World Heritage / Yakushima

Criteria: (vii) (ix) | Date of Inscription: 1993 | Location: Kagoshima Prefecture | Justification for Inscription



Soaring mountains, gorgeous forests and various native ecosystems, Yakushima Island is home to marvelous examples of the ancient and natural Japan of centuries past.

Yakusugi Cedar (Jomonsugi Cedar)
Yakusugi Cedar (Jomonsugi Cedar)
Shiratani Unsuikyo (Shiratani Ravine)
Shiratani Unsuikyo (Shiratani Ravine)
Yakushima is the fifth largest island in Japan and is located in the southern part of Kagoshima Prefecture. The island is home to Mt. Miyanouradake at 1936m as well as other mountains towering over 1000m in height and the forest of "Yakusugi" (Yakusugi Cedar), itself said to be thousands of years old by now. The island's unique ecosystem is both subtropical and sub arctic and is well know throughout Japan.
On Yakushima Island, forestry utilizing the Yakusugi Cedar was a predominant local industry from the 17th century. However, in recent times, the exhaustion of the forest resources caused by large-scale lumber felling coupled with a recent decline in the demand for lumber in addition to the global ecology movement have brought many changes to this island. Furthermore, the discovery of Japan's (probable) oldest cedar, "Jomonsugi," (Jomonsugi Cedar) in 1966 led to the felling of trees being prohibited post 1970. In 1993, Yakushima Island was inscribed on the World Heritage List.
Princess Mononoke
Shiratani Unsuikyo (Shiratani Ravine) is the model setting for Miyazaki Hayao's animation film "Mononokehime" (Princess Mononoke). The area is a natural forest located upstream of the Shiratani River, itself a branch of the Miyanoura River. Visitors can view a forest area and a cave used as models in the sets of Miyazaki's famous movie.
The Legend of Heishi Refugees
Yakushima is said to have once been a manor owned by the Heian era aristocracy (c. 12th century). After the downfall of the powerful Heishi family, many refugees fled to this island to escape persecution and various stories about their lives here can be found in several areas.
The Landing of Early Chinese and Italian Travelers
It is said that people have been living on Yakushima from around 7000 years ago and the name Yakushima can often be found in Japanese history linked to events such as the visiting of a Chinese envoy in the 8th century and the landing of an Italian missionary named Sidotti in the 18th century.

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