Shiratani Unsuikyo (Yakushima Day 3)

After visiting some waterfalls and the Yakushima Fruit Garden on my first day in Yakushima as well as the Yakusugi Land and Yakusugi Museum on my second day, I finally got to visit the highlight I had been longing for: Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine (白谷雲水峡)


Visited: January 5th 2012

Shiratani Unsuikyo is another primeval forest similar to Yakusugi Land. It’s located at an altitude of 800 m and you can see a lot of very old Yakusugi cedar trees there.
There are different tours raging from 60 mins to 3 hours.
From there you can access other great sights such as the Tsuji Pass, Wilson Stump, Daiosugi Cedar and the oldest cedar tree on the whole island: Jomon-sugi!

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo

Even on my 3rd day the weather wasn’t getting better! It was rainy, stormy and cold.
As I only had until noon before I had to leave Yakushima, I went there in the early morning. I was so early there that nobody was in the ticket booth yet and I was able to enter for free!!

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo

I decided to go as far as I could with the remaining time I had – which wasn’t much!
I still needed enough time to get back, fill up my rental car‘s tank and bring the car back before boarding the ferry!
As Shiratani is a real highlight I suggest you better plan a WHOLE DAY for it!!

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo

There were many very old cedar trees everywhere! The further you went, the older and bigger they became!

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo

Engrish sign.

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo

There weren’t any big waterfalls, but a lot of smaller ones. Truly beautiful.
The water was so clean, too!

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo

Just like in Yakusugi Land I had almost the whole primeval forest all to myself! Such a great atmosphere!
However, compared to the previous day, I met quite a few people with proper hiking gear who obviously stayed over night in one of the mountain huts and made it up to the oldest cedar tree of Yakushima.
You’ll see later that there was A LOT OF snow in higher altitude! Only with professional gear and accompany one was able to do the hike during that season! This is why I couldn’t go there! smilie … Too dangerous! This is one reason why I want to go back to Yakushima one day. Maybe in warmer months next time.

The pink band you see in the photo was to show hikers the proper hiking path.
At that point you’re deep in the forest. There’s no proper trail anymore and without those pink bands everywhere you’d get lost very easily.
I didn’t have proper hiking gear, but very good rain gear and hiking shoes and yet I struggled.

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo

Because of the snow it was especially hard to climb up, but it was worth all the efforts.
After all I got to see wild deer from close up! Those are different from the deer you can see in Nara or Miyajima, for example.
The latter are used to humans and are not afraid of approaching you and eating your backpack!! *g*

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo

There were some really huge trees, some had really weird shapes!

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo

Despite the cold season everything was green, just partly covered by snow!

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo

I had already reached the famous “Princess Mononoke” forest – the one that inspired Hayao Miyazaki for his great animation movie!

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo

There were a lot of impressively shaped trunks and trees, some of them HUGE!

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo

I kept walking a bit beyond the Princess Mononoke forest, but at some point I just had to give up for many reasons:
1) I didn’t have enough time as my ferry was leaving soon.
2) I didn’t have proper hiking gear and at some point the snow was so high that it was above my knees!
3) I was all sweaty from moving around so much, but at the same time it was freezing. I had to go back to my car and change clothes ASAP!

I’m sure it would have been a great hike! One day I want to try again! smilie

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo

And so I was on my way back down again.

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo

It’s such a magical and beautiful place indeed.

Yakushima Shiratani Unsuikyo

I rushed back to my car and got changed. I was completely soaked and freezing!
That’s the advantage of travelling with a car.
I was able to give the rental car back just on time.
As I still had some time before the departure of the ferry, I decided to eat lunch in the restaurant above the tourist information center, facing the Miyanoura Port.
Because I was freezing earlier, I thought a hot noodle soup would just be perfect!
I’m not really a big fan of tempura, but it just came with the set, so it couldn’t be helped.

