By Reynald Ventura
The Yakushima Traverse is an amazing 3-day, 39 km hike across the mountains of Yakushima. Whilst most people do a day hike to the famous Jomon Sugi and Wilson's Stump, this hike offers those sights and much more. There are many tracks across the mountains, and this hike combines 6 or 7 of these. I recommend purchasing a book called Yakushima- a Yakumonkey guide and a map of the hike (山と高原地図 屋久島 宮之浦岳) from Amazon Japan if you are going to do this hike.
We arrived in Miyanoura on the first ferry from Kagoshima (9:45am arrival) and took a taxi (2,300 yen) to the start of the hike (Shiratani Unsuikyo). It’s worth noting that it's possible to hire everything in Miyanoura, although we only hired one sleeping bag, from Nakagawa Sports in the main street (www.yakushima-sp.com/). We started hiking around 11:30. There are a few track choices initially, but they all eventually join the main track. We took the Yayoi Tree track, but in hindsight should have taken the most direct route, considering how late we arrived at the hut.
There are six basic mountain huts that provide a roof over your head, but you must take everything else (sleeping bag, mat, cooking equipment etc.). We were aiming to reach the Shin-takatsu hut the first night, but had to settle for Takatsu. We arrived around 7pm (after walking in the dark for about 1 hour), by which time the hut was basically full (reservations are not possible). Luckily we managed to squeeze in, although one of us had to sleep on the concrete floor alongside everyone’s packs and boots!
The benefit of staying at this hut is that it’s located only 10 minutes past the Jomon Sugi, which allowed us to see it in daylight the next morning. Day two of the hike took us from the Takatsu hut to the Yodogawa hut, via the island's peak (Mt Miyanoura – 1,935m). As there are numerous streams it isn't necessary to carry much water (all huts have a water source).
On day three we took the track to Onoaida. The track is very steep (downhill), and there are a few river crossings (we were able to use rocks to cross without getting wet, but if the river was a little higher it may be necessary to remove your boots and get a little wet). If you want to cut the hike short, you can make an early escape from the car park about 1 hour past the Yodogawa hut, from where I believe there are local buses.
After what seems like an eternity of downhill, and a detour to the Janotaki waterfall (definitely worth it), the track comes out at Onoaida onsen (hot spring), where there is a free outdoor foot bath (perfect for your tired feet). From here we walked about 400m into the town of Onoaida and got ourselves some much needed sustenance (there are only so many bowls of instant noodles you can take!), and then to the JR Hotel where we enjoyed a great onsen, overlooking the sea—a perfect end to an amazing hike!
I lived in Japan for a year in 1997 as a high school exchange student, at the age of 16. I had such a great experience and fell in love with the place. After my exchange I returned to Australia, completed high school and University, and worked as an Accountant for eight years. I have always wante...