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Yakushima: Princess Mononoke’s Forest IRL, Beautiful Hiking Trails That Are Out Of This World

Yakushima, Princess Mononoke’s Forest IRL

Yakushima (屋久島) is a beautiful island located in the southern part of Kyushu, and it’s home to countless cedar trees, some of which are over 7000 years old. The island promises its visitors rewarding hikes through a dreamy forest, completely surrounded by the tranquil greenery.

Princess Mononoke’s forest inspired by Yakushima

yakushima - forest
Image adapted from: @sasay0831

yakushima - moss-covered rocks
Image adapted from: @ryu_yolo1

If the towering cedar trees and moss-covered rocks seem familiar to you, it may be because you’ve seen its animated equivalent in Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke (1997). Inspired by Yakushima’s beauty, Studio Ghibli attempted to reproduce the forest’s luscious greenery in the animated film.

yakushima - tree
Image credit: @nagaofficial2

There are two main attractions at Yakushima, namely Shiratani Unsuikyo and Jomonsugi. Shiratani Unsuikyo is a gorgeous nature park that’s home to hiking trails where visitors can take in the dreamy forest view that inspired the fantastical realm of Princess Mononoke

Jomonsugi – an ancient cedar tree

yakushima - jomonsugi
Image adapted from: @tani_yusuke

Jomonsugi (縄文杉) – a giant cedar tree that is gauged to be between 2000 to 7200 years old – is another popular attraction at Yakushima. The cedar tree is said to be the oldest in Japan, dating back to the Jomon period, hence its name.

yakushima - train tracks
Image adapted from: @linglan_photograph 

There are two different hiking trails visitors can take to reach Jomonsugi, namely the Anbo trail and the Okubo trail. The Anbo trail is a peaceful 8km hike that follows old logging train tracks that will lead you through the surrounding greenery.

yakushima - wilson's stump
Image adapted from: @mh_yama

Meanwhile, while the Okubo trail is only a 3km hike, it is the more challenging of the two. The trail will also lead you to Wilson’s Stump, which features the remains of a hollowed-out cedar tree with a heart-shaped opening at the top of the stump.

What to bring to Yakushima

yakushima - visuals
Image credit: @nagaofficial2

Being a subtropical island, Yakushima typically attracts a good amount of rainfall, so do bring along a raincoat in case of inclement weather. The rocks and ground will be slippery if it rains, so make sure to wear covered shoes with a proper grip. Make sure that your footwear is comfortable enough for long hours of hiking.

yakushima - cold
Image credit: Amir Hamdi

While hiking, you may not feel the chilly temperatures of the island. However, once you stop to take a break, it can quickly get cold, so it’s a good idea to bring extra layers of clothing to keep yourself nice and warm.

yakushima - onigiri
Image credit: Markus Winkler

There are water dispensers available on the island where visitors can refill their water bottles. If you are planning to hike for the whole day, pack some refreshments to fuel your journey. Easy-to-pack onigiri (おにぎり; rice balls) and sandwiches are convenient options to bring on your hike.

Getting to Yakushima

The chilly, dense forests of Yakushima are a refreshing contrast from the noise of our everyday city lives. Immerse yourself in the surreal grounds of Princess Mononoke and take in the looming presence of the ancient cedar tree – Yakushima will not disappoint nature lovers.

Address: Yakushima, Kagoshima
Opening hours: 24 hours, Daily
Telephone: 0997-43-5900

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Cover image adapted from: @linglan_photograph, @mh_yama, and @ryu_yolo1