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Mystical forested island that inspired Princess Mononoke

About Yakushima
Photo: Josef Diermair / JT

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About Yakushima

Yakushima island of Kagoshima Prefecture is located off the southern coast of Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost island. The small, almost perfectly circular island, is home to ancient cedar forests with some of the country’s oldest trees. These millenia old trees, also called yakusugi, dominate the mystical and untouched environment, which was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. Nature enthusiasts and avid hikers visit the island to journey through the lush, mountainous, and moss-covered forests where they can detach themselves from the busyness of life and reconnect with nature. Due to Yakushima’s wet climate, the island is also abundant in rivers, ravines, and impressive waterfalls. Serious hikers can embark on a multi-day hike up to Mount Miyanoura’s summit, which is the tallest peak in Kyushu and considered by locals to be a spiritual journey. With its stunning and treasured environment, it is no surprise that Yakushima inspired the setting of Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke

The island is also unique for its diverse climate and resulting biodiversity, boasting plants from subtropical and cold temperate zones. This special environment is also the grounds for Yakushima-exclusive animals such as the Yaku monkey and Yaku deer. 

Outside of the forests, the island’s undeveloped coastline offers pristine beaches, snorkeling, and rustic onsens with stone baths along the sea. In the summer, the beaches are famously home to nesting sea turtles.

The seemingly otherworldly, yet purely Earthly, environment is one that must be seen to be believed.