Yakushima: Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine

On our final full day in Yakushima, we drove the hire car counter-clockwise around the island and up a stunning mountain road to the base of Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine (白谷雲水峡), a nature park containing a lush moss-covered forest with many large yakusugi cedar trees. 

The park offers a variety of hiking trails to suit all abilities and my friend chose a lower elevation course since they were still tired from our trip to Jōmon Sugi. I decided to head out alone on the Taikoiwa Rock round-trip course which takes you 450m up to the top of the mountain.

Satsuki Suspension Bridge

The historic stone-clad footpath built in the Edo Period winds its way up the ravine beneath the luminescent tree canopy. It’s easy to see why the forest here was the inspiration for the Studio Ghibli animated film Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫).

Kugurisugi Cedar

Some of the largest and oldest trees are so deeply embedded in the landscape they form arches you can step through and platforms upon which other trees grow.

In places like this, it’s easy to see why Japan’s native Shinto religion is based on the belief that everything in nature is possessed by spirits, from trees and rocks to rivers and mountains.

It took me a little over an hour to reach Taikoiwa Rock (1,050m) from where the trees suddenly break to reveal a stunning panorama over the island’s mountainous interior (okudake).

Goddess cedar

The guide estimates that the 5.6km round trip hike takes 4 hours to complete but if you’re relatively fit it can be done comfortably in a little over 2 hours. The beautiful forest makes this highly worth a visit.

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