Mt. Miyanoura (宮之浦岳)

Mt. Miyanoura is the highest peak on Yakushima, a World Heritage island located a boat ride away from Kagoshima city. Known for its remote access, gigantic cedar trees and wet weather, the mountain challenges even the most experienced of hikers.

The hike: From Yodogawa trailhead, it’s an easy 40-minute walk to Yodogawa hut (淀川小屋). If you’ve gotten a late start then this is an ideal place to stay, as the hut is free, unmanned, and has a water source. You can also camp in front of the hut, but if you arrive late in the afternoon then all of the good sites will be taken. When I went, everyone was camping and we had the hut to ourselves! From the hut, you’ve only got 600m of vertical climbing but it seems like a lot higher! The first 2 hours or so are pretty straightforward on a well trodden path, passing through a wonderful marshland with lots of wooden planks to walk on. You’ll hit a 4-way junction, but just follow the signs to Mt. Miyanoura (宮之浦岳). In about 20 minutes you’ll reach a water source, so take a break and fill up your water bottles. There’s also a spur trail to the top of Mt. Kuromi (黒味岳). This makes for an interesting detour when the weather is fine, but if the cloud is in then just continue onward toward the summit. The trail becomes quite rocky and you can have loads of fun trying to determine if the rocks look like tofu, rabbits, turtles, or other imaginative shapes. Over the next hour or so, you’ll pass by numerous peaks, including Mt. Anbo (安房岳) before reaching yet another water source. From here it’s a 30-minute slog to the summit, where the panoramic views are stunning in clear weather. Remember that Mt. Miyanoura is a rain magnet, and while it can be sunny along the coast of the island, it’ll probably be foggy or raining on the peaks, but that doesn’t take away from the scenery. It only makes taking breaks a bit inconvenient. Anyway, traverse up and over the narrow summit and down towards Shin-takatsuga hut (新高塚小屋). It should take around 2-1/2 hours from the summit to the hut. If you arrive late in the day then all of the good camp sites will be taken, and you’ll be forced to stay in the hut (for free of course!). Most people camp on the wooden planks outside of the hut, but it’s also possible to find some nice flat areas just off the main trail. There’s a water source here, but I’m dubious of the quality, so it’s better to be safe and use your water filter. After leaving the hut the next morning, you’ll come to the old Takatsuga hut in about an hour. It’s a dump compared to the hut you just left, so don’t stay here unless it really is an emergency. The area is suffering quite a bit from overuse, so try not to contribute to the erosion. In about 10 minutes from the hut you’ll reach Jomon-sugi, the most famous tree on Yakushima. This is also where you’ll run into all of the tourists. You might be a bit disappointed after 2 days of solitude! The path is basically one giant wooden plank, and there will be human traffic jams if you’ve come during any holiday period, so be prepared. You’ll reach Wilson stump in about an hour, and this is a much better place to take a break than Jomon-sugi. You should reach the ‘trailhead’ in another 30 minutes. This is not the official trailhead, but the start of the train tracks! (no kidding). Although you’ll see no actual trains, you might run across a rail car that’s been designed to carry timber from the forest (and you thought this was a World Heritage site, didn’t you?). The trail basically follows the railroad tracks for what seems like an eternity. It’s flat and relatively mundane, so make sure you don’t fall through the gaps in the bridges! In about an hour you’ll reach a trail coming in on your left. Take this trail if you’d like to go through the Mononoke forest and an alternative finishing point. Otherwise, continue descending the mountain for another hour until reaching the real trailhead at Arakawa. (荒川登山口). You can take a bus or taxi from here back into town (or try your luck hitching).

When to go: This hike can be done from March to late November. Despite its southern location, this peak gets a lot of snow in the winter and should not be attempted without an experienced mountain guide or a GPS device and climbing equipment.

Access: From Miyanoura port, take a bus to Anbo (安房) and get off at the Anbo bus stop. From there, change to a bus bound for Yakusugi Land (ヤクスギランド) and get off at the last stop, called Kigen Sugi (紀元杉). From this tree, it’s a 20-minute walk to the trailhead at Yodogawa (淀川登山口). Alternatively, you can take a taxi from Anbo directly to the trailhead. The taxi drivers on Yakushima are accustomed to bargaining for rates, and they’ll definitely give you a discount in the off season!

Level of difficulty: 3 out of 5 (elevation change 1336m)

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17 Comments on “Mt. Miyanoura (宮之浦岳)”

  1. sara Says:

    Thanks for the information, it’s a great help.

