The beauty of Yakushima is truly breathtaking - it's natural landscape inspired famed Japanese Anime Director Hayao Miyazaki in some of his earlier works Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind & Mononoke-Hime.
Being a Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli fan - I've always wanted to visit this beautiful place Shiratani Unsuikyo to see if photos I had seen truly gave it justice. Honestly no photos can - this place is unbelievably magical and mystical.
A lot of people visit Yakushima for the hiking, to see the wonderful nature and especially the magnificent Jomon-Sugi Cedars.
The most famous hike to see the oldest Jomon-Sugi tree requires you to wake up at 5am in the morning and is a roughly an 8-10hour trek and actually you can only see the tree from a distance due to new preservation rules.
If you're not up for such a long trek Shiratani Unsuikyo is a perfect alternative (where you have options of various hiking trail times - yet even the shortest one allows you to see their most famous Cedar) and it is this area which famously inspired Miyazaki for Mononoke Hime especially the Ravine.
With this breathtaking scenery - I couldn't help but of course take some pretty photos of my Tokyo Kaleidoscope pieces - teehee - a perfect backdrop for my new two piece designs ^^
A perfect complement after hiking Shiratani is to drive down to see Yakusugi Land (oddly named like a theme park but is anything but). It's a lovely scenic area of forest that was logged in Edo times and is now home to a fine number of Yaku Sugi specimens with a number of easily accessible hiking trails with a variety of durations.
Both Yakusugi Land and Shiratani Unsuikyo have a small entrance fee of 300Yen to help with maintenance and you'll find many individuals (especially the Japanese) hike with proper hiking shoes, waterproof coats, hiking poles etc.
We visited in October and I was quite comfortable hiking in plastic jelly shoes & my husband in his trainers. We tend to be quite simplistic when we hike (even when we hiked Macchu Picchu - we were rather low maintenance compared to other hikers - I wore trainers the whole time) - no long heat smart leggings or waterproof onezies etc. However I would recommend some type of light raincoat/parka for even if it;s a sunny day as you hike further into the forest - there's guaranteed to be some form of moisture.