Princess Mononoke’s very own forest requires little more than magic to reach—and we have the best options to consider.
Yakushima, the mystical, magical land of ancient trees and Miyazaki-inspiring forests is a dream destination for many visitors to Japan. Unfortunately, it takes some dedication to reach (unless you can throw money at the problem and fly, that is). The island is located over 150 km from the nearest port on Kyushu, Japan’s third largest main island. A popular destination for hikers and explorers, it’s well serviced by ferries and flights, it’s just a matter of working out which works best for you. (And read our full Yakushima guide for more travel tips and recommendations on visiting the area.)
Ferries: Yakushima and the three boats
Catching the ferry is the easiest way to travel to Yakushima, with the two most popular boats leaving from the main Minami-futo Port in Kagoshima. You have three options though, creating a Goldilocks scenario—you just have to figure out the right combination of time and price for your trip.
1. Toppy Jetfoil: Fast, frequent and pricey
Taking just 2–2.5 hours and leaving from its own jetty in Kagoshima Minami-futo port, the Toppy jetfoil is the fastest and priciest option. Unfortunately, passengers must remain seated in the indoor area throughout the journey and there is no opportunity to go out on deck for views of the approaching island.
This is the only boat where reservations are advised for on-foot passengers, especially during holidays or long weekends. Tickets can be reserved on the website (in Japanese, but Chrome is your friend) between two months and (supposedly) four days in advance, although it cuts off a little sooner in reality, we found). There are a couple more departures in summer (March 9–Sept 16, 2019), and note that prices go up a tad in those months as well as in Golden Week and Obon. You can also get tickets at the port and we suggest you buy them in advance if possible. Be sure to check in advance which port your boat is going to or leaving from—the jetfoil serves both Miyanoura and Anbo ports.
Journey time: 2–2.5 hours
Schedule: 5 to 7 return journeys per day departing between 7 am–4 pm
Ports: Kagoshima Minami-Futo Wharf Jet Foil Terminal – Miyanoura or Anbo
Ticket price: Single ¥8,400 | Return ¥16,000
Reservations required? Not required but advised for busy times
Ticket purchase: Available online, over the phone or at the port
2. Yaku 2 Car Ferry: A compromise at sea
The mother-bear option of the Yakushima ferries, this boat combines a decent journey time of 4–4.5 hours with a more affordable ticket price. It only has one return journey a day and you don’t need reservations if you’re just a foot passenger, so it’s ideal for the non-planners with a little time to spare. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket counter or at Loppi machines if you really want to plan ahead, but it’s not required. Inside you’ll have a choice of comfy seating areas, carpeted rest areas and open deck space. There’s a small shop, vending machines and even a simple soba/udon restaurant if you get hungry.
Journey time: 4–4.5 hours
Schedule: KG 8:30 am – YK 12:30 pm | YK 1:30 pm – KG 5:00 pm
Ports: Kagoshima Minami-Futo Wharf Travellers Terminal – Miyanoura Port
Ticket price: Single ¥5,000 | Return ¥9,500
Reservations required? Not for on-foot passengers, but required for cars
Ticket purchase: Available at Loppi machines or at the port
3. Yakushima Ferry Hibiscus: Overnight adventures
This is a slow and pretty novel route as it takes you on a bright fuschia overnight boat used for transporting supplies to the two islands: Tanegashima and Yakushima. The most important thing to note about this option is that it leaves from Taniyama Port which is further south than the previous two and requires a special bus to access. You can only buy your tickets at the port and don’t need to book ahead (it surprisingly not that popular of an option). There are carpeted sleep areas and some seating but not too much, as it’s not really a passenger-orientated boat. There are some changes in price which aren’t clear, but the only main difference is a return which will set you back either ¥6,700 or ¥7,600.
Journey time: KG to YK: 13 hours overnight | YK to KG: 6.5 hours
Schedule: KG 6 pm – YK 7 am | YK 8 am – KG 2:40 pm
Ports: Kagoshima Taniyama Port – Yakushima Miyanoura Port
Ticket price: Single ¥3,700 | Return ¥6,700
Reservations required? No
Ticket purchase: Available at port
If you really love ferries, check out our latest post on traveling Japan by boat– it’s a third of the price of a JR Rail pass and five times the fun!
Flights: Save time, spend money
If you’re short on time (but not cash) there are three cities with direct flights to Yakushima: Osaka, Fukuoka and Kagoshima. Given the ferry options, these routes have a pretty steady (and high) price, but if you are determined to go, then a plane will save you a decent amount of time if traveling from Osaka and Fukuoka (but if you’re in Kagoshima already you may as well get the boat). There are some domestic flight deals for visitors which can mean bagging a ticket for ¥10,000 but generally tickets cost between ¥20,000 to ¥30,000.