The Amami Archipelago is a group of islands floating in the sea about halfway between Kagoshima and Okinawa.The Amami Islands and surrounding waters were designated in 2017 as the Amami Islands National Park, making it the newest national park in Japan.
The Amami archipelago is a popular tourist area because of its rich nature, precious endemic species and other living things, and the unique charm of each island.
In this article, we will introduce basic information on sightseeing in Amami.
What is the Amami archipelago like? Attractions of the Amami Islands
The Amami archipelago consists mainly of eight inhabited islands: Amami Oshima, Kikaijima, Tokunoshima, Okinoerabujima, Yoronjima, Kakaromajima, Teshima and Yorojima, located 380-580 km south of Kagoshima Prefecture.
The rich nature nurtured by the warm subtropical climate and the beautiful scenery unique to the islands are appealing, and the islands are home to many rare endemic species and rare plants and animals.
Recently, island hopping by airplane has become a popular way to explore the islands. Here are some of the attractions of the main islands.
Amami Oshima is the largest island in the Amami archipelago, with a circumference of approximately 461 km.
It is the second largest remote island in Japan, after Sado Island. The island is home to about 58,000 people, but most of the island's forests have been left untouched in their natural state, and the forests are home to endemic and endangered species such as the Amami rabbit and the lorikeet.
There is an airfield on Bioshima Island, and airlines offer direct flights from Haneda, Narita, Itami, Kansai, Fukuoka, and Kagoshima airports.
Access to the island is convenient, and the island can be reached by rental car, bus, or cab, so first-time visitors to the Amami archipelago are advised to enjoy Amami Oshima first.
From Haneda Airport (JAL)
- One flight per day
- Travel time: about 2 hours and 15 minutes
- Fee: 18,000 - 52,000 yen
From Narita Airport (peach)
- One flight per day
- Travel time: approx. 2 hours 40 minutes
- Fare: 5,990 - 39,290 yen
From Itami Airport (JAL)
- 1 flight per day (2 flights per day during summer vacation and New Year vacations)
- Travel time: about 1 hour and 50 minutes
- Fee: 7,600 yen - 40,000 yen
External Link: Osaka (Itami) → Amami Oshima - JAL Domestic Flights
From Kansai Airport (peach)
- One flight per day
- Travel time: about 1 hour and 50 minutes
- Fare: 4,790 yen - 32,990 yen
From Fukuoka Airport (JAC)
- One flight per day
- Travel time: about 1 hour and 15 minutes
- Fee: 9,800 yen - 36,000 yen
From Kagoshima Airport (JAC)
- 8 flights per day
- Travel time: about 1 hour
- Fee: 10,000 yen to 25,000 yen
External Link: JAL | Early Bird Discount! - Save on domestic air tickets!
From Kagoshima Airport (Skymark)
- 2 flights per day
- Travel time: about 1 hour
- Fee: 3,600 yen - 20,000 yen
External Link: Skymark domestic cheap flights and airplane reservations
World Heritage List
The Amami archipelago retains beautiful nature, but Amami Oshima and Tokunoshima in particular are home to many endemic species, including the Amami rabbit, in the world's rare subtropical forests.
About 90 percent of the amphibians and 60 percent of the terrestrial mammals and reptiles that live on Amami Oshima and Tokunoshima can only be found here.
Japan had long nominated the area for World Heritage status, but in 2018 it was assessed that there were "serious concerns about the sustainability of the ecosystem" and registration was postponed. However, the biodiversity of the area has been evaluated and the problems have been improved, and in July 2021, the two islands, along with northern Okinawa and Iriomote Island, were inscribed as World Natural Heritage sites.
Kikaijima, located in the most northeastern part of the Amami Islands, is a small island of about 48 km in circumference formed by the uplift of coral reefs.
In the center of the flat island, at an elevation of 203 meters above sea level, is Baeknodai, a vast 700-hectare uplifted coral reef plateau.
The beautiful view of the emerald green sea and coral reefs seen from the observatory of Hyakunodai is one of the ten scenic spots of Amami and is a popular tourist spot.
