World Natural Heritage
On December 11th, 1993, Yakushima was registered as a World Natural Heritage site for the first time in Japan along with Shirakami-sanchi Mountains.
Yakushima has the biota that includes many endemic species and endangered animals and plants. The unique ecosystem allows Yakusugi cedars to grow several thousand years old, and the division of ecosystem in Yakushima are represented in a vertical distribution of the vegetation from the shore to the subalpine zone. According to UNESCO, two main criteria (vii, ix) were evaluated upon the registration of the World Heritage:
- “contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance”
- “outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals”
Yakushima, which is 130 km in perimeter, possesses Mt. Miyanoura and six other mountains that are over 1,800 m in the central part of the island. Climate zones from subtropical to cold exist from the shore to the mountaintop. It is as if various climates zones that extend the Japanese islands were placed perpendicularly on top of each other. It is a place of wonders that allows you to simultaneously experience flowers such as hibiscus that bloom full in spring around the coastal villages and snow that can be seen at the mountaintop. The diversity of vegetation that exist in Yakushima is also unique. There are approximately 1,300 kinds of plants, out of which are 40 kinds of endemic species. Various vegetation that can be found in different temperature zones in Japan can be found on this small island; 149 kinds of plants that are a habitat of northern regions and 21 kinds in the southern regions.
When Yakushima was registered as World Natural Heritage, Mr. Droste, the Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre said, “What is admirable about the inheritance of Yakushima is the fact that nature has remained in an excellent state despite people having existed on this island for many generations”.
Although people have lived in Yakushima since Jomon era (14,000 bc – 300 bc), the tradition of respecting nature that has been passed down for generations and the conservation efforts that continue today have allowed nature to stay in a magnificent state.
Yakushima-cho (town) abide by established laws that protect the environment. Yakushima is a treasure to the world. We have the responsibility to preserve the nature and pass it down to the following generations.