Yakushima has some fantastic hikes that cater to all abilities. From half-day hikes to 3 or 4 day treks. From deep-forest treks to mountain hikes which take you to the vast expanses of open highland above the tree-line. For the adventurous, hiking in the snow is possible from December to late February. To help you choose a hike according to your experience then the following hiking section is divided into easy, moderate and difficult hikes.
The majority of hikes are either well sign posted or marked with pink ribbons upon the trees along the route. However, the less popular trails are a lot harder to follow and so caution is required. Many treks can be made in a day (if you are prepared for an early start), but it's also possible to spend a night or more in the mountains. You can either stay in one of the many mountain huts or camp by the mountain huts. You cannot camp beyonf the area of the mountain huts. There are many hiking and camping equipment rental shops on the island, so don't worry if you haven't come prepared as YES we can help you kit yourself out. To find out what equipment and clothing you will need to hike in Yakushima then please look at our printer friendly Yakushima Hiking Equipment Check List.
Always take precautions in the mountains. Every few years there are casualties and you shouldn't treat these peaks lightly. The coastal region of the island may be sub-tropical, but the high ground is certainly sub-alpine. Mobile phone reception can vary around the island, but reception can be found on the higher areas of the mountain trails and good reception is found on the mountain summits. If you need the emergency services then calling 0997 46 2110 will connect you with the Yakushima Police. Other emergency services can be found on our Emergency Services page.
YES recommend hiring an English guide, particularly if you are not an experienced hiker. A YES guide knows the trail, the conditions and keeps track of the time to ensure you get up and back down safely. Even if you are an accomplished hiker then the benefit of taking a YES tour is that your guide fills the day with a wealth of information about Yakushima meaning you come down a lot wiser than you were going up! There is a great deal more to this island than beautiful scenery, so take advantage of hiring a guide and leave the Yakushima feeling as though you got beyond the surface. Contact YES or look at our YES Tour pages for more details.
IMPORTANT: We'd also like to point out that the trek listed in the Japan Lonely Planet has some misleading information. The listed trek begins from Onoaida and ends at Shiratani Unsuikyo. The first day of this trek (from Onoaida) should be considered dangerous in either wet weather or heavy cloud. The first few hours are no problem, but after the Janokuchi Waterfall the trek can be dangerous until you reach the Yodagawa mountain entry point near the end of the first day of this trek. For those without sufficient experience then we would advise you not to attempt the first day of this trek in bad conditions. You could join the trail at the Yodogawa mountain entry point by road and then commence the hike to Shiratani Unsuikyo.
Please also remember that most of the trekking area is UNESCO protected land and there are rules and regulations in place to protect it:
- Always consider the plant and wildlife
- Whatever you bring into the area, make sure to take it all back out with you at the end of the trek. Bring extra plastic bags for waste etc
- Do not use the rivers and streams as toilets, and use the water with respect ie. do not pollute with detergent. Toilets are few and far between, so always make use of a toilet at the beginning of a trail head or at the mountain huts. Special (green) toilet bags are available at various outlets around the island should you find yourself in a place that has no toilet.
- No open fires. Bring camping stove equipment with you and only use designated camping areas.
- Do not feed the wildlife; notably the deer and monkeys. Once these animals have a taste for 'human' food then the local farmers suffer terribly as crops are destroyed and whatever you are giving the animals is unlikely to be good for them. This is a big issue on the island.
- Please donate 500 yen to the Yakushima Mountain Protection group. This money is largely used for sewage collection from the mountain hut toilets.
- Stay on the designated paths and trails. Many of the plants have a fragile existence and treading on them doesn't help.