Yakushima Macaques

Yaku monkeys are smaller than the native macaques of mainland Japan. They are dark grey and have long thick hair. Before getting carried away about the cute and fluffy creatures however - the most important points to remember about the Yaku macaques are that:
1. They are wild.
2. They have very large pointy teeth.

There are around 7000 of them roaming the mountains and can often be seen along the side of the mountain roads and on the trails. Sometimes hanging around the villages watching traffic.


Yakushima deer

Yaku shika are also smaller than the mainland deer and number around 7000. They can be seen on the mountain trails in the day and in the villages at night. 


MAMUSHI ニホンマムシ: A poisonous viper that lurks near water.

Just to give you an idea of this delightful creature - my boss was bitten on the thumb and half his body was temporarily paralysed. Also a local resident in his 50s died from a bite. Spot it in the photo below.

Yakushima snake

But don't let that put you off the mountain trails - as soon as they spot you they slither away into the bushes.

Not all snakes are the Mamushi though. Here's a Japanese Rat snake in Anbo.

Rat snake on Yakushima


Mukade in Yakushima

Once found lurking in the trouser leg of my son's pyjamas, these are vicious little things and cause quite a swollen rash on the skin.


Japanese hornets

Large kick-ass stinging machines which target you and don't stop until you're stung. They're not that common though!


Any size, shape and colour you could wish for.

Yakushima beetle

Shake a tabu tree in the summer and watch giant horned beetles fall.


A variety of strange looking spiders inhabit the forest.

Yaksuhima spider


Surprisingly common on the mountain slopes.

Yakushima toad


leech in Yakushima

A loyal bloodsucking friend to many hikers. They climb up your boot and find a nice piece of juicy leg above your sock line. They cause no harm to normal healthy people and can be left alone until they drop off filled with your blood. Should you need to remove them however, use salt.

For more information about the wildlife on Yakushima - check out the one and only Yakumonkey Guide to Yakushima

Yakushima Guide book


Is that hornet the notorious Japanese giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia japonica)? Speaking as a waspophobe who's going to be visiting Yakushima in May/June, how worried should I be?

Yes, it's the Vespa mandarinia japonica otherwise known as the Suzumebachi hornet. They don't normally cause any problems for visitors but here's some of the advice from my book if you're at all worried - keep to the paths, don't wear black and avoid strong perfumes.

What is the reason behind not wearing black? I've read other places not to wear bright clothing bc insects will mistake you for a flower, but haven't heard about the not wearing black thing before.
I believe it is because black is the color they associate with their natural predators which are usually large dark-looking mammals. 

...just how common is it to find a leech sucking away at your shin?

Very common! But more so in rainy season. Usually the only reason you know you had a leech is when you later take your socks off and there's blood on them. The leech is normally long gone.

Outside of what's listed already, are there any year-round or seasonal biters (like mosquitoes)? Would you recommend insect repellent?
Yes, mosquitoes are there outside of winter! Around the rivers there can also be midges. And yes, if you're going into the mountains it's a good thing to have some repellent on.