Look closely when walking through the mossy trees of Shiratani Unsuikyo forest–there might be kodama, or tree spirits, nearby.
It’s dense with greenery and very quiet, sound absorbed by the thick moss. Gentle creeks trickle over ancient rocks, through the fine selection of cedars only found in Japan that the island is named for (“yakushima” means cedar). There are hiking trails too, some of which date back to the Edo period (the 17th through mid-19th centuries).
It is also notable because it served as an inspiration for Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke, which addresses the tension between humans and nature spirits in the forest setting. Lead artist Kazuo Oga was said to have spent many hours sketching the forest in preparation for the film.
Know Before You Go
Take the one of the Mutsubanda buses from Miyanoura to the stop at Shiratani Unsuikyo park.