Japan’s Sacred Island Of Yakushima: Remarkable Treasures Of Nature Surrounded By Myths And Legends

Yakushima is a round-shaped island situated approximately 60 km south from the southern end of Osumi Peninsula in the southern part of Kagoshima prefecture, Japan.

This mostly unusual island – only 17 miles wide – has some remarkable treasures of nature.

The bedrock of the island is granite, and it is said that very long time ago, a ridge thrown up by movement in the earth’s crust the island was created.

About 15 million years ago, hot magma began to rise into the upper levels of the Earth’s crust; the process of magma’s slow cooling and hardening produced granite.

The island’s granite mass is still rising today and it has already revealed unusual rock formations. Yakushima’s 6 great peaks over 1,800 m high include Miyanoura-dake (1,936 m above sea level), the highest mountain of Kyushu and the sacred place of the island, with a Shinto shrine located at thepeak of Miyanoura Dake.

The creation of massive landforms must have played a big role in Japanese myths. Jakushima’s mighty peaks are also surrounded by myths and legends that survived generations.

People believed that high mountains were domains of mythical heroes and gods. In a land so dominated by mountains, it is no wonder that the Japanese god of mountain fortune, Yamasachihiko, plays such a large role in local religion. There are about 30 mountain shrines dedicated to this god.

Inhabited by many rare animals, Jakushima is also covered with a wide variety of plants of the most unbelievable shapes and forms.

The term ‘Yaku sugi (Japanese cedar)’, the symbol of Yakushima, is used only for cedar trees over 1000 years old. Yaku sugi growing in the area covered by clouds and mist sometimes extend roots even from the leaves and stalks and form themselves into strange shapes.

Probably the largest and the oldest cedar tree was discovered on the island in 1996; it is located at an altitude of 1350 m is assumed to be the largest and the oldest in the world. This tree is called ‘Jomon sugi’ and its age – from 2170 to 7200 years old – is still debated.

The mysterious island has the tallest waterfall with the largest amount of water in Yakushima, where the water falls approx. 66 m on to a gigantic granite monolith.

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