What to expect:
Yakushima is an incredible island, filled with some of the world’s greatest nature. It’s tiny population of just over 13,000 inhabitants occupy the outer rims, preserving the mass of mountains and forestry in the center. Their economy is 50% dependent on tourism with over 50% of their electricity generated from the power of its many waterfalls. It truly is a magical place, with the most hospitable, kind and friendly locals, who, no matter who you are, will smile and say hello to you (sometimes even in English).
The preservation of the island’s beautiful nature and supporting the local community are large priorities here. So much so, that the island has rejected all combinis, large retailing stores and even having too many supermarkets. In fact, the only glimpse of commercialism on the island comes from a small Mos Burger near Anbo Port. But be warned, purchasing almost anything on the island is incredibly expensive. Supermarkets are over priced and buses are ridiculously expensive compared to Tokyo but be happy in the knowledge that you are helping to support the people of the island and their incredible surroundings. In addition, all of the hiking routes are either free or ridiculously cheap to enter, so the costs end up balancing themselves out quite nicely.
Getting around the island without a car requires a good amount of thinking, planning and preparation. Buses are somewhat rare and finish remarkably early. And, if you’re considering going on a long hike into some mountains, you do not want to leave anything to chance or you could find yourself being very stuck.
The buses are generally on time, but it is definitely worth getting to your stop 5-10 minutes before it is supposed to arrive just for peace of mind. As you get on the bus, be sure to pull a ticket from the machine near the entrance. This ticket will have a number on it which corresponds to the number on the board at the front of the bus. This board will change to inform you how much your journey will cost. Simply place the ticket and the correct change in the box on the way off. Change is not given but there is a machine at the front where you can change up your ¥1,000 notes, but not ¥10,000!
If you’re planning on staying in Yakushima for a few days, it is probably worthwhile getting the unlimited-ride free pass, which allows you to travel around the island an unlimited amount of times for a fixed price (1day – ¥2,000, 2 or 3 days – ¥3,000, 4 days – ¥4,000). The one day ticket isn’t really worthwhile, but if you stay for at least 3 days, it is a very wise investment. It also gives you ¥100 off yakusugi museum, yakusugi cedar land or Shiritani Unsuikyo. Plan your routes and weigh up your options on whether you want to invest in one of these bus tickets but be warned that they are not applicable for the Arakawa mountain bus and the sightseeing bus tour. I stayed for just 3 days and I wished I had bought one. It is easy to spend over ¥1,500 just getting to the other side of the island and back. You can purchase these at Miyanoura port, Anbo port, the tourist information center, Iwasaki hotel and the airport.
What to bring:
- Money. To save the trouble of having to tack down those few ATM machines on the island, it’s best to come with all the money you think you are going to need on the island. In a case like this, being over prepared is probably best, so bring a little more than you think you’ll need and make sure you have it exchanged to Japanese yen already or you’re going to have a tough time.
- Layers of comfortable, light clothing, suitable for hiking.
- Hiking boots.
- A hand towel to take on your hikes.
- An umbrella (but don’t take it on hikes!)
- Waterproof clothing. Yakushima tends to rain a lot, so be sure to bring wet weather gear. If you’re amongst the trees or on a hike though, you might want to forget the uncomfortable waterproof trousers.
I whole heartedly urge you to stay at Anbo port, or at least nearby. It is much easier to get around from here (unless you’re heading to Shiritani Unsuikyo), meaning less ridiculously early mornings. Most hiking routes, sites and activities are situated around Anbo, so it really seems like the best place to stay if you want to save some time. In addition, there are more restaurants, an ATM machine, a post office, an awesome place to buy a good bento and other local shops.
The first thing you should do when you arrive:
Go to the visitors center by Miyanoura port. You will get some incredible advice, most of which you probably hadn’t even considered, obtain maps, routes and, if you’re as jammy as me, get someone to practically plan a few days hiking for you, all for free and all in impeccable English. I am so glad I went here when I arrived. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure I would have wasted my time on Yakushima.
|Address||Kumage District, Kagoshima Prefecture|
|Access||[map]Kumage District, Kagoshima Prefecture[/map]|