Shiratani Unsuikyo (白谷雲水峡)


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShiratani Unsuikyo is famed for its moss-forest scenes and it also popular with fans of the Miyazaki Hayao animationMononoke Hime. Coming from the direction of Miyanoura then cross over the Miyanoura Bridge and then turn right at the traffic light.  Follow the road up and into the mountains for about 30 minutes by car until you come to the parking area.  There are a few buses each day or you could take a rather more expensive taxi ride.

There is a 500 yen admission for entrance into Shiratani Unsuikyo (children are free) and you’ll receive a hiking trail map in return.  There are a number of trails to follow ranging from a 1 hour walk past Yayoi Sugi (around 3000 years old) to a 5 – 6 hour walk through the  mossy primeval forest landscape that helped inspire Miyazaki Hayao, taking you past an array of interesting Yaku sugi trees and ending at a large rocky outcrop called Taiko Iwa (Taiko Rock) from where – on a fine day – you will get a stunning panoramic view of the interior mountains (okudake). In early spring you will be able to see mountain cherry trees. The trail to Taiko Iwa is for those with good general fitness though the last 10 minutes of the hike is steep.  On a very cloudy or rainy day then think twice about ascending up to Taiko Iwa as you may see nothing but cloud from the top!

Kusugawa Trail

The shorter trails can be crowded at times, but once you pass the bus tour groups then the longer trails offer the chance to have the forest to yourself. The best way to appreciate the forest is to take your time and soak up the atmosphere.  It is possible to continue past Taiko Iwa and eventually join the Jomon sugi trail.  If you intend to walk to Jomon sugi or Miyanouradake the next day then you could stay in the Shiratani Hut which is situated about an hour or so from the entrance.  Unfortunately, the Shiratani Unsuikyo hut is probably the worst of all the huts as the toilet is inside the hut and during the summer months then you may wish there was some distance between the sleeping area and the toilet.

Shiratani UnsuikyoEven on these easy routes it is better to have good footwear ie. walking boots.  Don’t worry if you don’t have space in your suitcase as you can rent boots and other hiking equipment on the island.  A raincoat is also advisable.  Shiratani Unsuikyo can be closed during a heavy rainfall as the rivers can become dangerous to cross.  Check with your hotel or tourist information before setting off if you happen to be in Yakushima during a wet period.

You could do the Shiratani Unsuikyo hike on your own as it is certainly easy to navigate.  However, you’d be missing the point of this forest if you walked around it without knowing what you were observing and what role things play in the ecological make up of the Shiratani forest.  Consider a Shiratani Unsuikyo YES Tour to make the most out of your visit to the forest.  This forest tour is the most popular YES tour as it allows lots of time for the guide to explain the ecology and history of the area.  Check the YES Tripadvisor page if you wish to consider the merit of this YES forest tour.

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