Mt Miyanoura (宮之浦岳)

23 May 2024
Mt Miyanoura (宮之浦岳)

This past weekend I climbed the southernmost of the 100 Famous Japanese Mountains, Mt Miyanoura (宮之浦岳 , Miyanoura-dake), located on Yakushima island. We opted for a 2-night traverse of the island, staying at mountain huts on both nights.

Our trip started off on Friday with a flight from Tokyo down to Kagoshima, and then onto a connecting flight to Yakushima airport.

The cute little propeller plane that took us to Yakushima island.

From there, we took a bus and walked 3km to our mountain hut for the night at Yodagawa (淀川小屋). The huts on Yakushima are unstaffed and free to use, but the main catch is that there's also no way to make a reservation so they can fill up depending on the season. For that reason, we made sure to also bring tents in case we couldn't stay in the huts.

yodowaga mountain hut
The hut fit 16 people per side, plus another 4 out of frame to the right of the photo. On a crowded day, you can fit another 6 down the hallway in the middle.

The mountain hut was set up in a loft-style to maximise space, and have sections taped out to indicate where each person can sleep. Since we arrived on a Friday there were 10 people total (including the 4 in our group) staying in the hut, plus probably 7 or 8 people who opted to stay in their tents outside.

yodogawa campsite
The campsite. The toilet is on the left just out of frame, which explains why all the tents are on the right hand side…

The main downside was the toilet, which smelt absolutely horrendous. Even if you didn't breathe in the smell via your nose, you could feel the fumes just from inhaling the air. The upside though was that every toilet we used after that felt luxurious in comparison (even though they weren't that great either).

yodogawa water
The water source near the campsite. Some people brought water filters, and to be honest I hadn't really thought about that so I just drank the water as-is. I survived.
haunting rats
The English translations were sometimes a little funny. Fortunately I didn't see or hear any rat ghosts.

With the hut only a quarter-full, it was pretty cosy and I managed to sleep really well. We were up bright and early for a 5:30am start the next day.

day 2
Near the start of our hike on day 2.
day 2 trail

The trail starts off for the first couple of hours in the forest, but as you start to gain in elevation we passed through some marsh and rocky areas.

highland marsh
Hananoego Highland Marsh
A little bit of rock climbing

We were blessed with sunny weather and once we got above the trees, I really started to enjoy the scenery.

above trees
Getting above the tree line
wetland trail
Yakushima's rhododendrons (ヤクシマシャクナゲ)

One particular highlight was the pink rhododendron flowers native to Yakushima island. They bloom towards the end of May, so we had the perfect timing to see them scattered across the nearby mountaintops.

mountain trail
flower tunnel
A little flower tunnel
rounded rocks
The rocks are quite rounded on Yakushima. I wonder if it's because of all the rain?

There was one final steep climb to reach the peak of Mt Miyanoura, which at 1936m is also the highest peak in all of Kyushi.

trail up to mt miyanoura
The trail up to Mt Miyanoura
peak marker
Mt Miyanoura's peak marker

From here you could also see across to Mt Nagatadake (永田岳, nagata-dake), which was the second peak we were planning to hit.

nagatadake distance
The jagged peaks of Mt Nagatadake on the right
nagatadake trail

Climbing Mt Nagatadake is an optional 90min detour, which you can skip if you don't have the energy. For me actually this mountain was the highlight of my trip. I would definitely recommend it!

winding road flower trail
final climb
The final climb up to Mt Nagatadake

The area around Mt Nagatadake probably had the most amount of flowers blooming, and as you climb you get a clear view of Mt Miyanoura from the opposite side.

miyanouradake from nagatadake
The view of Mt Miyanoura from Mt Nagatadake
mt nagatadake peak
The peak marker at Mt Nagatadake. You can see the ocean!
mt miyanoura again
Another view of Mt Miyanoura

Then the trail takes you on a descent back down into the forests of Yakushima. We also came across a group of monkeys and a couple of deer.

trail down
The trail down
some climbing
There was some climbing too

We arrived at the Shin-takatsuka hut (新高塚小屋) at 2pm, which had the same sort of layout as the hut from the first night. Although we arrived earlier than we had planned to, it was just in time because two large groups trickled in after us, and the hut became fully occupied well before 4pm.

