getting around yakushima

Getting around Yakushima needs some attention before arriving to the island as trying to arrange things at short notice can often lead to disappointment.  If you are planning on using public transport while in Yakushima then your options are limited to taking the bus.  Another option is rent a vehicle and the best option by a long way is to book activities on the island that include transportation so that all these things are taken care of and you`ll be with local islanders who will only enhance your experience on Yakushima.

Car Rental

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.  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.  YES operate with only local island companies that offer the best service.

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

If you plan to stay a few days and intend to drive around a lot then consider renting a hybrid car.  Gasoline costs at least 20 yen a liter more than on the mainland and hybrid cars would save on your gasoline expenses.  If you would like to book a hybrid car Contact YES

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 2 passengers plus some luggage.  As the speed limit is 50 km/h then they are powerful enough for most roads on the island.  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


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 the wildlife is often on the roads at night.  The other precaution is that in rain the scooter is not the safest of vehicles.  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 scooter rental for guests staying in the Miyanoura area.

Bicycle Rental

There are a few outlets that rent bicycles (usually mountain bikes).  Most bike rental shops are in either Miyanoura (宮之浦) or Anbo (安房).  Cycling around the towns and villages is a fine exercise, but don`t think of a bike as a substitute mode of transport to get you up into the mountains (unless you train regularly in Switzerland!).  Cycling around the island is possible to do in a day, but questions arise of the value to do so as you would be left with so little time to visit places along the way.  Over the years, we have witnessed many visitors clearly regretting their decision to go on extended journeys on this island that has no short cuts and is very steep.

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.  More importantly than your own safety is that over-familiarity with humans is not good for the animals in the long term as they gain confidence to venture into the human areas of the island and end up being caught in traps or shot. So the animals and residents a favor by keeping your distance.

If you’d like to rent a bicycle contact YES



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. 

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 travels to all the major sites along the coastal region of the island and goes to a lot more places than you’d not be able to access using the bus service.  There is also the added advantage of the YES guide offering explanations of the island`s history and ecology all day.

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 when disembarking.  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 1,400 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 at the desk at the Shizenkan bus stop.  Visitors are also encouraged to make a 1,000 yen donation to the Environment Maintanence.