Shiratani Unsuikyo

If you pick up a book about Yakushima and it’s filled with moss-green forests, then the chances are you are looking at Shiratani Unsuikyo.

Shiratani Unsuikyo is relatively easy to access and therefore it is popular, but it`s popularity is well-merited.  Due to its ease of access, some visitors consider “going-it-alone” at Shiratani Unsuikyo, but by doing so then SO MUCH is missed.  Consider Shiratani Unsuikyo as a “must do with YES guide” and leave the forest feeling inspired rather than just ticking it off a list. 

On a short hike you will be lucky to have the forest to yourself, but on a longer hike through the ‘genseirin’ forest then tranquility is possible.

P1040716The full day Shiratani Unsuikyo hike does go through the ‘genseirin’ and this route produces some of the best scenery on this hike.  There are also some big trees along this route including Nidai Osugi, Bugyo sugi and the photogenic Sanbonashi sugi (3 legged sugi)  The genseirin route also has probably the best moss area within the Shiratani Unsuikyo forest.

Re-joining the main route through Shiratani Unsuikyo (the old Kusugawa Trail) then we soon come to the ‘Moss Forest’ which used to be known as the ‘Mononoke Hime Forest’ until a dispute with the Ghibli Studios forced a name-change.  You will often find walkers congregating here for the obligatory photo.  Admittedly, it is a wonderful setting. 

P1040643Beyond the Moss Forest is the climb towards Taiko Iwa. It takes around 45 minutes to reach the top of Taiko Iwa and on a clear day it has to be one of the highlights of the day as the views over to the central mountains are great. Miyanouradake stands before you and there are also good views of the Arakawa Valley and Tachu Dake over in the distance.  On cloudy days we would tend to focus on the genseirin route

Returning back down the valley we keep to the Kusugawa Trail (an old logging trail), passing a few more large cryptomeria trees including Nanahon sugi.

Heavy rain can force the Shiratani Unsuikyo forest to be closed due to some dangerous river crossings, but we are often able to take alternative courses that can avoid these dangerous river crossings.