To get to Kikaijima, fly or take a ferry via Kagoshima or Amami Oshima.
There are several ways to get around the island, including bus routes, rental cars, cabs, and bicycle rentals. There are three bus routes, and for sightseeing on the island, we recommend the "one-day pass," which allows you to get on and off the bus as many times as you like in a day.
Tokunoshima is the second largest island in the Amami archipelago after Amami Oshima, and is located in the center of the Amami archipelago.
You can see unique landscapes such as "Inuno Jofuta" and "Inutabu Cape" with cliffs eroded over the years by uplifted coral reefs.
Tokunoshima is an island where bullfighting is very popular. With a history of about 500 years, bullfighting is a part of the culture of Tokunoshima.
To get to Tokunoshima, fly or take a ferry via Kagoshima or Amami Oshima or Naha Airport.
When flying from Naha Airport, you will go through Okinoerabu Island. There are several ways to get around the island, including local buses, rental cars, cabs, and bicycle rentals. Some bus routes are operated on demand, and reservations are required.
Okinaga Ryobu Island
Okinoerabu Island is an uplifted coral reef island located in the southwestern part of the Amami Islands. With an annual temperature of 22 degrees Celsius, the island has a mild climate throughout the year, and the cultivation of flowers such as Elab lilies and freesia flourishes.
It is called "the island of flowers and limestone caves" because it is dotted with 200 to 300 limestone caves, including the Shoryu Cave, a natural monument designated by Kagoshima Prefecture with a total length of 3,500 meters.
The most common way to get to Okinoerabu Island is to travel from Naha Airport or Kagoshima Airport if you are flying, or from Naha Port if you are taking a ferry.
To get around the island, fly or take a ferry via Kagoshima or Amami Oshima or Naha Airport. There are several ways to get around the island, including bus routes, rental cars, cabs, and bicycle rentals. When using the local bus, the "One Day Pass" is a good deal.
Yoron Island is located at the southernmost tip of Kagoshima Prefecture, about 23 km from Okinawa Island, and is the closest island in the Amami Islands. Although it is a small island with a circumference of only 23 km, there are many beautiful beaches surrounded by 60 white sandy beaches and coral reefs such as Yurigahama Beach and Ohganeku Beach.
There are daily flights to Yoron Island from Kagoshima, Amami Oshima, and Naha. You can also take a ferry from Naha or Kagoshima. There are several ways to get around the island, including bus routes, rental cars, cabs, and bicycle rentals. There is also a special "2-day unlimited ride ticket" for the bus that circles the island.
Recommended Activities in Amami
There are many ways to enjoy sightseeing in the Amami archipelago, not only to see the beautiful scenery, but also to play in the rich nature, to observe precious creatures, and to experience the history and culture of the island.
Activities to Enjoy Nature
Amami is rich in nature and offers a wide variety of activities. In the sea, marine activities such as diving, snorkeling, sea kayaking, SUP (stand-up paddle boarding), and fishing are popular. Snorkeling allows you to swim with sea turtles and colorful tropical fish. Whale watching can also be enjoyed, as whales visit the waters around Amami from December to March to raise their young.
Recommended spots #1: Kurasaki Beach
Kurasaki Beach, located in the "Amami Crater," the first meteorite pit discovered in Japan, is a fantastic beach with a beautiful contrast between the white sandy beach and the clear blue sea.
The waves are relatively calm, making it a safe spot for families with children to enjoy swimming and camping.
Coral reefs and the fish that live around them can be observed close to the beach, and the area is crowded with people who enjoy swimming, diving, snorkeling, and windsurfing.
Recommended Spot #2: Ohama Seaside Park
Ohama Seaside Park is not only popular among tourists, but is also a place of relaxation for local residents. The park is famous for its subtropical plants such as cycads and banyan trees, as well as for being a spawning spot for sea turtles.
There is also a barbecue and camping area where you can enjoy swimming as well as a variety of other activities. Enjoying activities at the beach during the day is good, but if you visit at dusk, you can enjoy the impressive sunset.
