Yaku-shima Island, lying in the sea to the south of Cape Sata in the southern part of Kagoshima, was, for the first time in Japan, inscribed as a World Natural Heritage Site, together with the Shirakami Mountains in Aomori Prefecture. Seventy-five percent of the whole island is mountainous. With Mt. Miyano-ura-dake, the highest in Kyushu, in the middle surrounded by many mountains more than 1,500 meters high, the island is also called the “Alps on the Ocean.”
Continuing up around the coast to the mountaintop, as the altitude increases, the climate changes from that of a subtropical zone to that of a subarctic zone, and the plant systems change in the same way, as if nature in the Japanese Archipelago were condensed. Experiencing much rainfall throughout the year, the island is covered with deep green forests, including more than 1,000-year-old Yaku cedars, which produce a mysterious atmosphere. There are many attractions worthy of note, such as the Shiratani-Unsui Valley, with beautiful valleys and primeval forests, Yaku Cedar Land, with magnificent woods, and Inaka-hama Beach where turtles come to lay their eggs. Eco-tours, during which you can enjoy mountain climbing and strolling attended by a guide, are also available.
The Yaku-shima Goshinzan-matsuri Festival, held at the Miyano-ura-gawa River, is a peculiar event with links to a mountain god cult. This summer festival is both a solemn shrine ritual and an enjoyable event in which even tourists can take part.