Translated by Shinji Takaramura
Yakushima - Trekking To The Ancient Cedar Tree (Part 1)
Written by Maki
This article intorduces the trekking course to the Jōmonsugi - Yakushima's famous ancient cedar tree, which was designated as Japan's first World Heritage site.
Yakushima in Kagoshima Prefecture boasts a rich natural environment that has been well-preserved since ancient times. In 1993, it was designated as Japan's first World Heritage site, and to this day trekking to the Jōmonsugi is quite popular.
In Yakushima, a Japanese cedar tree (sugi 杉) that is more than 1,000 years old is called Yakusugi. Among them, there is a tree which is estimated to be 7,200 years old called Jōmonsugi ("a cedar tree from the Jōmon era"). It is also known as the King of Yakusugi, due to its huge size. This article is about the trekking course to the Jōmonsugi - Yakushima's ancient cedar tree, and the charming trees and spots you will encounter along the way.
The Unique Environment of Yakushima
The island of Yakushima is located south of Kagoshima Prefecture. There are a few high granite (*1) mountains on this island. The rainfall is very heavy, creating quite a unique ecosystem. The high mountains and the high humidity helps the growth of the 1,000 years old Yakusugi.
*1: an igneous rock composed of crystallized minerals.
The Trekking Starts
The trekking distance is 22 kilometers round-trip to the Jōmonsugi and back. As it takes about 10 hours, trekkers must start from the approach to the mountain between 5 or 6 AM in order to finish this journey before sunset. The path is rugged, so a warming-up exercise is definitely required before starting.
Follow the tramcar tracks for about eight kilometers. Fifty years ago, it was used to transport cedar lumber.
Yakushima's Ancient Cedar Trees: Over 1,000 Years Old
The First Yakusugi: Ōsugi
After walking for about an hour, the first Yakusugi, Ōsugi comes into view. In Yakushima, a planted cedar is called jisugi (地杉), while the wild cedar are called kosugi (小杉).
Sandaisugi: A Family of Trees
The next cedar is the Sandaisugi (三代杉). Under this tree is the first generation, which fell after 2,000 years, and the second generation, which grew on top of the first to be 1,000 years old. The current, third generation is said to be about 500 years old.
Niōsugi: Standing at the Foot of the Rugged Path
The Niōsugi (仁王杉) stands out in the forest. There used to be a cedar tree which was regarded as its counterpart, but that tree fell a few years ago.
The tracks end here, and the rugged mountain path, with a lot of ups and downs, begins.
Okinasugi: A 12-Meter Perimeter
The Okinasugi (翁杉), with the big trunk and a jagged scar, is said to be the second oldest cedar tree after the Jōmonsugi, but it fell in 2010. The remaining stump has a perimeter of 12 meters, so it must have been gigantic.
The Wilson Stump: A Heart-Shaped Window
This huge, moss-covered stump is called the Wilson Stump (Wilson kabu). It was cut down 430 years ago, and discovered by an American botanist, E. H. Wilson.
Look up from the inside of the stump, and you will see that the opening above is heart-shaped.
You have to stand in front of the small shrine located inside the stump, to capture the heart-shape. Walk around, and look for the right place to take your photo.
About four hours have passed at this point. The sun is up, and the temperature is also rising. There are springs along the path, nurtured by Yakushima's environment. The water is pure and has a soft flavor, so take a plastic bottle with you to use as a canteen.
Daiōsugi: The Second Giant Yakusugi
This is the Daiōsugi (大王杉), second to the Jōmonsugi in size and age. It is more than 3,000 years old, and its sight is awe-inspiring.
Meotosugi: A Happy Couple
These two Yakusugi look like they're holding hands and are called the Meotosugi (夫婦杉). Cedar trees tend to adhere to one another, and these two trees got together over a long period of time. They look like a happy couple.
There's still some ways to go to the Jōmonsugi, so it's time for a lunch break. The lodging place has fixed a lunchbox for us, and it tastes delicious, especially after the long trek.
The trek resumes after lunch, but this is the end of part 1.
This article has introduced various Yakusugi on the way to the Jōmonsugi, and part 2 will be about the main attraction itself. Stay tuned.
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Jōmonsugi in Yakushima
Address: Kagoshima, Kumage, Yakushima-chō
Hours: 5:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m., in accordance with the Arakawa Tozan Bus 荒川登山バス.
Closed: During bad weather such as typhoons, and land or rock slides.
Wi-Fi: Not Available
Credit Cards: Not Accepted
Nearest Stations: Yakushima Airport (屋久島空港), Miyanoura Port (宮之浦港), Anbo Port (安房港)
Access to the Jōmonsugi:
Take the Yakushima Kōtsu Bus (屋久島交通バス) or the Matsubanda Kōtsu Bus (まつばんだ交通バス) to the "Yakusugi Shizenkan" (屋久杉自然館) bus stop.
From there, take the Arakawa Tozan Bus (荒川登山バス) to the entrance of the mountain path.
It is a five-hours trek to the Jōmonsugi, using the mountain trail.
Access to Yakushima by Airplane:
Ninety minutes from Osaka/Sixty-five minutes from Fukuoka/Thirty minutes from Kagoshima.
Access to Yakushima by Ferryboat:
About four hours from the Kagoshima Port.
*Using a high-speed boat, the time varies from one hour and forty-five minutes to two hours and fifty minutes, depending on which ports to use.
Fare: 1,740 yen for the Arakawa Tozan Bus, including the donation used for the regulation of vehicular traffic.
Official Site: Yakushima