Yakushima (屋久島) is one of the Ōsumi Islands in Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. The island, 504.88 km2 (194.94 sq mi) in area, has a population of 13,178. Access to the island is by hydrofoil ferry (7 or 8 times a day from Kagoshima, depending on the season), slow car ferry (once or twice a day from Kagoshima), or by air to Yakushima Airport (3 to 5 times daily from Kagoshima, once daily from Fukuoka and once daily from Osaka). Administratively, the whole island is the town of Yakushima. The town also serves neighbouring Kuchinoerabujima. The majority of the island is within the borders of the Kirishima-Yaku National Park.[2]

Yakushima's electricity is more than 50% hydroelectric, and surplus power has been used to produce hydrogen gas in an experiment by Kagoshima University. The island has been a test site for Honda's hydrogen fuel cell vehicle research. (There are no hydrogen cars stationed on the island but electric cars are run by the municipality.)

Native name:
Japanese: 屋久島
Landsat image of Yakushima
Yakushima is located in Japan
Location in Japan (with southern islands in inset)
LocationEast China Sea
Coordinates30°20′38″N 130°31′26″E / 30.34389°N 130.52389°ECoordinates: 30°20′38″N 130°31′26″E / 30.34389°N 130.52389°E
ArchipelagoŌsumi Islands
Area504.88 km2 (194.94 sq mi)
Highest elevation1,935 m (6,348 ft)
Highest pointMiyanouradake
Kagoshima Prefecture
Population13,178 (2010)
Pop. density26.1 /km2 (67.6 /sq mi)
Ethnic groupsJapanese
CriteriaNatural: vii, ix
Inscription1993 (17th Session)
Area10,747 ha
Official nameYakushima Nagata-hama
Designated8 November 2005
Reference no.1559[1]

World Heritage designation

Jhomonsugi in Yaku Island Japan 001
Yaku-sugi (Jōmon-sugi)

In 1980 an area of 18,958 ha (46,850 acres) was designated a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve.[3] In 1993, 10 hectares (25 acres) of wetland at Nagata-hama was designated a Ramsar Site.[4] It is the largest nesting ground for the endangered loggerhead sea turtle in the North Pacific.[2][5] Yakushima's unique remnant of warm/temperate ancient forest has been a natural World Heritage Site since 1993. In the Wilderness core area (12.19 square kilometres (3,010 acres)) of the World Heritage Site, no record of past tree cutting can be traced.[6] The island is visited by 300,000 tourists every year.


Yakushima is located approximately 61.3 kilometres (38.1 mi) south of the southern tip of Ōsumi Peninsula in southern Kyushu, or 135 kilometres (73 nmi) south of Kagoshima. The Vincennes Strait (Yakushima Kaikyō) separates it from the nearby island of Tanegashima, which is home to the Japanese Space Centre. Periodic rocket launches from Tanegashima can clearly be seen from Yakushima.

Yakushima Relief Map, SRTM
Relief Map

The bedrock of the island is granite, and as such it hosts no active volcanoes.[7] It has an area of approximately 504.5 square kilometres (194.8 sq mi). The island is roughly circular in shape, with a circumference of 89 kilometres (55 mi) and a diameter of 28 kilometres (17 mi). The highest elevations on the island are Miyanouradake (宮之浦岳), with a height of 1,935 metres (6,348 ft), and Nagatadake (永田岳), with a height of 1,886 metres (6,188 ft) above sea level; however, Yakushima has another 30 peaks of over 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) in height. There are numerous hot springs on the island.


Yakushima has been settled since at least the Jōmon period. It is first mentioned in written documents of the Chinese Sui Dynasty of the 6th century, and in the Japanese Shoku Nihongi in an entry dated 702. It formed part of ancient Tane Province. It was often mentioned in the diaries of travellers between Tang Dynasty China and Nara period Japan. During the Edo period, Yakushima was ruled by the Shimazu clan of the Satsuma Domain and was considered part of Ōsumi Province. Following the Meiji restoration, the island has been administered as part of Kagoshima Prefecture. In 2017, Yakushima was struck by Typhoon Noru causing one death.

Demographics and economics

The population of Yakushima reached a peak in 1960 with 24,010 inhabitants. It thereafter declined until about 1995, but has subsequently stabilized at just over 13,000 inhabitants.

Traditionally, the economic mainstays of the population were forestry and the export of wood products (principally cedar roof shingles), and commercial fishing. Cultivation of oranges and tea, the distilling of shōchū, and tourism are now the main sources of income.