  2. Guillermo Says:

    The Takatsuka hut was re-done in July 2013 and now it is much nicer, albeit weird, a three story construction made of compressed pulp. Can hold 20 people, no nice outside area to sit down (just a kind of deck), has a toilet. Water is 10 min away next to Jomonsugi.

    The good thing about staying in this hut is that if you leave really early, you can beat the crowds coming up from Arakawa or Shiratani, see the sugi in peace and keep a good clip going down.

    I definitely recommend taking the trail via the Tsuji Toge to Shiratani.

    • wes Says:

      many thanks for the updated information Guillermo. Good to hear they replaced that neglected shanty of the former hut

      • edukei Says:

        The funny thing is, the 新(new) Takatsuka hut is now the old one. I am sure this will lead to all sorts of rendezvous problems

      • wes Says:

        that’s a good point edukei. It could cause some problems if you’re meeting people at Takatsuka hut. “Are we meeting at the New Takasuka or the New New Takasuka?!”

  3. Morten Sylvest Olsen Says:

    For more solitude, extending the hike with the track from Onoaida to Yodogawa is recommended. We did the full traverse beginning November 2015. The bus stops in Onoaida. We stayed at the Chinryu-an Guesthouse, its a short walk from there to the Onoaida Onsen and the trailhead. The first day coming up from Onoaida we met 4 day-trippers going to the falls on the first part, and a trail-runner coming the other way, that was it. The track is little used, and much less developed than the rest, no wooden stair-cases. It is well-marked with pink-ribbons currently, unlike the description in the Lonely Planet, there should be little risk of getting lost, even the places with downed trees over the path have good markings. We did take a lot longer than the 8-9 hours described, probably due to heavier packs and time spent on photography, we did the last 3 hours from the major river crossing to the Yodogawa hut in the dark with headlamps. At the time the river-crossing was no problem, easy rock-hopping with no wet feet, as it hadn’t rained much. There was plenty of space in the huts when we were there, but if going in high-season be aware that japanese hikers are morning people to an insane degree. Everybody is asleep at 7.30 and then gets up and starts packing at 4.30am! If you get to the hut late, you might have trouble finding a spot.

  4. Kyuto Says:

    I am interested in hiking Mt. Miyanoura as part of the Yakushima traverse in early January 2016. My plan was to go from Miyanoura south to Onaida, and then take a bus back. I am very comfortable in deep snow, hiking in temperatures below -20 deg C, and walking on ice, but wanted to check on what is actually involved in completing this hike in the winter time. What is meant in this post by climbing equipment? Do you mean full crampons and an ice axe, or mini-spikes, or what? What is the terrain like? Do you have to worry about sliding off the mountain to your death, or do you simply have to worry about slipping a little and rolling an ankle? What is meant by white-out? Would I be able to see markers on the trail but not have much visibility otherwise?

    I have the yakumonkey guide, and I plan to buy a hiking map for the area. I will have GPS. I can’t afford a guide.

    What are the signs that one should not attempt Mt. Miyanoura? I’m prepared to turn back if, say, I have to climb up a rock wall with chains that is coated in ice, but my understanding is that there are no obstacles that severe on the Yakushima traverse. One thing I am not sure of how to handle is the situation where I’m up on the mountain and whiteout conditions develop. What markers are there on the trail through the mountainous section (where Miyanoura is) to help one navigate? I have also not seen a list of GPS coordinates for the Yakushima traverse, which would potentially be very helpful.

    Any thoughts and comments would be helpful. Thank you.

    • Morten Sylvest Olsen Says:

      I remember a few places with nylon rope to help getting up or down instead of scrambling, but they weren’t very steep, and there were no real exposure. I think the biggest problem is slipping on the wooden stairs. On lots of the trail in the higher elevations on both sides of the summit you are surrounded by high bamboo grass on both sides, so pretty easy to navigate even in a white-out. Some parts were over rocky terrain where the path was marked with small pink ribbons attached to rock anchors, so that would be a little more difficult, but that was very short sections. From yodogawa trailhead down to onoaida the trail is a little more difficult to follow, as it is not a big eroded path as the rest, but still, we navigated the last three hours coming up in the pitch-dark just using head torches.

    • wes Says:


      The biggest challenge with doing the traverse in the winter is the short daylight hours and the strong storms that often engulf the upper reaches of the mountains. With nearly a 2000-meter vertical elevation change, the peaks are a magnet for cloud and condensation throughout the year.

