Update : January 24, 2017

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Nature of Yakushima

Climate & Topography

Yakushima Island is a circular island about 132km in circumference. Mt. Miyanoura (1,936m), the tallest peak in Kyushu and more than 45 peaks over 1,000m in height make up the center of the island, earning it the nickname “the Alps of the Sea”.

Due to the altitude difference between the coastal flatlands and the central mountainous area of Okudake, the climate on Yakushima Island ranges from subtropical to cool temperate. While the annual mean temperature on the island is about 19 degrees Celsius, the mean temperature on the mountains between December and March falls to minus 5 degrees Celsius, and snow accumulates.

Annual rainfall is more than 4,000mm in the flatlands, and between 8,000mm to 10,000mm in the mountains. (Kagoshima City’s average annual rainfall is 2,300mm.)

Senpiro-no-taki Waterfall

Ohko-no-taki Waterfall

Hananoego Moor


Banyan tree

Turtle on Inakahama Beach

Yakushima Island has a beautiful and varied coastline.

Coral reefs can be found in the surrounding seas, and tropical plants such as hibiscus, banana and papaya trees, as well as dense growths of banyan trees can be found by the coast.

Yakushima Island has the greatest number of landing turtles in Japan, and they can be seen laying their eggs on the beautiful shore from early May to early August.


Wilson Stump

With elevations reaching 2,000m, there is a remarkable vertical distribution of diverse flora from the temperate coasts to the cool temperate highland moors.

More than 1,900 plant species such as miniaturized species that survive in the highlands and plants that grow in unusual environments like rocky areas and mountain streams can be found across the island, of which many are rare and endemic. 

Yakushima rhododendron

Daiosugi Cedar

Cedar trees are found between 600m and 1,800m above sea level. While the typical lifespan of cedars is 800 years, Yakushima Island’s cedars grow very slowly in the rainy and humid environment. Their characteristic high resin content and densely packed tree rings protect them from decay, and it is not uncommon to find cedars growing beyond 1,000 years.

Cedars over 1,000 years old are known as Yakusugi cedars, and those younger are called Kosugi cedars.

Among Yakusugi cedars, Jomonsugi cedar is the most famous; it is the largest Yakusugi cedar discovered with a circumference of 16.4m and height of 25.3m, and its age is estimated to be between 2,170 and 7,200 years old.

Jomonsugi Cedar


Yaku monkey

Yakushima Island has an extremely rich fauna for its small size, with 16 species of mammals, 167 species of birds, 15 species of reptiles, 8 species of amphibians, and 1,900 species of insects discovered on the island.

Many of Yakushima’s animals are endemic and smaller than their mainland counterparts as exemplified by the Yaku monkey and Yaku deer.

Species found in mainland Kyushu can also be found here, and Yakushima Island is the southern limit for many species found at higher latitudes.

Yaku deer