hiking trails

Yakushima has some fantastic hikes that cater to all abilities.  From half-day hikes to 2 night / 3 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, but experience in such conditions along with the correct equipment is essential.

The majority of hikes are either well sign-posted or marked with pink ribbons upon the trees along the route.  What may look like a hiking trail could, in fact, be a deer trail, so take care to keep on the trails.  Aside from visitors potentially losing their way, perhaps the main reason to keep to the trails is to protect our natural environment.  With so many rare endemic plants on the island then going off-trail is not encouraged.  In general, the less popular trails are a lot harder to follow and so caution is required. 

Many treks can be undertaken 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 beyond the area of the mountain huts.  There are a few hiking and camping equipment rental shops on the island, so don’t worry if you haven’t come prepared as YES 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.  The basic equipment would include hiking boots with ankle support, rain wear, a water container and a backpack.  Should you wish to rent any hiking gear then please tell us what is required, your sizes and the dates you wish to rent the equipment.

Mountain Hiking

Always take precautions in the mountains.  Every few years there are casualties and you shouldn’t treat these peaks as a stroll in the park.  The mountains of Yakushima are the highest peaks in southern Japan.  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.

We would always recommend booking a YES tour guide, particularly if you are not an experienced hiker.  A YES guide knows the trails, 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 when going up!  There is a great deal more to this island than beautiful scenery, so take advantage of booking a YES guide and depart Yakushima feeling as though you got beyond the `surface`.  Contact YES or check the YES Tripadvisor page and discover the difference between a guided and un-guided visit to Yakushima.

Please remember that most of the trekking areas are either under the jurisdiction of the National Parks or UNESCO.  Therefore, the areas are protected land and there are rules and regulations in place to maintain its beauty:

    • Always consider the plants and wildlife.
    • Whatever you bring into the mountains and forests then 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.  Do what you have to do in the `strong` bag and carry your waste out with you.  There are usually disposal boxes at the mountain entrances for the toilet bags.
    • No open fires.  Bring camping stove equipment with you.
    • Do not feed the wildlife; especially the deer and monkeys.  You may not come across more healthier looking deer and monkeys, so they are clearly not in need of extra food.  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 our  island.
    • Please donate to the Yakushima Mountain Environment Protection.  These donations are mostly used for sewage collection from the mountain hut toilets and occasionally you may see locals carry large containers of sewage on their backs.  Your donations help pay these people do this unpleasant, but invaluable task.  Donations are collected at many of the mountain trail entry points and if you plan to stay overnight in the mountains then a 2,000 yen donation would be most welcomed.
    • Stay on the designated paths and trails.  Many of the plants have a fragile existence and treading on them doesn’t help.  Moss is particularly fragile, so try to avoid standing on mosses.
      • If lost, do not follow a river down-stream.  You should try to head to upwards to a summit where there is likely to be telephone reception and open-ground making it easier for the rescue operation to find you.
  • Switch off your mobile or put it on manner-mode to conserve battery power.  There is rarely reception within the forest and so you wouldn`t need your telephone searching for reception during this time.  However, having as much battery life within your mobile phone should an accident occur could be a life-saver.