      The snow shouldn’t be too deep in early January, however, as it’s been a very mild start to the winter so far. A cold front is moving in this weekend, though, and it’s likely to snow on Mt. Miyanoura.

      White-out conditions mean foggy conditions with poor visibility, which make it incredibly easy to get lost if the mountain is blanketed with snow. The GPS should make navigation easier, and it’s an essential item to bring on this traverse (just keep an extra set of batteries in an inner pocket to keep them warm, as cold batteries tend to run out of juice quickly).

      Here’s a report from my friend Peter, who climbed in February. He was with a professional guide on a TV shoot, but you can get an idea of the terrain and conditions by looking at his photos. In clear weather it’s no problem navigating, but the mountains are hardly ever clear in the winter. You might get lucky though.

      Let me know if you have any other questions.


      • Kyuto Says:

        Thanks for the good advice! Our trip was successful and we reached the top of Miyanoura, although we did not do the Yodogawa to Onoaida leg.

  5. David Says:

    I stayed at the Takasuka hut On Monday April 11th. Even though it’s brand new, it seems smaller than the other huts – I counted 15 sleeping spots whereas the other ones seem to have room for 20-25 people. You could probably squeeze in more people at the expense of comfort.

    Also, it was practically full when I turned up a little past 5pm since nearly everybody was staying in the hut (I think there was one tent…). You probably shouldn’t count on sleeping inside the hut on a WE or during GW…the shintakatuska was fairly empty though.

  6. Jet Says:


    I’m going to climb arakawa trail to Jumon Sugi, cross over to Yadogawa trail, and come down mt. Miyanoura.

    Planning the trip in Oct (second hottest month there). We have almost zero trekking experience, but my friends and I served in the army before (we’re Singaporeans, there’s mandatory conscription here) – so we know basic navigation and are not physically unfit.

    Was wondering if we could do without a guide or GPS. Is it easy to navigate at the cross junctions? Or wonder off the trail?

    Thanks for your help!

    Cheers :)

    • Kyuto Says:

      Shiratani Unsuikyo to Yodogawa hut has great signs. Bring a map (buy one at the tourist offices on the island) and you should be okay without a GPS. Be aware: Yodogawa to Onoaida is very difficult to navigate without GPS (maybe there will be debate on this, but the signs are apparently terrible according to the tourist offices … perhaps this has changed), and this section also has a river crossing that can be extremely dangerous if there is rain … the river can swell very suddenly and kill people unexpectedly. So I hope you don’t plan to do this section. It seemed like you were going to catch the bus fairly close to the Yodogawa hut or something at the end of your hike.

      I didn’t start from the Arakawa trailhead, so I don’t know all the details of the entirety of that trail, but I think it’s a very established one.

      • Morten Sylvest Olsen Says:

        Hi Kyoto,

        We hiked from Onoaida last November. Compared to the other trails which are mostly very eroded and impossible to get lost at, that section is much less used, true. We only met one person there during an entire day. But unlike what you were told, and what is written in the latest Lonely Planet guide, the trail has been remarked recently (with red ribbons in the trees) and is navigated fairly easily currently. Care should be taken on the river crossing, for sure, but I think a sudden swelling quite unlikely. The problem usually is trying to cross while the flow is already too high. When hiking from Yodogawa down, the crossing is quite close to the beginning, so it is possible to turn around and go back and get down by the road/bus. When we were there in November it hadn’t rained much for a few days, and the river was crossable by easy rock-hopping, not even necessary to get wet feet, luckily, as it would have been a very long trek back down to Onoaida

    • Morten Sylvest Olsen Says:

      Hi Jet,

      Those trails are easily followed, and very well marked, as they are some of the most used trails in the area. There are clear signs at junctions, but a map would of course be a good idea. A guide is not really needed, nor GPS.


      • Jet Says:

        Thanks Morten! Too poor for a guide, so am very happy to know we can do this easily on our own :)

        A follow up question; do you recommend sleeping in the hut or outside? I’ve read a few blogs, and they have differing views – sleeping out is nicer and cosier (cos your friend beside you is a walking radiator) but you need a tent. Sleeping inside protects you from the rain but there might be rats and stuff.

        I guess due to the rain, sleeping under the stars is out of the question >_<

      • Morten Sylvest Olsen Says:

        Sleeping in the huts worked fine for us last November. Though depending on season, there may be a lot of people in there. I think you are only allowed to pitch your tent around the huts, not anywhere else. The japanese hikers in the huts were on a insane timezone though, went to bed at 20 and started getting up and packing at around 04:30. We just tried to ignore them and sleep in as best we could though.

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