Yakushima is located in the south of Japan about 60km from Kyushu. It has an area of just over 500km2 and a population of 12,000 inhabitants (as of 2020). The formation of what is now Yakushima began around 60 million years ago, but the island changed dramatically 15 million years ago as granite emerged from a magma reservoir and formed the many mountains of the island. The mountains are still being formed as the granite continues to be elevated. Yakushima has the highest 8 mountains in Kyushu and almost 40 of these mountains are over 1,000 meters.
Yakushima has a sub-tropical climate at sea-level and a sub-alpine climate around the peaks of the mountains just under 2,000 meters. Due to the elevation of the island, it is home to almost 2,000 plants of which nearly 100 are endemic to Yakushima. It was this feature that UNESCO highlighted when recognizing the island in 1993. UNESCO claim that Yakushima has the best example of bio-diversity in East Asia.
There are actually only a handful of mammals on Yakushima of which the endemic deer and macaque are almost unavoidable. Other mammals include a weasel, mouse and shrew. There are around 165 species of birds, but very few of these inhabit the forested areas. Most birds are found around the coastal region on the island. There a great variety of insects which amount to around 1,900 species. again, most insect species are found around the lower regions of the island.
Evidence of humans upon Yakushima date back 17,000 years, but evidence of habitation dates from around 6,000 years. The island is mentioned in the earliest written document of Japan – the shoku nihongi in the early C8th . From the mid-1600s to 1970 the island was heavily de-forested for commercial purposes. Since 1970 forestry restrictions have gradually been implemented and for 50 years the natural environment of Yakushima has slowly returned almost to its pre-logging state. The island now represents Japan`s best example of wilderness.
Tourism is now a major component to the economy of Yakushima. The tourism peak was around 2007 when over 300,000 visitors came to the island. In recent years this figure has dropped to a more manageable 200,000 visitors per year. You will discover that a great number of Japanese tourists will be accompanied by a local guide when out hiking around Yakushima. There is too much to miss if unaccompanied by a local guide. We encourage all tourists to our island to make the most of their visit by booking a Go Yakushima tour.