The Amami Marine Exhibition Hall in the park is a well-equipped facility where visitors can observe sea turtles and tropical fish swimming and learn about coral ecology.
Recommended Spot #3: Cape Ayamaru
Ayamaru Cape is a scenic spot selected as one of the Ten Amami Views and the One Hundred New Kagoshima Views.
You can see a jungle of cycads, tompara rocks and coral reefs all at once. On a good day, you may even be able to see the island of Kikai together, floating across the blue sea.
Also, at the Ayamaru Misaki Tourist Park located at the Ayamaru Cape, you can enjoy various activities such as lawn skiing, fancy bicycles, cycle trains, and ground golf. You can spend your time relaxing and taking in the scenery, or you can just play around in the park.
External Link: Ayamaru Misaki Tourist Park (amamin.jp)
One of the most popular tours on Amami Oshima is a canoe trip through the mangrove forest.
A canoe ride through the mangrove tunnels will give you an up-close look at Amami's nature and its precious creatures.
Night tours to observe the natural treasure Amami-no Kurobagi, animals that can only be seen at night, and a star-filled sky are also popular. On Okinoerabu Island, where there are many caves, large and small, you can experience "caving.
Recommended spots #1: Kuroshio Forest Mangrove Park
You can explore the large mangrove forests by canoe.
A tour guide will accompany you on the ride, so even if you are not used to it, you will feel at ease.
The mangroves are inhabited by a variety of creatures, such as ayu (sweetfish), southern spotted moths, and siomane. If you are lucky, you may even see the Amami rabbit.
Recommended spot #2: Kinsakubaru Primeval Forest Walk & Mangrove Canoe Tour
The tours conducted by the Nature Office offer a full day of walking in the virgin forest and canoe touring in the mangrove forest.
The tour, which allows visitors to observe giant subtropical plants and rare creatures indigenous to Amami Oshima Island, is suitable for families as it is open to participants from the age of three.
For those who don't have the stamina for a full day, there are tours that include either a walk in the virgin forest or canoe touring.
Experiencing history and culture
It is also a pleasure of sightseeing to experience the history and culture unique to the Amami islands, such as the August dance, island songs, bullfighting on Tokunoshima, Amami Oshima pongee, and Morobun Shibaya on Kakeroma Island.
Try your hand at mud dyeing and weaving of Amami Oshima pongee, or making sweets using brown sugar.
Recommended spots #1: Kagoshima Amami Park
Amami Park is a facility where visitors can learn about the nature, culture, and history of Amami.
In the park's "Amami no Sato," both adults and children can enjoy learning about Amami's nature and lifestyle through exhibits and videos.
Another facility in the park, the Tanaka Isson Memorial Museum of Art, permanently exhibits the works of Isson Tanaka, a painter who depicted the nature of Amami while working as a dyer.
With such a wide range of indoor facilities, you can have a fulfilling experience even in bad weather.
The park is only a five-minute bus ride from Amami Airport, and from the observatory you can watch planes depart and land up close.
External Link: Amami Park, Kagoshima Prefecture (amamipark.com)
Recommended spot #2: Amami Oshima Tsumugi Village
Oshima pongee is a specialty of Amami Oshima and is known as a high-class silk fabric.
At the Amami Oshima Pongee Village, visitors can observe the entire manufacturing process of Oshima pongee with explanations from the guides.
Visitors can also experience Amami's traditions through valuable experiences such as making their own T-shirts by mud-dyeing, hand-weaving and dressing.
Oshima pongee is very rare and has a strong image of being a luxury item, but the gallery store at Oshima Pongee Village sells a wide range of products, from full-fledged kimonos to casual accessories.
No entrance fee is required to use the stores, so why not stop by to find some souvenirs?
Take photos in the best spots
Surrounded by the beautiful sea, Amami is sure to produce picturesque photos no matter where you go.
Recommended spots #1: Domori Beach
Domori Beach, less than a 10-minute drive from the airport, is commonly known as the "Blue Angel.
