

 

The most efficient option if you want to arrive early in the morning (8am), but the least pleasant option as the ferry is not intended for transporting people, but it can be a unique and interesting experience if you have a positive attitude. It's a cargo ship, there are no beds so you'll be sleeping on a raised platform, and only has vending machines so bring your own food and water. It's also the cheapest option if you're bringing a vehicle.

It departs from Taniyama port about 13km south of Kagoshima city, they don't take reservations but you can call them to confirm availability. Tickets are purchased at the port. 

Google Maps: Taniyama Port

Website and Timetable: yakushimaferry.com

Kagoshima → Yakushima 

Departs at 6pm, arriving at 7am.

Yakushima → Kagoshima

Departs at 8:10am, arriving at 2:40pm.

Access To The Hiking Trails

Trail Access

Although the hiking trails are responsible for the majority of tourism on the island, access to the trails in Yakushima is not a well integrated system. In terms of accomodation, the most convenient town to stay in for hiking is Anbo, which is a 40 minute bus ride from the ferry port, or a 20 minute bus ride from the airport. 

 

For accessing the trailheads, there are 3 options:

- Car rental

- Multiple Busses

- Taxis

All the different names can get confusing, basically, there are 2 main trailheads:

1. The Arakawa Trailhead

     —  Jomon Sugi hike (old logging railway)

     —  Mt. Miyanoura overnight hike

     —  Busses and taxis only (March to Nov.)

     —  Google maps

2. The Yodogawa Trailhead

     —  Mt. Miyanoura day hike

     —  Mt. Miyanoura overnight hike

     —  Cars and taxis, bus stop is 25 mins walk.

      Google maps

Car Rental

There are a number of car rental places on Yakushima, their prices are reasonable, averaging about ¥8000 per day, but they don't have many cars so reservations are required. Times Car Rental and Orix offer online reservations, you can usually find the best prices using Skyscanner. If they're booked out you'll need to check the other options on google maps and call them to confirm availability. 

Note: Only busses and taxis can drive to the Arakawa trailhead between March and November.

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Car Rental
Busses

The Busses

Access to the Arakawa Trailhead or the Yodogawa Trailhead requires a bus from the Yakusugi Museum, which requires a bus from Anbo, which requires a bus from the ferry port... you can see the logistical problem here. The travel times are listed below to simplify your planning, along with the bus timetable. Be sure to confirm the timetable on their website here.

Don't stress too much about trying to figure out the best plan, I'll give you a simplified recommendation in the hike descriptions below, this is mainly an FYI and for those who wish to customise their own itinerary.

 

It's a good idea to stop at a tourist info centre (Anbo, Miyanoura, or the Airport) to buy a bus pass.

⏱ 40mins = Ferry Port → Anbo

⏱ 10mins = Anbo → Yakusugi Museum

⏱ 35mins = Yakusugi Museum → Arakawa Bus Stop

⏱ 50mins = Yakusugi Museum → Kigensugi Bus Stop (30min walk to Yodogawa)

Kigensugi Yodogawa Bus
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Taxis

In many cases combining taxis with busses will save you a lot of hassle, especially during the busy periods. There are three taxi companies on the island, if you're catching a taxi for one of the trailheads, it's best to call them in advance to make a reservation. 

Price estimates for taxi fares

¥7000 = Anbo → Yodogawa Trailhead

¥5500 = Anbo → Arakawa Trailhead

Note: There's usually no phone reception on the hiking trails.

Ph. 0997-42-0611: Yakushima Kotsu Taxi

Ph. 0997-43-5555Matsubanda Kotsu Taxi

Ph. 0997-46-2311: Anbo Taxi

 

Camping & Mountain Huts

All the mountain huts on Yakushima are unmanned, free to use, and usually have access to water. They are pretty basic and more like shelters, but provide a comfortable alternative to pitching your tent in the rain. They will get crowded on weekends and holidays so plan on arriving early or bringing your tent just in case.

The most popular hut for the overnight hike to Miyanoura is the Shin-takatsuka hut, follow by the Takatsuka hut. The Shin-takatsuka hut is the closest hut to Miyanoura, taking about 2hrs 40mins to reach the peak. 

Google Maps

Takatsuka Hut

Shin-Takatsuka Hut

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Taxis & Huts
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The Shin-Takatsuka Hut

The Takatsuka Hut

Weather

Weather and Seasons

The best time for hiking in Yakushima is during spring, summer, and autumn, with ideal temperatures occurring from May to September. Given the high probability of rain, summer hiking is actually a good choice because there is less trouble from cold temperatures when you get wet. Plus, swimming in the Anbo river during your hike is a lovely experience.

 

Some important points to note:

  • June is the peak of the rainy season with huge amounts of rain, so it's best avoided.

  • For the summer months, August has the least amount of rain and the highest temperatures.

  • Typhoons season starts in June, and peaks in August & September, so be mindful of the forecast.

  • The busiest holidays to avoid are Golden Week (first week of May) and Obon (13-15th August).

 

Winter hiking is possible and happens to be the driest season for Yakushima, but the mountains can get a lot of snow, so adequate preparation and experience is required. It's the quietest season for Yakushima so you'll have the trails mostly to yourself. 

Yakushima monthly rainfall

You can view more information about the monthly average weather here.