The hut had a hypothetical capacity of around 40 people, but another 8 people had to also squish themselves in around the door entrance and it was super packed. You essentially had to step over them to go outside, so I doubt they got a very good sleep with people needing to leave during the night to go to the toilet.

A view of the tents in the morning. Most had already packed up, but there was probably 5 or 6 total.

Yakushima is said to rain 35 days a month, so the fact that we had good weather up until this point really was some good luck. But on our third day we finally got the true Yakushima experience, and it rained most of the way down. I'm at least glad it was on the last day of our hike when we would get to have a hot shower at the end of it!

hike home
The start of our hike out.

As we descended we passed the famous Jomon Sugi, which is somewhere in the range of 2000 to 7000 years old and the oldest known Japanese cedar tree.

jomon sugi
The Jomon Sugi

Since it is quite a popular tourist destination (possibly the most iconic location in all of Yakushima), from here the trail got comparatively easier with mostly wooden stairs and paths.

descent path

We also passed Wilson's Stump, a hollow stump which if you stand inside and look up can see the shape of a heart.

wilsons stump
Wilson's Stump
wilsons heart
The heart shape

Once we reached the Anbo Forest railway around 8am, we started passing by a lot of tour groups going in the other direction, no doubt climbing up to see the Jomon Sugi.

forest railway start
The train tracks continued for over an hour

I'm not going to lie, although I normally would enjoy having such a smooth surface to walk along, at this point my shoulders were sore from carrying a heavy pack and I also had the unfortunate realisation that my rain jacket was not quite as waterproof as I thought it was, and I was getting pretty soaked through.

final climb 1

We eventually left the train tracks, and after one final climb through the forest (which took my mind off of my shoulders and how drenched I was) we reached the Shiratani mountain hut (白谷山荘). We only had an hour left on the trail, but opted to have a longer break here, since there was still plenty of time until our bus arrived.

shiratani hut
The interior of the Shiratani mountain hut

Here I switched out my wet clothes for a dry (but not clean) shirt. The hut even had clean toilets and electricity, and the little bit of rest motivated me to finish off the final stretch of our hike in much higher spirits.

shiratani gorge
Passing by the Shiratani Unsui Gorge (白谷雲水峡)
trail end
The shelter at the end of the trail

And finally, about 44 hours after beginning the hike, we were done! This was my first time doing 2 nights of camping, so I was a bit worried about the idea of not showering for two consecutive nights. I did feel a bit unclean and gross when going to sleep in the hut, but once you're out on the trail and sweating anyway, it didn't matter too much.

The next day we rented a car and did a full loop around Yakushima island for a bit of sightseeing, before heading back home to Tokyo.

ohko no taki
One of our sightseeing spots, Ohko-no-taki Waterfall (大川の滝)

Hiking course details

Date climbedLengthCourse time
2024-05-1720km14h (the expected time for an average hiker without breaks)

This is a thru-hike course of Yakushima that starts at Yodagawa (淀川) trailhead and ends at the Shiratani Usui Gorge trailhead (白谷雲水峡登山口).

We slightly deviated from the official course by adding a 90 minute detour to Mt Nagata-dake.

There are toilets (i.e. holes in the ground) available at each campsite, but remember to bring your own toilet paper!

I recommend either timing your hikes to arrive at the campsite early, or to bring tents as a backup as the huts can fill up quite quickly.

If you are planning on cooking with a gas burner, you can't bring the canister onto the plane, but they do sell them at Yakushima airport.

Public transport access

We used the Yakushima public bus (屋久島交通), but there is also another company called Matsubanda so be sure not to get the two companies confused.

13:13屋久島空港バス停発Local bus460
13:30合庁バス停Local bus1290Bus transfer

The return bus from the Shiratani Usui Gorge trailhead (白谷雲水峡) comes every couple of hours, but you'll probably be aiming for either the 10:50 or 13:45 bus. Where you want to get off depends on your plans after the hike, so I recommend Googling for the latest timetable.

Also note that you can buy a unlimited 3-day bus pass for 3000 yen, which will save you around 500 yen in bus costs. You can buy this at the airport or from a small brown building just outside to the left of the airport.

There is also a 2000 yen donation you are requested to make when hiking overnight in Yakushima, which you can also do at the same building. You'll receive a free postcard and square wooden keychain which makes for a good souvenir to take home.

donation and bus

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