Jomon Sugi

An enormous Japanese cedar tree that is older than the nation of japan itself, Jomon Sugi, is a remarkable natural wonder found on Yakushima. It is believed to be between 2,000 and 7,200 years old, making it one of the oldest living organisms on the planet. This ancient tree holds great cultural and historical significance, attracting visitors from all over the world.

Yakushima, where Jomon Sugi is located, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This designation recognizes the island’s outstanding universal value and the need for its preservation. Access to the tree is restricted to an observation deck set 15 meters away to ensure its protection. Visitors can marvel at the tree’s magnificence from a safe distance.

Reaching Jomon Sugi is no easy feat. The hike to the tree takes approximately 10 hours, and it is advised to start the journey before dawn to return by sunset. The trail to Jomon Sugi begins at the Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine and follows the Arakawa Trail, starting at the Arakawa trailhead. To access the area, visitors can take a 30-minute bus ride from the town of Anbo to the Arakawa trailhead. From March to November, private cars are not allowed on the access road to the trailhead, so a shuttle bus from Yakusugi Museum is the best option.

The name “Jomon Sugi” is derived from the Jomon period, a prehistoric era in Japanese history that lasted from approximately 8000 B.C. to 300 B.C. This ancient cedar tree stands 25.3 meters high with a circumference of 16.4 meters. Through dendrochronology, Japanese scientists have determined that Jomon Sugi is at least 2,000 years old, although some estimations suggest it could be as old as 7,000 years.

The discovery of Jomon Sugi in 1966 sparked efforts to protect the forests of Yakushima. The importance of this ancient tree and its ecosystem led to the island’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993. The preservation of Yakushima’s forests is crucial not only for the conservation of Jomon Sugi but also for the numerous other unique and endangered plant and animal species that call the island home.

To accommodate the increased number of visitors following Yakushima’s UNESCO status, access to Jomon Sugi has been limited to an observation deck built 15 meters away from the base of the tree. This platform ensures the tree’s roots are not damaged by the influx of tourists. The observation deck provides a stunning view of Jomon Sugi, allowing visitors to appreciate its grandeur and ancient beauty.

Along the trail to Jomon Sugi, there are several other famous trees worth mentioning. One of them is Meoto Sugi, a pair of trees that resemble a husband and wife embracing. This natural wonder symbolizes love and togetherness. Another notable tree is Daio Sugi, also known as the Great King Cedar, which is one of the largest trees on the island. Its impressive size and majestic presence are awe-inspiring. Lastly, there is Wilson’s Stump, named after the English botanist Ernest Henry Wilson. It is the remains of a giant cedar that was felled in the 1580s. Recently, Wilson’s photographs of the stump, dating back to the early 20th century, were discovered in the Harvard University archives, providing valuable historical documentation.

Visiting Jomon Sugi and the surrounding forests of Yakushima offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature and witness the resilience and beauty of ancient trees. It is a humbling experience to stand in the presence of a living organism that has witnessed centuries of human history. The island of Yakushima, with its lush forests and diverse wildlife, is a testament to the importance of conservation and the need to protect our natural heritage.

In conclusion, Jomon Sugi stands as a testament to the enduring power and beauty of nature. This ancient cedar tree, older than the nation of Japan itself, is a symbol of resilience and a reminder of our responsibility to protect and preserve our natural wonders. A visit to Yakushima and the observation deck of Jomon Sugi is a journey back in time, where visitors can appreciate the majesty of this ancient tree and the significance it holds in Japanese history and culture.

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Yakushima Island, Kagoshima-ken

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