This park is home to both the "easiest" trails of sidewalks and wooden steps as well as access to full-scale mountain hiking and multi-day hikes down trails marked by bangles of pink tape. It is one of the rainiest places in this rainy island, easily receiving around 10 meters of annual rainfall. I highly recommend Yakusugiland to those hiking on their own because you can venture deeper and deeper into the forest into less maintained territory yet turn back at any time, and the bridges are constructed to make the park hike-able in all but the worst weather.
However, people often read, YakusugiLAND, and are immediately reminded of an amusement park and turned off. That means that although bus tours often visit the 30-minute course, most of the park is undeservedly empty, and a tranquil paradise for those who seek serenity.
*All trails can be quite slippery, and even icey in the winter. After a dry spell, the walking may be relatively easy, but especially after a good rain, when new moss starts to grow on the wood planks, the trails become more slippery.
*Check the map often, because trails within the park curve back to the entrance, but trails leaving the park do not.
Yakusugiland is operated by the Yakushima Recreational Forests Department, (a branch of the Forestry Agency's Conservation Center. I don't know if all of these have official English translations.) which also operates Shiratani Unsuikyo. During park hours from 8:30am to 4:30pm, the entrance donation for 300 yen (set to rise in 2017) includes a postcard and map of the park. You can also visit the gift store by the parking lot and use the indoor break room on the second floor. The toilets are open 24 hours and users are asked to make a 100 yen donation. Cell-phone service through Docomo (AU may follow soon) is available at the main building.
|Sennen Sugi is a Yakusugi|
embraced by Trochodendrons.
For just a little more exercise you can descend the staircase to the tree called "Sennen Sugi." This is a tree that was, for whatever reason, spared by Edo-period loggers and is said to be about 1,000 years old. Japanese cedars that reach this old age in Yakushima are collectively called Yakusugi trees. The wood has very dense tree rings and can be composed of 20~30% (or more!) resin and extractives.
On the far side of the suspension bridge, just before the exit, there is a staircase down to the river, but be forewarned that is is usually EXTREMELY slippery and should not be descended by casual strollers.
|A trip to Yakusugiland is hardly|
complete without seeing the Buddha Sugi.
|Yes, this is the trail.|
In addition to all the features of the 30-minute and 50-minute walks, you will finally leave the sidewalk and boardwalks. Expect a lot of mud if it's raining, and note that the wooden planks, roots, and logs you will be walking on can get quite slippery. I encourage guests to grab on to the flora if it helps keep them upright. Shortly after turning away from the 50-minute trail, you will even find access to the river. Of course, it's usually quite slippery where fewer folks walk, and it's not safe to approach the river during/after heavy rains, so please use good judgement. You will also cross two more bridges, another small shelter with benches, and an area noted for satsuki azaleas that burst into bright pink flowers along the river banks in the summer. This is a good trail if you want to venture beyond the boardwalks and get away from the crowds, but don't want to commit yourself to a longer hike.
In addition to most of the features of the above trails, you'll see more Yakusugi trees and many more large spruce and fir trees, and you'll begin to feel that you're really in the middle of an ancient Yakusugi forest as you leave the sidewalks and boardwalks far behind. The trail makes a prolonged ascent as it winds towards the trail head for folks climbing to Mt. Tacchu. This trail head is located at another small shelter just after a disposable-toilet-pack booth. (These are booths erected so that you can use the toilet and carry the waste back with you for proper disposal. You can purchase toilet packs at the park entrance or in many other locations around Yakushima.) You'll wind around the dark and lush lonely forest and begin to wonder if this is really the same park you entered before rejoining the other trails.
If you are going to Yakugusiland by bus and you are a fast hiker, or if you want to spend a longer time in Yakusugiland, then then you may want to bring a lunch with you (No food is sold at Yakusugiland.) and venture beyond the border of the park. Just keep an eye on the time so you don't miss the bus back or get caught by darkness. For example, if you're looking to spend four to five hours, follow the trail to Mt. Tacchu until you get to Tenmon no Mori and the tree known as "Shaka Sugi" just downhill beyond. There are no signs marking Shaka Sugi, but it is at a small stream only a few minutes beyond Tenmon no Mori. In the days of Edo-period logging, spirits were believed to inhabit the large trees, and there was a custom of planting a seedling for the spirit to move to whenever a large tree was cut down in this area.
|My favorite Japanese wheel tree
at Tenmon no Mori
About the Park
Yakusugiland is often overlooked simply because of its name. But don't let the name fool you. The park was established in 1974 and was named by Hisao Takada, one of the great mountain men of Yakushima, who worked from a young age in the logging village of Kosugidani, and has done a lot to keep the memory of this era alive. When asked what he thought about Jomon Sugi's age being estimated at 7,200 years, he said that's crazy. It must be a marketing stunt. He thought Jomon should be popular because of its inherent aesthetic beauty, and I think he'd be annoyed if anyone thought of Yakusugiland as a Disney-type theme park. One of my own guests recently commented that if it was a theme park, they'd be sued for liability because of the rugged terrain.
At an elevation of 1,000 meters (about a 30-minute drive into the mountains from the closest town of Anbo), the park bares the hallmark signs of Edo period logging: Leftover stumps and axe-marks everywhere. It was spared in the 20th century, and although it is not part of the World Natural Heritage Site, it is definitely beautiful enough to be included, and it is part of the important buffer zone surrounding the World Natural Heritage Site.
In the Area:
|Kigen Sugi: At the end of the bus line.|