Flora and fauna

Yakushima contains one of the largest tracts of existing Nansei Islands subtropical evergreen forests, and endangered habitat ecoregion.[8] The only large animals indigenous to the island are red-bottomed macaques (Yakushima macaque) and a variety of sika deer (yakushika). The tanuki is also a common animal, but is not native to the island. Japanese weasels (Mustela itatsi) may also be seen from time to time. The island is a spawning ground for migratory loggerhead turtles, and dolphins are to be found offshore. The coastal areas have coral reefs in places, although to a much lesser extent than are found farther south in the islands of Okinawa.

Yakushima is famous for its lush vegetation. Most of the island has at one time or another been logged (dating back at least to the early Edo period), but has been extensively replanted and reseeded since logging ended in the late 1960s, at which time a conservation regime was established. In addition to this secondary forest, there are some remaining areas of primary forest, composed mainly of a variety of Cryptomeria japonica, or Japanese cedar, known as yakusugi (屋久杉), the best known single example of which is named the Jōmon Sugi (縄文杉), as its age is estimated to date to at least the Jōmon period of Japanese history, 2300 years ago. In addition, the island lists over 50 varieties of endemic flower, notably rhododendrons, and hundreds of rare endemic Bryophyta, as well as a number of endemic trees.


Yakushima has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa) with hot, humid summers and mild winters. Precipitation is extremely heavy, with at least 250 millimetres (9.8 in) in each month and as much as 773 millimetres (30.4 in) in June alone. Yakushima is Japan's wettest place,[9] and annual precipitation in Yakushima is one of the world's highest at 4,000 to 10,000 mm (160 to 390 in). It is said by the locals to rain "35 days a month". There are drier periods in autumn and winter, while the heaviest downpours occur in spring and summer, often accompanied by landslides. It is the southernmost place in Japan where there is snow in the mountains, often for months, while the ocean temperature is never below 19 °C (66 °F)


The island is downwind of heavily polluted areas in the People's Republic of China. Yakushima white pine in the forest on the island may have been affected by combustion products from coal burning and automobile exhaust.[10]

In popular culture

The forests of Yakushima inspired the forest setting in Hayao Miyazaki's film Princess Mononoke.[11]

Japan satellite view with Yakushima tagged
Location of Yakushima (red circle) compared to the rest of Japan.

Yakushima is the inspiration behind the forest of Dremuchij in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.[12]

Fictional character Jin Kazama of Tekken was born in Yakushima.

Eiji Miyake, the protagonist of David Mitchell’s novel number9dream, is from Yakushima. Parts of the novel take place in the narrator’s childhood on the island.

The island also featured prominently in the 1996 film Rebirth of Mothra. In the movie The Young Mothra swims to the island to transform into the new and more powerful Mothra taking its life essence and new powers from the eternal forest.

See also


  • Witham, Clive. Yakushima: A Yakumonkey Guide. Siesta Press. (2009) ISBN 0956150705

External links


  1. ^ "Yakushima Nagata-hama". Ramsar Sites Information Service. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Introducing places of interest: Kirishima-Yaku National Park". Ministry of the Environment. Retrieved 24 March 2011.
  3. ^ "Biosphere Reserve Information - Yakushima". UNESCO. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
  4. ^ "Ramsar Sites in Japan - Yakushima Nagata-hama" (PDF). Ministry of the Environment. Retrieved 24 March 2011.
  5. ^ "Kirishima-Yaku National Park". Natural Parks Foundation. Retrieved 24 March 2011.
  6. ^ "World Heritage Nomination - IUCN Summary" (PDF). UNESCO World Heritage Committee. Retrieved 2008-08-28.
  7. ^ "World Heritage Sites in Japan". www.jnto.go.jp.
  8. ^ "Nansei Islands subtropical evergreen forests". Global Species. Myers Enterprises II. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  9. ^ http://www.climate-charts.com/Countries/Japan.html
  10. ^ Martin Fackler (April 24, 2013). "Scientist Says Pollution From China Is Killing a Japanese Island's Trees". The New York Times. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  11. ^ "World Heritage - Yakushima". Japan Airlines. Retrieved 2008-08-15.
  12. ^ [1], Hideo Kojima offers insight and commentary on Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
Fragaria nipponica

Fragaria nipponica is a species of wild strawberry native to the western side of the Japanese island of Honshū, with a variety Fragaria nipponica var. yakusimensis on Yakushima. Some botanists treat it as a synonym of Fragaria yezoensis.All strawberries have a base haploid count of 7 chromosomes. Fragaria nipponica is diploid, having 2 pairs of these chromosomes for a total of 14 chromosomes.

Fragaria nipponica, particularly var. yakusimensis, is cultivated in Japan for its edible fruit.

