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The Many Splendors of Amami Oshima

Explore the Island's Rich Natural Surroundings


Amami Oshima is surrounded by beautiful blue ocean. (C)Amami City

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Amami Oshima is an island lying in the southwest of the Japanese archipelago, roughly 380 kilometers from the coast of Kyushu. Bounded by the Pacific to the east and the East China Sea to the west, Amami Oshima and its neighboring islands are surrounded by a vast expanse of ocean. The island is ringed by beautiful coral reefs, and the average yearly temperature is around 21 degrees Celsius. The mild climate enables visitors to enjoy a variety of recreational activities, including marine sports and camping. Recently, a large number of visitors were drawn to Amami Oshima by the chance to witness an extremely rare occurrence when, on July 22, 2009, a total solar eclipse passed over Japan for the first time in 46 years.


Kinsakubaru virgin forest. (C)Amami City

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Enjoying the Great OutdoorsAmami Oshima is the largest of the Amami Islands, which are dotted in an area of ocean around 370 to 560 kilometers to the southwest of Kagoshima, the southernmost city on Kyushu. There are seven other inhabited islands in the group, including Kakeromajima, Kikaijima, Tokunoshima, Okinoerabujima, and Yoronto, as well as numerous uninhabited islands. Amami Oshima is the largest of these and has a population of 70,000.

Touching down at Amami Airport after the roughly two-and-a-half-hour flight from Tokyo, visitors are immediately struck by the vast expanse of lush green vegetation that dominates the island thanks to its subtropical climate. Leisure options are many and varied: maritime sports can be enjoyed in the clear, blue ocean; strolls through virgin mangrove forests offer the chance to see rare plant species; and camping excursions enable travelers to live among colorful flowers and rare birds and insects.

The Kinsakubaru virgin forest, located roughly at the center of the island, is a place where visitors can fully appreciate the splendor of the island's subtropical broad-leaved trees. Guided treks are a great way to see the giant ferns that grow in great clusters and seem to blot out the sky with their enormous fronds.


Ohama-kaihin Park. (C)Amami City

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Enjoying the Spectacular WatersAmami Oshima is surrounded by coral reefs and sparkling cobalt blue waters, and fabulous beaches dot its shorelines. Scuba diving off the northern coast offers the chance to see dogtooth tuna and other large, migratory species of fish. In the southern waters lie stunning stretches of coral reef, in which one can observe anemone fish and other tropical species in close proximity. Near Amami City, meanwhile, is the beachfront Ohama-kaihin Park. In addition to being a great vantage point for watching the island's gorgeous sunsets, it is also one of the places where sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs.

The calm waters of the Oshima Strait, sandwiched between Amami Oshima's southern shoreline and neighboring Kakeromajima, are also a popular location for sea kayaking, an activity that enables participants to reach an idyllic stretch of beach to which there is no overland route.

Diverse Local CuisineThe island offers a mouthwatering variety of unique local foods. Its passion fruit and mango, cultivated in the warm southern climate, are exceptionally delicious. Other famous foods include confections and other treats made with unrefined brown sugar, an island specialty made by squeezing juice from sugarcane plants and condensing it with heat. Sweet-toothed visitors find these confections irresistible. Those with a taste for spirits, meanwhile, are likely to enjoy the island's famous kokuto shochu, a variation of Japanese traditional distilled liquor made from brown sugar and rice koji (a starter used in the fermentation process, made by adding koji mold to steamed rice).


Keihan. (C)Amami City

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One simple yet tasty local dish becomes an instant favorite of many visitors. Keihan is made by pouring chicken broth flavored with soy sauce over rice topped with steamed chicken, sweet and spicy simmered shiitake mushrooms, thin strips of cooked egg, nori (dried seaweed), and other ingredients.

Other island specialties include the skillfully woven and uniquely dyed oshima-tsumugi textiles, the production of which dates back more than 1,300 years. Oshima-tsumugi fabrics are famous for being used to make high-quality kimono.

The island is also known for its shimauta (island songs), folk songs sung with accompaniment from the sanshin, a three-stringed musical instrument. In recent years several singers from Amami Oshima have gained fans nationwide for the distinctive singing that they honed during their time on this subtropical paradise. (September 2009)

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