• Discover Amami Oshima, Japan’s Newest World Heritage site

    Sport & Nature_Story

    Discover Amami Oshima, Japan’s Newest World Heritage site


As of July 2021, the southern islands of Amami Oshima, as well as Tokunoshima, Iriomote, and Yanbaru Region in the north of Okinawa Island, are expected to become Japan's latest UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites, the country’s 5th Natural World Heritage Site. With its stunning beaches, lush mangrove forests and practically untouched natural landscape, rich biodiversity and rare animals and plants, Amami Oshima is without question a secret tropical delight well worth exploring. Sitting between the volcanic landscape of Kagoshima prefecture and the tropical islands of Okinawa, Amami Oshima is an island that belongs to the former prefecture by name but shares more similarities with the latter. It's a local secret, an untouched tropical escape filled with diverse natural beauty, crystal clear ocean water, bright white sand, and lush green mangrove forests. It's a land of culture, adventure, beachy paradise, and home to a population of friendly locals with whom you'll fall head over heels for while also falling in love with the land. If you're looking for an escape that will present to you a new, often unexpected side of Japan, then look no further than Amami Oshima.

The island is best explored by car, as it's relatively long, and many of the areas are not easily accessible by foot. If you only have a short time to spare, consider staying for a minimum of four days, as there are so many different ways to soak up this island's culture and adventure. Here's an overview of a jam-packed four-day visit. But of course, if you want to stay longer, there's more than enough to keep you occupied.

Aerial shot of Amami Oshima

Day 1: Food and adventure

Enjoy a feast at Shimatofu-ya

Standing tall and proud along the island's Route 58 towards Naze-Tatsugo, Shimatofu-ya is an icon of Amami's culinary scene. A retro Showa-styled store, it sells pre-packed tofu and other soy and rice-based products, like amazake, and serves incredible, oversized tofu-based set meals. There's an impressive selection of shimatofu-based sets like the agedashi tofu set and tofu steak; each order comes complete with a colourful array of side dishes, all featuring fresh vegetables, pickles, and rice, delicious natural gifts from the island. It's the perfect way to get a taste of Amami.


Kayak through the lush heart of the island

Amami Oshima's Mangrove Park is the second largest mangrove forest in Japan after Okinawa's Iriomote Island, and the best way to explore it is by kayak. There are several kayak rental companies located near Mangrove Park, making it super accessible. Sign up for a minimum of two hours because there's a lot to explore.

The heart of the ocean

Amami is not short of natural beauty, but for that perfect beach shot, be sure to visit the island's famous 'heart rock,' a heart-shaped tidal pool located on the eastern coast of Akaogi community in Tatsugo. Visit on a sunny day during low tide to see it at its best.

Day 2: Cultural exploration

Dorozome, the colour of the island

Dorozome is Amami Oshima's unique natural dyeing technique. The process gives the fabric a deep, earthy shade of iron red, which changes depending on how many times you dye it.

The dye is made from a blend of natural materials including pigments from the area's native techi tree and iron-rich mud. The dyeing workshop, Higo Dyeing (肥後染色) located along the Toguchi River, is an excellent place to sign up for a class and make your own dorozome-dyed souvenir.

Stroll and SUP through the island's history

Sitting along the central east coast of Amami sits Yamato Village, home to rugged mountain views and blue and white, coral dotted coastal scenes. Influenced by both Satsuma and Ryukyu cultures, the town is a blend of laid back coastal sights and rich traditional culture. Within Yamato lives a sub-village known as Kuninao Village. It's a small but fascinating hamlet, where guests can join a tour with NPO 'Tamasu,' a local company that offers guides throughout the area and SUP (stand up paddle boarding) experiences. Have a bit of fun and learn something along the way!

SUP tour (Photo: NPO TAMASU)

Visit Miyakozaki, where the hills meet the sea

Not far from Yamato Village is another fascinating location, Miyakozaki, a wild expanse of a park that's also part of Amami Guntō National Park, and is just a 30-minute drive from Naze, Amami's city centre. Positioned right on the tip of a peninsula that sits on the cusp of Naze Oaza and Kuninao, this park that has to be seen in person to be believed. With hills covered in lush, vibrant bamboo grass known as 'ryukyusasa' (Ryuku bamboo) and with Amami's bright blue waters making the horizon, the contrast of colours is nothing short of stunning.

Day 3: Fun and education by the sea

Bonito, the gifts of the sea

To understand a little more about the island's food production and learn how to make excellent sashimi, pay a visit to Hosei Maru, in Naze, the city of Amami.

Hosei Maru is a fishery, bonito flake-producing warehouse, a store, and a restaurant and for guests wanting to glean a little insight into just how they work, its doors are open. The facility grows and sells two main types of fish, yellowfin tuna and bonito, which you can catch, cut and eat yourself if you sign up for an experience at this fascinating facility.

Adventure time at Amami City Ohama Seaside Park

An ideal sunset location and a facility with plenty of attractions, including an immaculate beach, Ohama Seaside Park is a 20-minute drive from the centre of Naze. The area also has a seawater therapy pool, Thallaso Amami no RYUGU," that overlooks the seaside and the Amami Seaside Museum, which features ocean wildlife and Amami culture like traditional fishing methods.

Amami City Ohama Seaside Park (Photo: Amami Tourism & Products Federation)

Day 4: The beauty of the beach

Paragliding, see the island from a whole new perspective

Sure, the coral reefs are stunning when snorkelling and SUP-ing over them, but to fully realise the magnitude of Amami's beauty, then strapping yourself in for a paragliding ride is not to be missed. A handful of businesses offer paragliding opportunities, so it's best to find the style and time that suits you, but be aware that bad weather is a no-go. You might have to plan a little, but it's definitely worthwhile.

Tomori Beach, the island's most famous beach

Sometimes one of the best ways to enjoy a place is by doing absolutely nothing, which is what we suggest you do at Amami's famous Tomori Beach. Dotted with delicate coral, and featuring pearly white-sand a rich, vibrant blue water, Tomori Beach is the epitome of paradise. Grab your swimming clothes, a good book and a towel and set up beach camp for at least half a day.

Where to stay

DenPaku The Beachfront MIJORA

Luxury modern, beach villas perched on the perfect sand of Amami, DenPaku The Beachfront MIJORA is tranquil beachside accommodation with a contemporary twist. Spacious, perfectly located, opening directly to the beach, and best of all private, DenPaku The Beachfront MIJORA is the ultimate in tropical luxury.

Contact TARO for more information, complete travel plans and exclusive offers.

Sport & Nature_