getting around yakushima

Useful travel and transport information that you may require to travel around Yakushima on public transport or rental vehicles. If you are planning on using public transport while in Yakushima your options are limited to taking the bus. You can pay per journey or buy a 1 or 2 day bus pass (2000 yen for 1 day or 3000 yen for 2 days).  Below are a variety of transport options available on Yakushima. Hitch hiking is possible, but may be difficult off the main road.  The island is approximately 130 km around and is very easy to get your bearings.

Rent a Car



The first thing you need to know about renting a car in Japan is that you'll need an international driving license.  Visitors from France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland and Taiwan will also need a translated copy of their national driving license as well as an international driving license.  Details on how to receive a translated license or other license issues can be found on the Japan Automobile Federation website (JAF). 

You can bring a car with you on the ferry, however, if you intend to stay less than 5 days on the island then renting a car is a cheaper option.  There are more rent-a-car outlets than post offices on the island and during the peak season there are more rental vehicles than local cars on the roads.

Generally speaking, the local companies are cheaper than the national companies.  YES are able to book your car rental if you can tell us what size of car you would like (660cc / 1000cc / 1300cc / 1500cc / 8 person people carrier) as well as your arrival and departure details.  We can arrange to have the vehicle at the port or airport upon your arrival.   Contact YES

Go green and rent an Eco-car

If you plan to stay a few days and intend to drive around a lot then consider renting an electric car or a hybrid car.  Gasoline costs at least 20 yen a liter more than on the mainland, and the island runs a free battery re-charging station program.  Hybrid cars would also save on your gasoline expenses.  There are 4 locations on the island to re-charge your car for free (it just takes a bit of time).  The island is small enough for you to drive around it at least once without needing to re-charge.  The downside is that electric cars cost more to rent than gasoline cars.  The islanders have put in a lot of effort to persuade as many rent-a-car companies as possible to stock electric cars as it fits in with Yakushima's people and nature in harmony policy.  If you would like to book a hybrid car Contact YES

On a budget? Rent a 'K' car

The cheapest rental car option is a 'K' car.  These cars have a small engine (up to 660cc) and a yellow number plate.  They are economical to drive and carry up to 4 passengers.  As the speed limit is 50 km/h then they are powerful enough for all island driving.  During the summer months and National Holidays you'll be VERY lucky to arrive on the island and get a 'K' car unless you have booked one in advance.  Contact YES

Do I really need supplementary insurance?

One word of caution: most accidents and damage to rental vehicles are caused in the congested car parks during the peak season.  You may not be driving your car, but someone could knock or scratch it and leave you liable to pay damage charges.  Be careful in the car parks or if you take the car down a dirt-track.  If you wish to be safe then accept the 500 yen per day surcharge that accompanies the obligatory insurance to cover yourself for an expensive experience.

Rent a scooter vespa

If you carry an international driver's license then you can also rent a scooter up to 50cc.  Driving a scooter is safe as the speed limit on the island is only 50km/h.  However, do be careful at night as there is very little street lighting and you could end up crashing into a deer!  A 50cc is too small to carry a pillion passenger, but it will be able to handle the mountain roads leading up to the hiking trails and it is safe to leave it parked for the day while out walking.  YES can arrange rental for guests staying in the Miyanoura area.

If you'd like help renting a scooter contact YES and we'll be happy to help.

Rent a bicycle



There are lots of places that rent good bicycles (usually mountain bikes).  Most bike rental shops are in either Miyanoura (宮之浦) or Anbo (安房).  Cycling can be a great way to get around Yakushima at a leisurely pace. There are a few hills to negotiate and cycling up to either Shiratani Unsuikyo (白谷雲水峡) or Yakusugi Land (ヤクスギランド) would be a serious challenge.  Just be prepared to sweat!

Cycling round to the quiet west coast of the island is popular as this is the only area of coastal road that is  included in the UNESCO protected zone. Public transport does not run on the Seibu Forest Path between Nagata and the Ohko Waterfall as it is too narrow.  If you happen to pass monkeys and deer along this route then please keep a safe distance of at least 10 metres and don't be tempted to go too close to them.  They are wild animals and therefore unpredictable.  Also, over-familiarity with humans is not good for the animals in the long term. 

Check out our Rental Services page for a list of bicycle rental outlets or if you are staying in the Miyanoura area then YES can arrange bicycle delivery to your accommodation. 

If you'd like help renting a bicycle contact YES and we'll be happy to help.


Take the bus



Buses run from Nagata (永田) in the north-west to Ohko Waterfall (大川の滝) in the south west.  They do not run the full circular route as the road that runs through the World Heritage area is too narrow.  Yakushima Kotsu (a local bus company) publishes an English timetable twice a year.  A 1 day bus pass is available for 2000 yen or a 2 day pass for 3000 yenChildren are half price.  The bus pass outlets are listed on the timetable.  However, you cannot use this pass for the Yakusugi Land to Arakawa Trail Head Entry point to Jomon Sugi.  The bus pass also gives you a 100 yen discount on entering either the Yakusugi Museum, Yakusugi Land or Shiratani Unsuikyo.

The downside to the buses is that the service is infrequent and very limited to the places you can go.  Guests wishing not to spend all day waiting for buses should consider a YES Island Tour which travel to all the major sites along the coastal region of the island and goes to a lot more places than you'd be able to access using the bus service.

The Matsubanda Bus company run buses between Miyanoura (宮之浦) and Hirauchi (平内) in the south. 

How to pay on the bus

Bus fares are paid as you leave the bus, not as you get on. When you get on a bus take a small paper ticket from the machine which will have a number stamped upon it – this is the number of the bus stop from which you boarded.  Above the driver, at the front of the bus, you will see a board with electronic numbers upon it.  Find your number and the amount you will have to pay will be written under it.   As the bus drives on from stop to stop, this amount will change as you travel.  You pay the driver with the exact change.  Don't worry if you don't have the exact amount as there will be a change machine at the front of the bus.  The driver will announce the name of the bus stop as you approach it.

The timetable changes with fewer buses running over the winter season.  You can pick up the latest timetable from any tourist information office or go to the YES bus links page.

How to get the bus for the Arakawa Trail and Jomon Sugi

Between March 1st and the end of November 30th,  access to the Arakawa trail entry is only possible by either bus or taxi.  This measure was introduced a couple of years ago to prevent road congestion.  The bus departs from in front of Yakusugi Shizenkan (ヤクスギ自然館) near Anbo (安房).  The return bus fare is 1740 yen.  Buses run from 04:40 to 06:00am and the return buses are from 15:00 to 18:00pm – don't miss the last one!  You are asked to purchase your bus ticket in advance and this can be done from any of the tourist information kiosks.  Don't panic if you forget to do this as they are also some available on the day at the bus stop.

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