Outdoor activities are the main attraction on this extraordinary island, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, situated 37 miles off the south coast of Kyushu and just a ferry ride from Kagoshima city. Mountains dominate the pristine landscape, with over 30 towering between 3,281-6,562ft high and much of the island teeming with ancient forests and giant Yaku cedar trees including the 7,200-year-old ‘Jōmon Sugi’, the symbol of Yakushima. The vegetation varies from alpine plants on the steep mountain slopes to subtropical plants along the coastline, with treks for all abilities revealing a wide variety of flora and fauna.
Try: Kagoshima Wagyu beef is produced from top-pedigree black cattle. The finely marbled meat has a mild taste, yet packs full-bodied umami punch.
Surrounded by majestic mountains, the great Aso Grasslands is home to the Aso Nakadake Crater, one of the world’s largest volcanic calderas, filled with an emerald-green reservoir that’s often blanketed with steam — a stark reminder that it’s still active. Hikers will be rewarded with incredible views from the rim, and at nearby Kusasenrigahama, a vast pastoral plateau dotted with grazing cattle and horses, with a picturesque lake reflecting the surrounding landscape. The region has around 120 natural onsens (hot springs), and to discover some of the best head to Kurokawa, renowned for its charming traditional Japanese-style hotels, sophisticated spas and open-air baths. The waters are said to help those with skin ailments, promote blood circulation and ease stress, but anyone who visits this part of Japan is certain to relax both physically and mentally simply because of the surrounding natural beauty.
Try: The red-haired cow, Akaushi, is a breed of Japanese Wagyu that grazes on the vast grasslands of Aso and produces beef that’s tender and full of flavour but contains little fat.
3 breathtaking views in Miyazaki
1. Takachiho Gorge
Shaped by lava flows from Mount Aso’s eruptions over the millennia, this gorge features stunning cliffs and waterfalls; it’s best seen while on a boat trip along the Gokase River during autumn — from early November to early December — when the leaves turn myriad dazzling shades of red and gold.
2. Amano Yasugawara Cave
Its name means ‘cave of the sun goddess’, and this imposing, mythological site has wonderful riverside views and is believed to bring happiness to anyone who makes a wish upon its stones after placing them in a pile.
On cool, crisp autumn mornings, a ‘sea of clouds’ often blankets the entire landscape beneath the summit of this hill, 1,684ft above sea level. Best seen September to November.