Yakushima’s Hiking Trails
Hiking through the almost untouched wilderness cedar forests of Yakushima is a chosen activity for many visitors to the island. There are plenty of hiking trails to choose from, but the larger number of visitors head for the way marked tracks in Yakusugiland and Shiratani Unsuikyo. As a result these hiking trails may get rather busy and crowded at times, however they are a great option for families and less experienced hikers.
Be Aware of the Dangers!
For our second walk we chose to hike to Janokuchi Waterfall on the Onoaida trail. This trail is part of the start of a trans Yakushima hike which can be found in the Lonely Planet Hiking Guide to Japan. However the full hike in the book and especially the part beyond the waterfall heading up into the mountains is not recommended by the local official authorities, as there have been several accidents and even fatal incidents due to the dangerous conditions of the track where is crosses a ravine beyond the falls. In my opinion hiking the first section up to the waterfall is safe and well sign posted and seemed deserted of other hikers. It therefore makes a good shorter hike off the beaten track for those looking for a manageable day route.
Start at Onoaida Onsen
The Onoaida trail starts at the Onoida Onsen where parking a car is easy and free. Hikers travelling by bus should get off at Onoaida Onsen Iriguchi stop and walk about 20 minutes along the street towards the onsen, Passing the onsen and foot bath on the left, the entrance of the trail is found to the right behind the foot bath. We briefly gaze at the sign at of the path with a pretty painting of the entire route and the waterfall. The path initially led us through a jungle of fanned palm trees, before steadily ascending deeper into the forest and ascending the mountainside.
Diverse and Interesting Plants
Interesting Japanese signboards convey the surrounding landscape, history of the forest, animals and flora along the hike. The lower parts of the forest on Yakushima is less verdant and lush than the higher green wonderland we had experienced at Shiratani Unsuikyo but it was still incredible to witness the diverse selection of plants. Twisting garlands of intricate leaves wound their way up the tree trunks and ferns perched high up in the canopy of trees of the sub-tropical forest.
Jerome was delighted by the colourful butterflies and also the cheeky lizards that seemed completely oblivious to our presence. We also discovered a long, black snake, curled up among one of the bushes, it turned out to be a harmless creature after some googling later on but at the tome seemed a little scary. Again as on our previous hike we could hear the high-pitched cries of the yakumonkeys echoing through the forest. The sweet sounds of tropical birds also accompanied us a long the entire hike to Janokuchi waterfall and we caught glimpses of them in the canopy above.
The Onoaida trail entailed crossing some interesting and more adventurous sections, including a wooden ladder and we also had to cross several mountain streams a few times. Most of them were no more than a trickle of water, but the last ravine was more challenging and we had to look out for the easiest way to cross the large boulders and gushing waters. This part of the hike might be dangerous to cross during and after heavy rainfalls and it is advised to cut the hike short if it looks impassable. Some of the rocks are slippery when wet but pink “tags” make the safest route.
Dividing of the Paths
It took us just under two hours to reach the dividing of the paths, near a small wooden pavilion, a protected spot for a picnic or shelter from the rain. The “dangerous” trail up the mountain heads off right while the one to the waterfall is left.
Stunning Janokuchi Waterfall
We enjoyed our lunch, perched on a rock in the mountain stream, with the clear water rushing past. Afterwards we walked the remaining stretch of the path, and it was about another half an hour until we reached the stunning Janokuchi waterfalls. Underneath the cascading waterfall a natural pool looked so inviting for a swim, especially after a sweaty hike through the stifling summer’s heat. The water was refreshing and the boys even swam up to the waterfall and duck underneath for a free shower.
Serene Spot on the Island
The waterfall, cascades down a smooth wall of rock that appears almost striped. The clear pool is surrounded by azaleas which in full bloom must be truly magnificent to witness and the views from the stream that runs down towards Yakushima’s wild shores, offers a magnificent view of the deep blue sea and the mellow horizon. It was astonishing that no other hikers joined us in this serene and beautiful spot on the island.
The return to Onoaida was uneventful, the snake had disappeared and Jerome was walking fast ahead, eager to return to the beach for a late afternoon swim and snorkel. We skipped the foot bath at Onoaida onsen, although the idea of resting our feet in the hot spa water after the hike seemed rather appealing. Jerome stopped to tempt a group of kittens for a stroke, but the shy little creatures only stared at him with their peculiar pointy ears.
The Onoaida trail was an enjoyable day hike, not too strenuous and long offering an insight into Yakushima’s tropical forest and wildlife. It is always important to check the weather ahead of setting out and take care when crossing the rocks and streams. Take enough water and food, although the water in the cascades is safe to drink. It is advisable to always wear proper hiking shoes to avoid injuries. Go and savour Yakushima’s peaceful spots on the hike to Janokuchi waterfalls!
Where we stayed in Kyushu:
Sankara Resort treat yourself to a truly luxurious stay on the island.
Kirishima Kokusei for those wanting to stay in Kirishima Onsen
Ryokan Shinsen if you fancy a luxury ryokan experience
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