You don't see much about the K1 Kusugawa trail in tourist information. This is because it starts at the coast and snakes up to S1 Shiratani Unsuikyo. You can get to Shiratani Unsuikyo by car or bus, so why hike up there?

Well every time I've been along here, it has been virtually empty of people - only monkeys and deer. It's a great trail especially when the mountains are full of tourists and it is full of the history of logging with the crumbling remains of wood kilns.  

The trail begins at the coast and is signposted in English from the main road at the village of Kusugawa. It's a long way along this road so some form of transport would be better.

Kusugawa Trail, Yakushima
Views to the coast from Kusugawa Trail, Yakushima
If you want to go straight up from here, it takes 1-2 hours to hike up to S1 Shiratani Unsuikyo and the trail is easy to follow as it was part of the main Edo Period logging path. It has not been maintained of recent years so expect it to be overgrown in places. 

Yakushima macaques
Yakushima macaques on the Kusugawa trail, Yakushima

When you reach the top of the lower trail, you are at Shiratani Unsuikyo. You could have driven up by car or bus but it's just not the same!  

Shiratani can be reached via the Kusugawa trail above or more commonly by car or bus on the newly widened mountain road from Miyanoura.

It has always been one of my favourite trail areas on Yakushima because of its ease of access and the quality of the trails that start from there. If you only hike in one area on Yakushima, I recommend coming here and taking the 150 min course.

There is an entrance fee of ¥300 to get into the trail but you also get a leaflet in English.
Shiratani Unsuikyo Leaflet (English)

The path follows the river for the first section of steps and walkways. The highlight here is 'Sasuga Otoshi' waterfall:

Sasuga Otoshi waterfall
Sasuga Otoshi waterfall

And the 3,000 year old Yayoi sugi:

Yayoi sugi
Yayoi sugi
Eventually there will be a choice as to whether you go straight on into the forest path or across a suspension bridge to the left. They both end up at the same place - across the bridge is the continuation of the Kusugawa trail and is relatively flat and easy to traverse.

Straight on, the path meanders through rivers, over ridges, past old cedars, through marshes - it's not particularly difficult to hike through and the forest here is where you will get the kind of photos that you see in magazines and postcards about Yakushima. In the late afternoon particularly monkeys will be about and there are always deer.

Shiratani trail, Yakushima
Shiratani trail, Yakushima

Both the trails eventually meet at the foot of the trail that heads up to the Shiratani hut, where you'll find a toilet and water to drink.

Shiratani hut
Shiratani hut

From here it is a short hike up to what was once called 'Mononoke Hime forest' in Japanese. This is based on the animated movie - check out the section entitled 'the forest' in my posts. Behind is supposed to be the type of forest featured in the movie but it's a new creation for tired tourists who need a goal to walk to rather than a particularly beautiful piece of forest. If you took the 150 minute course to get there you would have seen far more beautiful sights.

The path then becomes steep for a while until you reach a forest opening with signs up to Taikoiwa rock. This is Tsuji pass.

Tsuji pass
Tsuji pass
From here it's only a matter of minutes but be warned it gets very steep. At the rock you are rewarded by sweeping views of all the interior mountains.

Taikoiwa Rock, Yakushima
The views inland from Taikoiwa Rock

Taikoiwa Rock, Yakushima
Miyanoura dake is the highest peak in the distance


The trail then heads down towards the river should you wish to continue and eventually meets up with the railway trail from Arakawa (A1 trail) and is an alternative route to Jomon Sugi and Miyanoura dake.

For more information about Kusugawa Trail and Shiratani Unsuikyo - check out the one and only Yakumonkey Guide to Yakushima


When you say empty, do you mean that this is a good option for golden week, when I don`t want to slog along behind 600 other people down the Arakawa trail? I`m trying to figure out the best option for an early afternoon start, stay overnight in a hut, then a good next day return hike. I was hoping to see Jomon Sugi, but from what you`ve been saying, perhaps there are other less popular places more worth visiting during this season?
Yes, the bottom part of the Kusugawa trail is always empty of people. It's when you reach Shiratani which can be accessed by car that the crowds begin. In golden week, the trails will be busy I'm afraid, especially any trail which leads to Jomon Sugi. If you get to Jomon sugi late afternoon, there'll be the least people there. There are other trails which attract fewer hikers and if you can get hold of the book, you'll see them in detail. 
Hi Clive, I recently bought your ebook and it's really helpful. My boyfriend and I are planning to do the shiratani unsuikyo hike to Taikoiwa rock. You said it's very "steep". Just how steep is it? Are there any handles? Will we need heavy duty hiking equipment?
Hi, yes the last part is steep but nothing too daunting. And no you don't need anything special - you can grab hold of the trees to help you up.
Hi, Is it possible to complete the Forest of princess mononoke course alone? Given that I am not a experience, or to be completely frank, have like 1 or 2 trekking experience only? Is it advisable to go alone? Are there sufficient signage? Thanks, Tania
It's a very clear trail with pink ribbons tied to trees wherever it might get confusing. As long as you avoid going late in the day when it gets darker, you should be fine. It's usually a busy trail so especially in the summer, you probably won't be alone for long.
I'm coming to Yakushima at the dreaded time of Golden Week. I was thinking of taking the Kusugawa trail as at least the first part will be less busy. If I get on the trail from Kusugawa relatively early, which hut would you recommend aiming for? I don't have much of an idea about how long it would take. Is it possible to aim for Takatsuka or Shin-Takatsuka within the day, or is that a real slog? Alternatively, if there's a place you can recommend that isn't so popular in Golden Week, I'm open to going a totally different route. Many thanks, Shaun
Hello Shaun. Yes the Kusugawa trail will be empty but then you'll hit the groups from Shiratani onwards. You can bypass some of this by continuing on the same trail and not going to the Shiratani entrance. Once you pass Taikowa rock it will be quiet again until you hit the railway tracks at Kusugawa junction. From then on you're on the main tourist route to see Jomon sugi. It's a common route to take to get to one of the Takatsu huts (The Takatsu is 6.4 km from Kusugawa junction) but it's very exhausting because you're going up for most of the way. It will also be heaving with people around the huts. Some trails with less people at that time of year include Ryujinsugi, Tachu dake and Aiko dake. Ryujinsugi has ancient trees at the end and the other 2 have sweeping views.
Thanks! I'll do some more planning now. I also want to buy your book before we leave for more detailed information. Cheers, Shaun

Hello, is there any mountain hut where you can spend the night. I'll just bring sleeping bag with me though
Yes, there is: www.yakumonkey.com/p/yakushima-mountain-huts