Japanese macaque

The Japanese macaque (; Macaca fuscata), also known as the snow monkey, is a terrestrial Old World monkey species that is native to Japan. They get their name "snow monkey" because they live in areas where snow covers the ground for months each year – no other nonhuman primate is more northern-living, nor lives in a colder climate. Individuals have brown-grey fur, red faces, and short tails. Two subspecies are known.In Japan, the species is known as Nihonzaru (ニホンザル, a combination of Nihon 日本 "Japan" + saru 猿 "monkey") to distinguish it from other primates, but the Japanese macaque is very familiar in Japan, so when Japanese people simply say saru, they usually have in mind the Japanese macaque.

Jōmon Sugi

Jōmon Sugi (縄文杉) is a large Cryptomeria tree (yakusugi) located on Yakushima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Japan. It is the oldest and largest among the old-growth cryptomeria trees on the island, and is estimated to be between 2,170 and 7,200 years old. Other estimates of the tree's age include "at least 5,000 years", "more than 6,000 years", and "up to 7,000 years old". The tree's name is a reference to the Jōmon period of Japanese prehistory.

Jōmon Sugi is located on the north face of Miyanoura-dake, the highest peak on Yakushima, at an elevation of 1,934 m (6,300 ft). Discovery of the tree in 1968 "sparked moves to protect the forests" of Yakushima and gave rise to the island's tourist industry, which today comprises more than half of its economy.Jōmon Sugi is accessible via the Kusugawa Hiking Path (east of Miyanoura) and the Arakawa Trail (starting at the Arakawa Dam), but requires a "four-to-five hour mountain hike" from the nearest road to reach. After the designation of Yakushima as a World Heritage Site in 1993, local officials restricted access to the tree to an observation deck built at a distance of 15 m (49 ft) from the tree.The tree has a height of 25.3 m (83 ft) and a trunk circumference of 16.4 m (54 ft). It has a volume of approximately 300 m3 (11,000 cu ft), making it the largest conifer in Japan. Tree-ring dating conducted by Japanese scientists on the tree's branches indicated that Jōmon Sugi is at least 2,000 years old. In Remarkable Trees of the World (2002), arborist Thomas Pakenham describes Jōmon Sugi as "a grim titan of a tree, rising from the spongy ground more like rock than timber, his vast muscular arms extended above the tangle of young cedars and camphor trees".In 2005, vandals stripped from the tree a piece of bark measuring about 10 cm (4 in) on each side.In April 2009, Jōmon Sugi was partnered with Tāne Mahuta in New Zealand's Waipoua Forest.

Kagoshima Prefecture

Kagoshima Prefecture (鹿児島県, Kagoshima-ken) is a prefecture of Japan located on the island of Kyushu. The capital is the city of Kagoshima.


Kuchinoerabu-jima (口永良部島), is one of the Satsunan Islands, usually classed with the Ōsumi Islands belonging to Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. The island, 38.04 km² in area, has a population of 147. The island can only be reached by boat as it has no airport. There is regular ferry service with Yakushima, which is about 15 km to the east. Travel time is approximately 1 hour. The islanders are dependent mainly on fishing, agriculture and seasonal tourism. The entire island is within the borders of the Kirishima-Yaku National Park.

Kumage District, Kagoshima

Kumage (熊毛郡, Kumage-gun) is a district located in Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. The district covers two islands from the Ōsumi Islands, Tanegashima and Yakushima.

The district has an estimated population of 29,706 with a total area of 789.16 km², according to 2005 Census.

Contains 3 towns:




Kumage Subprefecture

Kumage Subprefecture (熊毛支庁, Kumage-shichō) is a subprefecture of Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. The subprefectural office is located in Nishinoomote.

It includes the following cities and towns on the Ōsumi Islands:

Kumage Subprefecture

Nishinoomote (city on Tanegashima and Mageshima)

Nakatane (town on Tanegashima)

Minamitane (town on Tanegashima)

Yakushima Office

Yakushima (town on Yakushima and Kuchinoerabujima)

List of World Heritage Sites in Japan

Japan accepted the UNESCO World Heritage Convention on 30 June 1992. As of July 2019, twenty-three properties have been inscribed on the World Heritage List: nineteen cultural sites and four natural sites. A further eight sites and one site extension have been submitted for future inscription and are currently on the Tentative List as of 2017.

Pinus amamiana

Pinus amamiana (Amami pine, Yakushima white pine) is a species of pine. It is a native of southern Japan, on the islands of Yakushima and Tanegashima south of Kyūshū. It has also been grown horticulturally in Japanese parks. This pine can grow to a height of 25 m with a trunk diameter of up to 1 m.

The needles grow in bundles of five and the cones are 5–8 cm in length.

This tree is known in Japanese as amami-goyamatsu, amami-goyo, and yakutane-goyo.