Yakushima Miyanoura Port

And then I was on my way to the port.
I had enough time to stroll around and explore the port area a bit! ^-^

Yakushima Rocket Liner

And that’s the “Rocket Liner” the speed ferry I used to get back to Kagoshima.

It was time to say goodbye to “moody” Yakushima.
It was almost as dark as on the day when I arrived. I will miss you nevertheless, crazy but beautiful island.

After that I still had a train ride to Nagasaki ahead of me.
Yes, from Yakushima to Kagoshima to Nagasaki … all in one day! That’s how crazy my schedule usually is. smilie

Maybe you noticed that hiking through the primeval forests of Yakushima shouldn’t be taken lightly. Proper preparation is necessary!
I highly recommend you get the Yakushima guidebook “Yakushima: A Yakumonkey Guide“. It will be a great help.


  • I do want to return to Yakushima some day. Such a beautiful place! However, I think I will return in October. There is still a risk of rain, but at least it is warmer. And it can rain in the forest but not on the coast.

    I adore sashimi. Though I think my all-time favorite Japanese dish is katsuo no tataki. By the way, I have on occasion asked for my soba or udon to be tempura nashi, in spite of it being part of a set, and there never is any problem. They reduce the price accordingly. In fact Japanese restaurants are a lot more flexible about dishes than most western ones.

    • Now that October is close, I’m curious!
      Will you go to Yakushima or do you already have different plans? ^-^;

      I suppose you mean Kochi’s katsuo no tataki? Yes, that’s great indeed!
      I’m sure they would if I asked, but I usually just take another set menu that doesn’t have tempura. I’d ask, though, if they ONLY had tempura meals! *g*

  • I’m watching Princess Mononoke now because of this. ;P

    It must have tough walking with the snow on the ground. But I’m sure the things you see there were all worth it.

    Really, you don’t like tempura? I, on the other hand, can’t eat soba because of allergies. :teary:

    • I hope you liked it! ^-^
      To be honest, it’s not my favorite movie of Hayao Miyazaki’s works! :sweatdrop2:

      Well, there’s not really any food I dislike, but compared to all the other stuff you can eat in Japan, tempura isn’t really on my “eat as often as possible” list! ;)

      I’m sorry to hear about your allergies! :(

  • I never made it to Shiratani Unsui Kyo, next time I will though :) Craziest schedule I ever had was Kagoshima to Tokyo in one day, by train :)

  • Hi Thank you for the wonderful blog! I really enjoy reading it and find it very infromative! :D
    I am planning to explore Kyushu during end of this year. And your blog provided me a lot of guidance. I kind of know where to go because of you haha~

    Anyway, is it possible for me to go there without booking any hotel or minshoku in advance? Coz I find booking everything in advance will restrict my travel schedule.
    But still I am worried that I won’t be able to get myself a room in winter, especially in places like Yakushima. What do you think about this?

    Thank you and i look forward to your reply!


    • Hi Chloe! :music2:
      I’m so glad to hear that my blog is useful to others! It really makes me happy! (^__^)

      You didn’t mention when in winter you’re planning to come, but please keep in mind that a lot of Japanese will have their winter vacation time towards the end of December and beginning of January.

      My recommendation is that you try to find accomodation that allows you to cancel for free until the day of arrival. This way you can make a reservation just to be safe, but you can also change it at any time without having to worry about any cancellation fees.
      I’ve done it that way many times. :thumbup:

      I wouldn’t recommend going without any reservations in advance.
      Sometimes you can get by with that strategy, but I’ve met foreigners who didn’t have a place to stay as well – and especially in winter that’s no fun at all – even in Kyushu!

      As for Yakushima, yes, definitely make a reservation in advance!
      I did, but I had a hard time still finding something that was available! It is a very small island after all and although winter is not the main season, it can be tough, so definitely try to get something in advance!
      Some places in Yakushima also offer to get a rental car for you, so you don’t have to worry about that!

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