Yakushima: Island of Primeval Forests *RERUN
The ancient natural environment on Yakushima Island, in Kagoshima Prefecture, is registered as a World Heritage Site. It is said that rain falls 35 days in a month on this island. Yakushima is located about 65 kilometers south of Cape Sata, the southernmost part of Kyushu. The island is about 30 kilometers in diameter, and is almost entirely mountainous, with 2,000-meter high mountains towering above the shoreline. The island's forests are home to trees more than a thousand years old. The mountains and the rain. The people and their prayers. This is the story of life in Yakushima.

The Forest of Yakushima

When entering one step into the forest of Yakushima, a pungent, yet pleasant "aroma" hits the visitor. It is the aroma of the wide variety of life forms that inhabit the forest. There are over 650 species of moss in Yakushima. There is no other place where so many are found on a single island. Sugi, or Japanese cedar trees, are native to the forest. Of these, those over a thousand years old are called "Yaku-sugi," and are seen mostly near the area between the altitudes of 700 to 1,000 meters.


On the island, there is a traditional event that expresses the day-to-day gratitude to a deity. It is the "Take-Mairi," a 2-day pilgrimage to the top of Nagatadake, where the mountain deity dwells. It is held twice a year, in spring and autumn. The "Take-Mairi" is said to have started more than 500 years ago. Connecting the village and the summit is a very long steep trail. It is thought to be the roughest trail in Yakushima.

The "Washing of the Buds"

The long rain caused by the moist air from the sea tells the coming of spring to the island. When this rain comes, it is the signal that the rainy season has begun in Yakushima. On the island, there is a name for each type of rain season period. The rain in early March, which moistens the sprouting vegetation, is called the "Ki-No-Me-Nagashi" which means the "washing of the buds."