Japan cheap travel

A complete guide to budget travel in Japan

 Ancient tree roots on Yakushima
 Ancient gnarled tree roots on Yakushima
 Inakahama Beach
 Inakahama Beach on Yakushima Island
 The rocky face of Mocchumo Dake

Yakushima Island

Yakushima Island is one of our favorite places to visit in Japan. The unspoiled island is a World Heritage Site with spectacular mountains, beaches and forests. It is home to the 'Yakusugi' or ancient cedar trees. Some of these trees are over 4,000 years old, and one of them is the oldest tree in Japan, 7,000 year old Jomon-sugi. This lush, green island is also home to hundreds of different species of ferns. It is a paradise for hikers and famous for inspiring the ancient forests depicted in Miyazaki Haiyao's Japanese anime film 'Princess Mononoke'. It is also an excellent place to visit if you are on a budget!

How to get there

Yakushima is best reached via a four-hour ferry crossing from Kagoshima. There is one main road on the island, which almost circles Yakushima. We found this road particularly good for hitchhiking, and this was how we got around most of the time. For day-trips and hikes, carrying only our day-sacks, we were picked up almost immediately. We had a longer wait with our full backpacks, but there was always the frequent bus service in reserve.

Where to stay

During our ten day stay we camped for all but one night. There are at least five campsites on the island. We spent most of our time at Kurio Bay Campsite and Inakahama Beach Campsite.

Kurio Bay is located where the river meets the sea at the end of the road in Yakushima. It was one of the best campsites we stayed at on the island. Pitching our tent under the shade of a tree, we had views down to the sea and on the other side, the magnificent mountainous interior. At about 500 yen, the campsite was clean and convenient. In the evenings we dined on rocks that jutted out to sea, with the sun setting on our right and the moon rising on our left.

Inakahama Beach campsite is located beside a stunningly beautiful beach and whilts the camping facilities are basic, the location more than compensates. During our stay in August, we were fortunate to see loggerhead sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs on a nearby beach.

A note of caution in relation to camping on Yakushima: the island is famously wet, perhaps the rainiest place in Japan. We were lucky to have ten hot and sunny days before being chased out by a hurricane. We visited at the end of the rainy season, which is often the sunniest period, but can be very hot.

More accommodation options

  • Here is an excellent blogsite about hiking in Yakushima. It also lists a few accommodation options.
  • This is a list of Yakushima campsites that includes phone numbers plus details of equipment for rent, such as tents and sleeping bags.
  • However, it should be noted that the list is from 2004 and may now be out of date.

The one night we did not camp, we stayed in Chinryu-An Guesthouse. This is a very nice, if not particularly cheap, hostel on the island. There is a lovely onsen near to the guesthouse that is reached via a forest walk. The english-speaking owner is very friendly and can provide a lot of helpful information on hiking around Yakushima. The guesthouse website also has a link to the Yakushima bus timetable and ferry service.

Hiking on Yakushima

We hiked to the top of Mocchumo-Dake in a day (above right) and had the entire trail to ourselves. It was stunning and included scaling sheer rock faces with the help of ropes and ladders. The peak consists of a giant flat grey rock; a great place for a picnic. There are many other excellent hikes on the island too. This blogsite has details of a few more Yakushima hiking trails.