Jomon Sugi (縄文杉)

Jomon Sugi is the most famous of the Yaku sugi trees, which is why it attracts hoards of visitors every year. The Japanese make what resembles a pilgrimage to the country’s oldest tree, and also one of nature’s oldest living monuments.

In the winter you may be lucky to pass only a handful of fellow trekkers, but in the peak season of Golden Week (early May), early August or the national holiday in September then you will be sharing the trail with hundreds of others. From spring through to late autumn you can expect the trail to be crowded at weekends though less so during the week.

Jomon Sugi is estimated to be anywhere between 2,200 and 7,200 years old and is presumed to be the eldest of the remaining Yaku sugi trees. Due to the numbers that wish to see it, and in order to protect its extensive root system, two viewing decks are situated some distance from the tree itself and you cannot go beyond these viewing decks. Long gone are the days when you could actually touch the tree! The first viewing deck was erected in 1996.

jomon crowdsAside from Jomon Sugi there are various other interesting sights to see along this route. Most notably, Wilson’s Stump (ウイルソン株) and the abandoned logging village of Kosugidani (小杉谷). Wilson’s Stump is the remains of a large felled Yaku sugi cut down over 400 years ago. The outer tree still remains, but the inner has all decayed and you can now walk around inside. Little remains of the Kosugidani village. Only the foundations of houses, a school and other buildings can be found. The forest is very quickly smothering the remains of former human habitation. A wander around the area is definitely recommended as you can quickly conjure up an impression of what life must have been like for the few hundred that lived in this remote village up until 1972. (If you pay a visit to the Nature Museum in Anbo you can watch some fascinating old film footage of the village in its heyday).

Kosugidani 11You will also encounter many other large trees along this route and there are picturesque scenes of moss forests, streams, river and an old railway bridge.

The are toilets at regular intervals along the route, although once you leave the railway line then the next toilet is a 10 minute de-tour beyond Jomon Sugi. There are also regular water locations along the route, so there is no need to carry too much water.

The Jomon Sugi trek is a moderate trek in the sense that most people with a moderate level of fitness can make it there and back (unless the upper trail is knee-deep in snow). However, it is a VERY long day from 9 – 11 hours. For the first 8 kilometres you will walk along the old logging rail track and then undertake a 2 hour trek through the forest (largely on wooden platforms and steps to prevent erosion).

Between March 1st and November 30th it is only possible to get to the Arakawa mountain entry point via a bus from the Nature Museum near Anbo. Buses operate from around 04:30 to 06:00 and the return buses are operate from 15:00 to 18:00. Bus tickets can be purchased in advance from any of the tourist information kiosks, but don’t worry if you forget to do this as they are also available on the day at the bus stop early in the morning.

You can also access Jomon Sugi via alternative routes such as via Shiratani Unsuikyo. Although this route is steeper and longer.

Another option to avoid the crowds is to stay in one of the mountain huts overnight and make your way down the next day. The Takatsuka hut is close to Jomon Sugi. It has a toilet and can accommodate about 20 people. There is enough space around the hut to pitch a few tents. Running water is available from a stream down the track from Jomon Sugi, so collect some water by the tree before heading on up to the hut.

If Takatsuka hut is full then the next option is the Shin (New) Takatsuka hut – about 1 hour further on up the trail. This hut accommodates 40 people and has a much larger camping area, toilets and the luxury of a tap!

Although there are extra logistic issues to consider when undertaken the hike to Jomon Sugi, the trail is clearly marked and there are usually always people on the trail so getting lost is never an issue.  However, there is a great deal of Yakushima history in this area and of course, the trail offers some of the biggest sugi trees on the island.  Many Japanese hikers take guided tours to Jomon Sugi as there is a lot of information conveyed during the hike and without the stories along the way then much of this hike may just feel like a long walk along a railway line.

Book a Jomon Sugi Tour with YES and we’ll be happy to help you with your Toppy jetfoil reservation.