Off the Beaten Path: How to Visit the Amami Islands in Japan

Many people who sign up to the Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group and email list express an interest in ‘getting off the beaten track’ for their Japan trip.  In reality, most first-time visitors to Japan stick closely to the Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka-Hiroshima route and never really attempt to explore a less touristy part of Japan.

A great option to see a part of Japan that has significantly fewer tourists is to visit a more remote location, such as the Amami Islands, which are detailed below.

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Where are the Amami Islands

The Amami Islands are a truly ‘off the beaten tourist track’ destination. They are located to the southern side of Japan, approximately halfway from Kagoshima (at the southern tip of Kyushu Island) and Okinawa. The Amami Islands consists of eight small inhabited islands. From north to south, the Amami Islands are as follows:

  • Amami-Oshima (the northern-most island about 380km [236 miles] south-west of Kagoshima);
  • Kakeroma-jima;
  • Uke-jima;
  • Yoro-jima;
  • Kikai-jima;
  • Tokunoshima;
  • Okinoerabu-jima (about 530km [330 miles] south of Kagoshima or about 60km [37 miles] north of Okinawa); and
  • Yoron (the southern-most island and closest to Okinawa).

The total population of the Amami Islands was around 120 000 people as at 2008, with about 73 000 of these people being on the main island – Amami-Oshima.

Amami Islands – Climate

The Amami Islands are on the northern edge of the subtropical zone and share a similar subtropical climate with their neighbor Okinawa. The hottest month is August during which the average maximum temperature is 29°C (84°F). The coolest month is January when the average maximum temperature is 17°C (63°F).

Sunset in Amami Islands in Japan
Sunset in Amami Islands in Japan

Amami Islands – Natural Beauty

The Amami Islands unique ecosystems and biodiversity are part of the reason why the Japanese government are seeking to add the Amami-Okinawa islands to the UNESCO world heritage register.

The islands have numerous endangered species and Amami Oshima has the second largest mangrove forest in Japan. Omami Oshima is also blessed with abundant forests and plenty of spectacular beaches. Oshima Strait is a great place to dive with one of the largest coral reefs in the world located in water of exceptional clarity.

Okinoerabu-jima has about 300 limestone caves, with the 3.5km (2.2 miles) long Shoryu Cave said to be the largest in East Asia. 600 metres (0.4 miles) of the Shoryu cave is accessible for sightseeing. Yoron Island is home to Yurigahama Beach which has pure white star-shaped grains of sand.

Amami – Culture, Food, Art

The local culture, food and art of Amami are quite distinctive, making Amami unique within Japan. Historically, the Amami Islands were part of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Its present culture reflects a mix of mainland Japan and its Ryukyuan heritage. The Amami Islands offers a wide range of unique local foods including treats made from brown sugar, a local spirit called kokuto shochu (made from brown sugar and rice koji) and a chicken and rice dish called ‘keihan’. Amami Oshima is also known for its local textiles and fabrics as well as its folk songs.

The lack of intensive foreign influence throughout the centuries (as was also the case with Okinawa) and the jungle-covered mountainous landscape are some of the reasons why Amami Islands are often considered a hidden paradise. They share the name ‘Galapagos of Japan’ with the Ogasawara Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Going to the Beach in Amami Islands in Japan
Going to the Beach in Amami Islands in Japan

Visit the Amami Islands

For more information about the Amami Islands check out the following articles:

How to Visit the Amami Islands in Japan
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Join the Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group or Discord Server

You are also welcome to join our Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group and our Japan Travel Planning Discord Server – they are great resources to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!

Disclaimer:  This article contains affiliate links.  If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.