It has been called "the most beautiful beach in Amami Oshima" and is an easy place to take photogenic pictures.
There is also a spot on the Tsuchimori Coast called the Blue Cave, where you can experience snorkeling with photo opportunities. However, small children need to be a little careful as there is a rip current on the beach and they can easily be swept out to sea.
Recommended Spot #2: Heart Rock
Heart Rock is named for the beautiful blue heart of seawater that accumulates in the tide pools. It is said to be a power spot where love will come true.
You can only see it at low tide when the waves are calm, so you need to check the weather and tide tables.
To see the Heart Rock, you need to go through a narrow bush path, so it is recommended to do some research beforehand to avoid getting lost.
Recommended Spot #3: Kakaroma Island
It takes 20-25 minutes from Koniya Port on Amami Oshima Island to reach Keroma Island by town ferry or sea cab.
Kakaroma Island has many photo spots such as Kairi no Taki Waterfall and the shade of Hanatomi trees. The rows of dayberry trees on the island bloom around the end of May.
This spot, where you can see beautiful sunsets in the evening, is also known as the location of Lily's house, which was used for the filming of "Otoko wa Tsuraiyo Torajiro Benihana.
On the island of Kakeroma, you can see a starry sky at night. You may want to spend a luxurious time listening to the sound of the waves and watching the Milky Way.
Recommended gourmet food in Amami
In Amami, located between Kagoshima and Okinawa, the local cuisine is influenced by the food culture of both Kagoshima and Okinawa. The following is a list of some of the most popular ones.
Recommended food #1: Chicken rice
Chicken rice is one of Amami's representative local dishes. Chicken rice is a dish of white rice topped with ingredients such as shredded chicken, broiled egg, dried shiitake mushrooms, pickled papaya, citrus peel, etc., and chicken broth.
Recommended food #2: Goat soup
Goat soup is a local dish in Okinawa, but it has also been eaten in Amami for many years during celebrations and other occasions. For the islanders of the Amami Islands, goat is a valuable source of protein. It is eaten as a nutritional supplement and tonic. The strong smell of goat meat makes it a favorite of many, but if you visit Amami, be sure to try it at least once.
Recommended food #3: Abura Somen (Abura Zomen)
Abura somen is a local dish of Amami, made by frying boiled somen noodles with pork and vegetables. It is similar to Okinawa's somen chanpuru (fried somen noodles), but the special feature of abura-soumen is that broth is added during the frying process. It is often eaten at home, and is an indispensable dish for the traditional Amami event, the "August Dance.
Recommended food #4: pickled papaya
Papaya pickles are always served as a condiment with chicken rice. In Amami, young papaya fruits are pickled and enjoyed as an accompaniment to rice and alcoholic beverages.
Recommended gourmet spots #1: Minatoya Chicken Rice
Minatoya, a restaurant specializing in chicken rice, is the originator of today's chicken rice style, in which rice with ingredients is served with chicken soup. It is located in Kasari Town, a 15-minute drive from Amami Airport, and is marked by a stone statue of a chicken. In addition to the main dish of chicken rice, the restaurant also serves "miki", a local Amami drink made from white rice, sugar and sweet potatoes, and brown sugar shochu produced only on the Amami Islands.
External Link: Minatoya - Ryugo-cho and others / Local cuisine (other)
Recommended gourmet spot #2: Kitahachi
Kitahachi offers only omakase courses. It is very popular among tourists as a place where they can fully enjoy the local cuisine of Amami. The menu is very generous and will surely satisfy you. Drinks, including alcoholic beverages, are all-you-can-drink. It is recommended to visit the restaurant around 6:00 p.m. when it opens.
External Link: Kitahachi - Amami City and others / Local cuisine (others)
In this article, we have introduced some basic information on sightseeing in Amami. Each of the islands in the Amami archipelago has its own unique charm, and there are many popular sightseeing spots and recommended activities. Recently, island hopping by airplane around the islands has become popular. Please visit the islands of the Amami archipelago.