ADVENTURES AROUND THE WORLD© Christopher Earls Brennen
Hike C7. Kuromidake, Yakushima
- Hiking time: 7 hours
- Estimated hiking distance: 6.9 miles
- Elevation gain: 1519 feet
- Topo Map: Geospatial Authority of Japan Online Map
- Difficulties: Some Class 4 scrambling with fixed ropes
- Permit: Register at the trailhead
Yakushima is a small, circular and remote island of about 200 square miles situated in the East China Sea about 80 miles south of Kagoshima, Japan. Its mountainous peaks are coated with lush semi-tropical forest with ancient cedar trees thousands of years old all part of Yakushima National Park that encompasses more than half of the island. The highest of the volcanic peaks, 6352ft high Mt. Miyanoura, can be climbed in a day but here we describe the climb of a lesser peak, the 6007ft Kuromi-dake. However, the trail to Miyanoura-dake continues on beyond the trail to Kuromi-dake if you choose to bag that peak.
Hikers should note that Yakushima is one of the rainiest places in Japan. That weather is quite unpredictable and so full wet-weather gear is recommended. The benefits are the clear sparkling streams and waterfalls. If you chose to drive around the island be sure to stop and see the 290ft Ohko waterfall which is close by the road and blossoms after rain. Another tourist attraction along the road are the uni-sex hot baths by the sea shore, Hirauchi Kaichu onsen, where clothing is not allowed.
The Yodogawa Trailhead and entrance to Yakushima National Park is at the end of a long winding mountain road (labelled 578) that begins in the town of Anbo, the major town and port on the island of Yakushima. Starting up the road you will pass the exhibition site called Yakisuga Land with trails labelled to document the flora and fauna of the island. Further on the road to the trailhead is well signposted but takes more than an hour to drive the hour-plus to the Yodogawa Trailhead at 30o18'10.3"N 130o32'2.6"E and an elevation of 4478ft. There you should register and pay the entrance fee.
During the drive you may encounter wildlife, particularly Japanese macaques who sat on the hood of our car until we fed them. As you drive through the rain forest you pass many very large cedar trees for which the island is famous. Some of these trees are as old as 1000 years. The oldest and most-revered of these have been given names: the great cedar called Kigen Sugi is alongside the road and worth a stop.
On the summit of Kuromidake
The trail proceeds through rough and muddy terrain with a myriad of tree roots. Often there are wooden steps and board walks to aid the hiker. A short way from the start you pass the largest Yakusugi on the trail, over 1000yrs old. About 0.9mi from the Yodogawa Trailhead ( 30o18'10.3"N 130o32'2.6"E, elevation 4478ft) you will encounter Yodogawa shelter and just beyond this the bridge over the Yodogawa river.
After the bridge the trail starts to climb. Small trees crowd the trail, making passage difficult in snowy months. As you climb, you will reach a lookout with a view of Mt. Koban (Koban-dake) with its large exposed boulder peak known as Tofu-iwa Rock. Then the trail descends for a short distance and you will come to Kohananoego, a small wetland. Walk for another 20 minutes and you will arrive at the Hana-no-ego marsh (30o18'45.3"N 130o30'38.5"E) which resembles a Japanese garden. There is a short boardwalk across Hana-no-ego. At Hana-no-ego marsh there is a short trail to the top of Koban-dake, a peak topped by a large rock sliced like tofu.
After Hana-no-ego you begin to climb above the tree line to terrain of bushes and rocks. One of Yakushima's most famous sites is the rhododendron bloom in late May, when the rainy season gets underway. About 25min after Hana-no-ego, you reach the turn-off for Kuromi-dake. The signpost indicates straight on for Miyanoura-dake and left turn to Kuromi-dake. About 40 minutes from the junction you will arrive just below Kuromi-dake. Follow the trail to the left of the granite summit and scale the rock with the help of the simple fixed-ropes. A short final walk will bring you to the summit at an elevation of 6007ft and a litte over 4hrs from the start. From there the superb 360-degree view takes in Miyanoura-dake, Nagata-dake, and Kurio-dake.
Note: My sincerest thanks to my old friend Yoshi Tsujimoto who accompanied me on this visit to Yakushima.
Last updated 9/1/00.
Christopher E. Brennen