A UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site

Yakushima Island has a characteristic “vertical distribution” of flora, which has resulted in its unique ecosystem and was the decisive factor in the island’s 1993 registration as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.
The cold climate of the island’s central highlands is comparable to that of the northern part of Japan, while the coastal regions are in subtropical climate conditions, with temperate zones in between. In other words, Yakushima Island has in it all kinds of climates seen in different regions of the elongated Japanese Archipelago.

“Floating Alps”

With a circumference of mere a 130 kilometers, the circular Yakushima Island certainly is not large. Yet, it is home to Mount Miyanoura, the highest peak in the Kyushu Region in southern Japan, and other high mountains.
The combined effect is that this small island looks like mountains shooting out of the ocean, complete with snow caps on them in winter, giving rise to the island’s moniker “the Floating Alps.”

It rains 35 days a month

In her last completed novel Ukigumo (Floating Clouds), writer and poet Fumiko Hayashi wrote: “In Yakushima, it rains 35 days in a month,” in reference to the showery weather of the island where she wrote the 1949 novel.
Indeed, rain is an essential part of the multi-faceted Yakushima Island and the source of the island’s rich natural abundance.

Residents in the forests

Yakushima Island is home to large populations of deer (Yakushima deer) and monkey (Yakushima macaque).
If you travel on Seibu Forest Path (Prefectural Route 78) on the west coast of the island, there is a good chance you will see a family of deer crossing the road or monkeys intimately grooming.

Yakusugi cedars

Yakusugi refers to Yakushima Island’s native cedars over 1,000 years old.
“Younger” cedars of the island are called kosugi, or “small cedar.” The largest known Yakusugi is the famous Jomon Sugi, which, according to some estimates, is 7,200 years old.

Moss-covered forests

A lush, moss-covered virgin forest, Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine is said to be the inspiration for the settings of Princess Mononoke, a 1997 Studio Ghibli animation film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
The area is covered with moist lichen and glows green with mystical charm.

Ultra soft water

Filtered through deep forests and purified by granite rocks, Yakushima Island’s water is a pure, ultra soft water with an approximate hardness of 10.

Granite

Yakushima Island’s mass consists mostly of distinctive granite containing huge crystals of feldspar.
Granite was formed by the cooling of magma deep underground over 15 million years ago. The mountain range in the central part of the island is almost entirely granite.
Senpiro Falls in the southern part of the island slide over a huge granite monolith.

Takemairi rituals

In ancient times, the inhabitants of Yakushima Island climbed the mountains only for the religious rituals called takemairi.
The mountains were subject of worshipping and not to be entered into causally.
The rituals are still alive today. Each spring and autumn, a few islanders from each settlement pay a visit to the mountain they revere to pray for an abundant harvest and rich haul.

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