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The hikes

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Trails

Trail Descriptions

The three most popular hikes on Yakushima are Jomon Sugi, the Miyanoura overnight hike, and the Miyanoura day hike. The overnight hike includes Jomon Sugi and is the best example of what makes Yakushima special. These choices usually depend on how much time you have, the weather, your hiking gear, and what you want from your trip. Although Miyanoura is the highest mountain on the island, and part of the Hyakumeizan, the old logging railway on the Jomon Sugi trail is very unique and unlike anything else in the world. So if you want to hike up Miyanoura but don't want to do the overnight hike, I still highly recommend including the Jomon Sugi trail as another day hike.

Mt. Miyanoura Day Hike

GPS Hiking Map: outdooractive.com

Time: 9-10 hrs

Distance: 14.3 km

Elevation change:  900m gain  ➘ 900m loss

Access: Car or Taxi to Yodogawa - 1hr drive from Anbo town

Trailhead  →   3hrs  →  Mt. Kuromi

Mt. Kuromi  →   2.5hrs  →  Mt. Miyanoura

Mt. Miyanoura →   4hrs  →  Trailhead

The starting point for the day hike is the Yodogawa trailhead, if you don't have a rental car then book a taxi the night before your hike, the cost is about ¥7000. The trail is clearly marked, well maintained, and has numerous water points. From the trailhead to the peak will take around 5.5 hours, including a 40 min detour to Mt. Kuromi. Mt. Kuromi is recommended as it contains some of the largest boulders found on the trails, but you can skip this if you're short on time. Coming down from Miyanoura is a bit faster and will only take about 4 hours.  

Mt. Miyanoura Overnight Hike

GPS Hiking Map: outdooractive.com

Time: 13 hrs

Distance: 22.5 km

Elevation change:  900m gain  ➘ 1650m loss

Access: Taxi to Yodogawa, return via bus from Arakawa.

Day 1

  • Yodogawa Trailhead  →  ⏱ 3hrs  →  Mt. Kuromi

  • Mt. Kuromi →  ⏱ 2.5hrs  →  Mt. Miyanoura

  • Mt. Miyanoura →  ⏱ 2.5hrs  →  Shin-Takatsuka Hut

Day 2

  • Shin-Takatsuka Hut  →  ⏱ 1.3hrs  →  Jomon Sugi  

  • Jomon Sugi  →  ⏱ 1.3hrs →  Old Logging Railway

  • Old Logging Railway  →  ⏱ 2.5hrs  →  Arakawa Bus Stop

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The overnight hike of Miyanoura and Jomon Sugi can be done in either direction. However, starting from Yodogawa has a number of advantages over Arakawa - you don't have to wake up at 4am, the timing of the hike means you avoid large crowds, and catching a bus back into town is much easier from Arakawa. However, if you're purely relying on public transport then you might need to start at Arakawa due to the inconvenient Yodogawa bus times. 

The taxi from Anbo to Yodogawa takes about an hour and costs around ¥7000. Take note of the sunrise and sunset times and plan accordingly, note that the hut can be busy if you're hiking on a weekend or holiday. Mt. Kuromi is a short detour and highly recommended as it contains some interesting terrain, including huge boulders at the peak which can be fun to climb. It also makes for a nice spot to have lunch. If it's a busy weekend or holiday, try to arrive at camp 2 hours before the sunset.

 

On your second day, you can relax again because the first bus load of people won't arrive at Jomon Sugi until after 9am. Jomon Sugi is a large cedar tree which is surrounded by boardwalks. If you have experienced some of the magnificent old growth forests in other places such as North America or New Zealand, then don't get your hopes up - Jomon Sugi is somewhat anti-climatic. In fact, people often don't notice it until someone points it out. But don't despair, stay excited! You're about to finish the hike by strolling along an old railway as it meanders through pristine rain forest and down the Anbo river. After about 1 hour on the train tracks you'll come across a nice flat area with obvious pathways detouring toward the river, this is the perfect swimming spot. Enjoy a nice swim before the long bus back to Anbo.

 

Jomon Sugi

GPS Hiking Map: outdooractive.com

Time: 8 - 10 hrs

Distance: 20 km

Elevation change:  850m gain  ➘ 850m loss

Access: Bus or Taxi to Arakawa - 40mins from Anbo town

Trailhead  →   3hrs  →  End of railway tracks

Railway  →   1.5hrs  →  Jomon Sugi

Jomon Sugi →   3.5hrs  →  Trailhead

 

The Arakawa trailhead is only accessible by bus or taxi (¥7000) during the peak hiking period, which is from March to November. If you plan on taking a taxi then book the night before your hike, and plan your arrival to avoid the busses. If you're taking the bus, it's a good idea to purchase your bus pass the day before from a tourist info centre in Anbo, Miyanoura, or the airport. Bus times are linked above.

 

The trail is clearly marked, there are 3-4 water points along the trail so you won't need to carry too much. Once you leave the train tracks and head into the forest you'll soon see a sign pointing to the heart shaped Wilson's Stump. Shortly after Wilson's Stump you'll find Meoto Sugi, two tress that have merged together. Once you reach the platforms overlooking Jomon Sugi, simply return back the way you came. After about 1 hour of hiking back on the train tracks you'll come across a nice flat area with obvious pathways detouring toward the river, this is the perfect swimming spot. Enjoy a nice swim before the long bus back to Anbo.

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Elevation Profile

Mt. Miyanoura Day Hike

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Mt. Miyanoura Overnight Hike

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Jomon Sugi Hike

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Cautions

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Weather & Rain

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River Crossings

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Monkeys

Gallery

Gallery

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