A Timeline of Significant Events
Jomon people voyaged around Kyushu between 2000 -1000BC.
Earthenware showing influence from Kyushu island has been excavated from the Isso Matuyama sites of the later Jomon period. This has revealed the fact that people lived there and had traded with Kyushu’s main island and Southeast islands freely by using log boats made by Yaku-tane pine.
In 753, Ganjin, the learned and virtuous priest of Tang, avoids periodic wind and calls at a port in Yakushima on his way to mainland.
A chinese monk, Jianzhen (Known as Ganjin in Japan), traveled to Japan at the request of Japanese priests. Japan needed a high ranking priest to perform ordination. He tried crossing the East China Sea five times, but failed and lost both of his eyesight at last. In the sixth voyage, he finally reached Japan after ten years. He founded Ritsu School (which focused on monastic rules) and set up a private temple called Todai-ji in Nara.
Yakugai shells were highly prized by the aristocracy during the Heian era (794 to 1185).
Yakugai shells (turbo in English) were depicted in the essay called “Makuranosoushi,” which was completed in 1003 A.D. by a notable woman writer named Sei-Shonagon. In her essay, Yakugai shells were used as wine cups among the aristocrats. The Yakugai shells were given to the Imperial Court as a gift from Yakushima during the Heian era. The court used these shells to make games, handicrafts, and personal ornaments.
Nichijyo-syonin, the holy priest of Honnouji in Kyoto, came to Yakushima in 1488.
In those days, mountains were making strange noise. Nichijyo-syonin, the holy priest of Hokke sect of Budhism from the Honnoji temple in Kyoto, came to Yakushima. He ascended Miyanoura-dake and put the laws and ordinances of Lotus Sutra in a cave at the summit. There he recited the sutra and calmed the rumbling of mountains. The stone monument “Ipponnhouju-Daigongen” in the cave is the Buddhist name of island’s deity “Hikohohodeno-mikoto.” This is said to be the beginning of the tradition called “Takemairi (pilgrimage to the deity),” which is still practiced by the islanders.
Matchlock guns were introduced to Tanegashima in 1543.
The matchlock guns were introduced by Portuguese who arrived on a Chinese ship at the shore in Tanegashima. It is said that Yakushima was the place where these guns were used in an actual war for the first time.
Hideyoshi Toyotomi ordered the gift of Yakusugi in 1586.
Hideyoshi Toyotomi was the preeminent Daimyo (general) who brought the end of Japan’s Warring State period and achieved the unification of Japan. He gave order to the Shimazu feudal clan, who ruled Kyushu in those days, to present gifts of Yakusugi Cedar to build the hall for the Great Buddha Statue at Hoko-ji Temple in Kyoto. The number of the tree felling at that time is said to be 200.
Led by Jochiku Tomari, Yakusugi Cedar felling began around 1640.
Jochiku Tomari, a Confucian monk of Nichiren Sect, was born in 1570 in Anbo village and served the Shimazu clan in his declining years. He saw the destitution of the islanders and submitted a plan to Shimazu clan to utilize Yakusugi. No one would fell Yakusugi since they were considered sacred trees. Jochiku went into the mountain and prayed. Upon his return, he persuaded the islanders that he had received permission from the gods and the felling began around 1640. The islanders paid the annual tributes in the form of Hiragi (roof tiles made from Yakusugi). It had brought a stable economy to both Yakushima and Shimazu clan.
An Italian missionary, Giovanni Battista Sidotti, arrived in 1708.
The illegal entry of the Italian priest, Father Sidotti, occurred in Yakushima. He was escorted via Nagasaki to Edo and met Hakuseki Arai who was a learned scholar and the chief adviser to the Shogunate. Hakuseki Arai wrote the interview with Sidotti in a series of books called “Seiyo Kibun (Western Accounts).” These books which contained three volumes became the base for debaters in regards to the influence of western knowledge and the Japanese principles during the late Tokugawa period. A monument for Father Sidotti is build at the cliff of Koshima where he landed.
Tadataka Ino visited Yakushima in 1812.
Upon orders given by the Shogunate, Tadataka Ino conducted a survey of the entire Japanese archipelago. The Edo Shogunate needed a national map of the coast for the purpose of national defense. He came to Yakushima in 1812. The survey took about a month. His maps were completed in 1821 and they were so accurate that it remained the definitive maps of Japan for nearly a century.
80% of land in Yakushima was admitted into national ownership in the land tax reformation in 1882.
Most of the forests that had been under joint ownership from each village since the Edo period were claimed as national forests. The people on the island who ran out firewood and charcoal materials filed a lawsuit for the national forest remand.
A botanist named E. H. Wilson came to Yakushima for a survey in 1914.
Dr. E. H. Wilson, who is a notable English plant hunter, introduced Yakushima’s forest and Yakusugi to the world. Among them was a gigantic Yakusugi stump which is 4.39 meters in diameter. In dedication to his work, this large hallow stump was given the name “Wilson’s Stump.” It is one of the hotspots for tourists.
General rules for Yakushima’s national forests management were promulgated in 1921.
The long lawsuit over the request of national forests remand ended in a lost case for the plaintiffs in Yakushima, but the government revised the laws regarding Yakushima’s national forests management in consideration of islanders’ distress. This allowed part of Maedake (frontal mountains) to be utilized for local’s benefit.
Yakushima national forests development began in 1922.
In order to develop state owned forests, Government established a local forestry office at Kosugidani which is 640 meters above sea level. In 1922, the logging railway was constructed between Anbo and Kosugidani (16 Km). The logging was conducted until 1970, and it was considered the golden age during the 1965. There were 133 households of 540 people who lived at Kosugidani of Ishizuka village.
Yakushima was added to Kirishima National Park in 1964.
On March 16, Yakushima was added to Kirishima National Park and was registered as Kirishima-Yaku National Park. Kuchierabu-jima island was also incorporated in 2007. In March, 2012, however, a part of Yakushima island and the entire Kuchierabu-jima island were separated from Kirishima National Park. It was then registered as Yakushima National Park, which became the 30th national park in Japan.
Jomon-sugi cedar was discovered in 1966.
It was discovered by an official of Kamiyaku-cho town. “Jomon-sugi cedar” is said to have an estimated age of 3,000 years or more. The name was coined because of its longevity and likeliness of existence since the Jomon period and also because the molding of a trunk that undulates wildly resembles straw-rope patterned pottery from the Jomon culture.
In 1993, Yakushima was registered as the World Natural Heritage for the first time in Japan.
Yakushima and Shirokami Mountains were the first to be registered in a list of World Heritage as a natural inheritance in Japan. The area that was registered is 10,747 ha, which is approximately 20% of the island.
The felling of Yakusugi cedar was prohibited in 2001.
Except for some protected zones, the national owned forests were partly destroyed because of Yakusugi cedar felling. As a result, the prohibition of Yakusugi cedar felling was put into effect in 2001. The Yakusugi cedar used for wood processing such as souvenirs are now only applicable to “Domaiboku,” which are naturally fallen trees and stumps of Yakusugi.
In 2005, Nagata-hama Beach was registered with Ramsar Convention.
Ramsar Convention is an international organization that seeks to protect unique plants and animals around the globe. They focus on the conservation of their habitats and ecosystems, particularly wetlands for waterfowls. In the ninth meeting at the Ramsar Convention, Nagata Beach was enlisted as an habitat crucial to loggerhead turtles that lay eggs more than any other places in the North Pacific region. Since then, Yakushima has followed strict guidelines in order to protect them.