Tago's brown frog

The Tago's brown frog or simply Tago frog (Rana tagoi) is a species of frog in the family Ranidae endemic to Japan. It is widely distributed within Japan and found on Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, as well as on some outlying islands. There are two subspecies:

Rana tagoi okiensis — Oki Islands

Rana tagoi yakushimensis — YakushimaThese might qualify as species. It can also introgres with its sister species, Rana sakuraii.

Tane Province

Tane Province (多禰国, Tane-no kuni) was an old province of Japan in the area of Kagoshima Prefecture.

USS Osprey (AMS-28)

USS Osprey (AMS-28/YMS-422) was a YMS-1-class minesweeper of the YMS-135 subclass built for the United States Navy during World War II. She was the third U.S. Navy ship to be named for the osprey.

Yakushima, Kagoshima

Yakushima (屋久島町, Yakushima-chō) is a town located in Kumage District, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. The town is on the island of Yakushima and Kuchinoerabujima.

On October 1, 2007, the town was formed by the merger of the towns of Kamiyaku and Yaku, both from Kumage District.

As of 2008, the town has an estimated population of 13,486 and the density of 24.9 persons per km2. The total area is 540.98 km2.

Yakushima Airport serves Yakushima. There are also hydrofoils and ferries serving the island. Kuchinoerabujima is accessible by a municipal ferry.

Yakushima Airport

Yakushima Airport (屋久島空港, Yakushima Kūkō) (IATA: KUM, ICAO: RJFC) is located on the island of Yakushima, in Yakushima Town, Kumage District, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan.

The airport was opened in 1963 with an 1100-meter runway. The runway was extended to 1200 meters in 1975, and to 1500 meters in 1976. A further 2000m has been approved.

Yakushima National Park

Yakushima National Park (屋久島国立公園, Yakushima Kokuritsu Kōen) is a protected area located in Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu. It includes parts of the Ōsumi Islands with Yakushima, the entire island Kuchinoerabu-jima and some surrounding marine areas. The total size is 325.53 square kilometres (125.69 sq mi).The national park was established on March 16, 1964 and assigned to the Kirishima National Park, which became Kirishima-Yaku National Park. On March 16, 2012 Yakushima was split of as the separate Yakushima National Park. Kirishima-Yaku National Park was renamed to Kirishima-Kinkōwan National Park with an area of 365.86 km².

Yakushima gecko

The Yakushima gecko (Gekko yakuensis) is a species of gecko. It is endemic to Japan, including the Ryukyu Islands.

Yakushima macaque

The Yakushima macaque (Macaca fuscata yakui) is a subspecies of Japanese macaque that is indigenous to Yakushima Island (Kagoshima Prefecture).

It is also known as the Yaku macaque.


Yakusugi (屋久杉) refers to "Japanese cedar" (sugi, or Cryptomeria) on the island of Yakushima, typically growing at altitudes 500 meters and higher. The term also extends to the lumber taken from the logging of these coniferous trees.

In the strict sense, the term Yakusugi is reserved for trees aged 1,000 years or more, and younger trees are referred to as kosugi ("small cedars"). Replanted cedars are called jisugi ("local cedars") by the Yakushima islanders, although jisugi also refers to trees less than a century old.

In general, the Japanese cedar lives for about 500 years, but yakusugi trees live much longer. They grow on less nutritious granite soil slowly and have a very tight grain. The wood contains a lot of resin due to Yakushima's high rainfall and high humidity, making it resistant to rotting. As a result, these trees tend to have longer lives, and many larger trees have survived for more than 2,000 years. Famous examples include the Jōmon Sugi, Kigen-sugi and Wilson stump.

Ōsumi Islands

The Ōsumi Islands (大隅諸島, Ōsumi-shotō) is an archipelago in the Nansei Islands, and are the northernmost group of the Satsunan Islands, which is in turn part of the Ryukyu Archipelago. The chain extends from the southern tip of Kyushu to Yakushima. Administratively, the group belongs within Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan.

Climate data for Yakushima
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 25.3
Average high °C (°F) 14.4
Daily mean °C (°F) 11.6
Average low °C (°F) 8.7
Record low °C (°F) 1.1
Average rainfall mm (inches) 272.9
Average rainy days (≥ 0.5 mm) 17.4 15.1 17.9 14.2 14.1 18.0 12.1 14.7 14.5 12.5 13.1 15.0 178.6
Average relative humidity (%) 68 68 71 72 76 83 82 81 79 73 70 68 74
Mean monthly sunshine hours 73.7 79.1 107.0 137.9 151.8 115.8 220.8 201.3 145.0 119.9 96.0 84.2 1,532.5
Source #1: 平年値(年・月ごとの値)
Source #2: 観測史上1~10位の値(7月としての値) (records)
Ōsumi Islands


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