Yakushima is a hidden gem in Japan, popular only among Japanese locals. It has received yet little international attention and wonderfully preserved its fascinating nature. The people are incredible kind there and food are still locally sourced and traditionally prepared. It is a bit out of the way, but all worth the effort.
Yakushima is the rainiest part of Japan so be prepared for rain. It also rains three times more in mid-June and mid-July, but we heard during this time the island is at its greenest. It is hot in summer and mild for spring and autumn.
Mainly Japanese. English is not widely spread in Japan, and in small island like Yakushima it gets even worse. As a Chinese I can get by with understanding most of the signs, but for Todd as an American it was difficult. Learning some basic Japanese and installing Google translate offline App can get a long way.
By air: Yakushima can be reached by Japan Airline daily from Kagoshima, Fukuoka or Itami. The first two airports have more frequent flights.
By ferry: There are also Jet Foil and ferry connections from Kagoshima. It takes two or four hours and the fare would be cheaper than the flight. The most budget transport to Yakushima is the overnight cargo ferry. But it doesn’t have passenger seat/bed for overnight stay, so it could be rather uncomfortable.
Jet foil www.tykousoku.jp
Japan Airline www.jal.com
Cargo Ferry: https://www.yakushimaferry.com
On the island the best way to go around is to hire a car. There are public buses but not frequent so you would be pretty limited by bus schedule.
What to do
It is all about nature in Yakushima, so most things to do are outside. Plenty of hikes through peaks, forests and waterfalls, plus a handful of onsens to relax after a good hike. We’ve heard good things about the sea turtle watching in summer months.
Useful Apps and tools
Overall we found Japan is very good at adapting modern technology. Wifi are generally reliable in airports, shopping malls, tourist information and hotels. We got away by using ad-hoc Wifi and offline information without buying a Sim card.
Google translate: very useful for communicate with locals and translate menus
Google maps: we used it to navigate when driving around the island. Just be aware that somehow offline map is not available when we were there. So be sure to pre-load the map before you leave the accommodation.
- Definitely bring your waterproof gears – Waterproof jacket /overtrousers/boots
- Head touch
- Walking poles(not essential, we found it useful when the ground is muddy)
- Swimming suit for beach and outdoor onsen (if coming in summer months)
Where to stay
Budget: $20-30/Day for a dom bed or $40-50/Day for double room
Accomodation is generally expensive in Japan. There aren’t many choices on the island and they are not cheap. For budget travellers there are few hostels with good review. We originally booked the Youth Hostel in South Village, but found our self-contained cottage on Airbnb. Booking.com has quite a few options but we found overall it is better to book on Japan’s own travel website or book directly through hostel or hotel.
Link to Yakushima Youth Hotel: www.yakushima-yh.net
Mid- High range: $100+/Day for double room
There are quite a few nice guest houses and hotels, and several high-end resort-type hotels with private onsen. We didn’t do much investigation assuming they can be found on major booking websites.
What to eat
Many good local restaurants in major towns like Anbo or Miyanoura, but we find getting supplies from supermarkets like Acoop and cook at accommodation is the best. If you like Sashimi, Keep an eye out for fish shops on the road like the one we visited(濑山鲜鱼店). Supermarket has good selection of fresh fish, Sashimi set, vegetable and bento boxes. Local alcohol is readily available. We like the Tam-Tam(local orange) Liquor the best. There are also good bakeries where you can get fresh tasty pastries.
Our expenses for reference(2018)
- 500 Yen/pp (per person) for Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine
- 500 Yen/pp for Yakusugi land
- 2380 Yen/pp(1,380 bus ticket + 1,000 donation) for Jyomo-sugi entry
- 1,000 Yen/pp donations for Mt.Miyanoura-dake entry
- 200 Yen/pp Onoaida Onsen
- 200 Yen/pp Hirauchi Kaichu Onsen
- Food shopping: 3,000 Yen/Day
- Car rental: 23,580 Yen for 5 days
- Petrol: 3,573 Yen for 5 days
- Private self catering cottage: 38,000 Yen for 5 nights