Introducing places of interest: Kirishima-Yaku National Park
[A view of Mt. Okina-dake and
other peaks belonging to
the Oku-dake Mountains]
The mountains that dominate the central region of Yakushima Island are referred to as the Oku-dake Mountains. Adorned with strangely shaped granite rocks and rising more than 1,800 meters above sea level, these peaks include Mt. Miyanoura-dake (the highest peak of this group of mountains at 1,936 meters above sea level), Mt. Nagata-dake, Mt. Kurio-dake, Mt. Okina-dake, and Mt. Kuromi-dake. The dominant peaks are treated by some as objects of mountain worship.
The Jomonsugi-Miyanouradake Route (requiring a journey of two days and one night) is a key mountaineering trail that begins at the Yodogawa Climb Starting Point, crosses Mt. Miyanoura-dake, and arrives at the Arakawa Climb Starting Point. The route passes through Hananoego, the southernmost high moor in Japan and Mt. Kuromi-dake, which commands a panoramic view of the Oku-dake Mountains. Along the way, travelers can marvel at Jomon-sugi, Daio-sugi, and other examples of Cryptomeria and other trees that are thousands of years old and savor the mountainous landscape of Yakushima and the natural forests of truly primeval cedar trees that grow here.
[Tenchu-ishi on the summit
of Mt. Taichu-dake]
In contrast to the Oku-dake Mountains, which cannot be seen from island villages (with the exceptions of Mt. Nagata-dake from Nagata and Mt. Kuromi-dake from Kurio), the frontal mountains that can be seen from inhabited areas are referred to as the Mae-dake Mountains. These peaks too are treated by some as objects of mountain worship.
Mt. Tachu-dake: Topped by Tenchu-ishi, a giant pillar of granite positioned as if piercing the sky, Mt. Tachu-dake affords views of the forests of Yakushima and the distant village of Awa. The starting point for climbs up this peak is located at Yakusugi Land.
Mt. Mocchomu-dake: A mountain characterized by sheer granite walls of rock, Mt. Mocchomu-dake provides climbers with a chance to see the villages of Onoaida and Hara from a proximate vantage point on a rocky stretch on its summit. The starting point for climbs up this peak is located near an observatory at Senpiro-taki Falls.
Mt. Aiko-dake: Mt. Aiko-dake is a mountain characterized by a summit shaped like a three-sided pyramid that is quite noticeable even when seen from afar. The natural flora here is favorably maintained along the mountaineering trail and the variations in the flora corresponding to elevation can be explored by visitors. The summit of this mountain is an excellent vantage point from which to see Mt. Oku-dake. The starting point for climbs up this peak is located in the village of Koseda near an airport.
Nagata Beach's greatest claim to fame is as the site of the highest numbers of shore-landings and eggs laid by loggerhead sea turtles in Japan. Comprising Maehama, Inakahama, and Yotsusehama, Nagata Beach was registered as a Ramsar Site under the Ramsar Convention in 2005. From spring to summer, visitors can observe loggerhead sea turtles coming ashore onto the sandy beach and laying their eggs. (Rules for observing these sea turtles must be strictly followed for turtles' protection.) Lofty peaks of the Oku-dake Mountains (Mt. Nagata-dake and Mt. Shoji-dake) can be spotted from the village of Nagata. Water vapor rising from the sea ascends on rising air currents to the vicinity of the Oku-dake Mountains where it converts into cloud formations. Rain falling onto the Oku-dake Mountains erodes the granite rocks over time. Eroded pieces of rock are carried down by the waters of the Nagata River to eventually constitute a part of the sandy beach at Nagata, the largest sandy beach on the island of Yakushima. Visitors to this area will no doubt perceive such workings of nature with a sense of awe.
Kurio Marine Park
[Kurio Marine Park]
The Kurio Marine Park Zone is situated in Tsukasaki on the southwest end of the island, where the Kuroshio Current has a greater impact than along any other coastal area on Yakushima. Visitors to this zone can survey a unique biota comprising tropical and subtropical fish living in harmony among coral reefs. There are countless tide pools located all along the coast. While this may be the ideal place for exploring life forms along the beach, you are urged to exercise caution when swimming around these parts given the presence of fast tidal currents offshore. The entrance to a Youth Travel Village can be found here.
[Cervus nippon yakushimae deer
There are presently no villages and only a single narrow prefectural road (commonly referred to as the Seibu Rindo) in the western part of Yakushima between Kurio and Nagata. Registered as a natural World Heritage Site, this part of the island is home to the densest collection of wildlife (in particular, Yakushima Macaque and Cervus nippon yakushimae deer) on the island. A broad-leaved evergreen forest extends from the coast to the mountain ridge in a zone that reveals significant variations in the vertical distribution of vegetation from the water's edge towards higher ground.
[Vicinity of a crater at Mt. Furu-dake]
The entire island of Kuchinoerabushima is brimming with a unique volcanic landscape. As highly native forests of Castanopsis sieboldii and other species of trees also abound, the island is referred to as the "Green Volcanic Island". The scenery here is truly distinctive and comprises such elements as steep, unapproachable sea cliffs, bucolic pastureland on which cows can be seen grazing peacefully, and an underwater seascape of colorful coral reefs and myriad types of fish. The island is also a habitat of the Ryukyu flying fox, an endangered animal that has been officially declared a protected species by the national government.