Report

Amami islands: an outstanding geology

The northern Ryukyu Arc is the geological extension of the Outer belt of southwestern Japan. Of volcanic origin, the Amami Islands possess a granite subsoil and are lined in coral reefs. Some are also entirely covered in ancient corallian limestone reefs.

Amazing rocky formations

Violent winter winds have shaped extraordinary rocky shapes that rise up in the sea. On Tokunoshima island, the blocks of granite on Mushiroze promenade modelled by the sea are fully worthy of any contemporary sculpture. Formed out of ancient coral, the iconic Innojofuta arches (known as the ‘Spectacles’) have also been gradually eroded and sculpted over time by the sea and the wind. On Okinoerabu island, Fucha spray cave, constantly battered by waves, is home to a magnificent geyser that bursts forth when the ocean gets rough.

 

Countless caves

The volcanoes responsible for the birth of the archipelago’s southern islands collapsed millions of years ago. Successive layers of coral subsequently accumulated on the surface leaving the soil fertile for crops and sugar cane. Underwater streams running through the subterranean coral limestone have formed large numbers of cavities. Under Oyama mountain on the island of Okinoerabu, the Shoryudo caves reveal an impressive underground network of chambers, pools, stalactites, stalagmites and galleries several kilometres long, a portion of which is open to the public.

 

Coral everywhere

Magnificent fringing reefs continue to develop around these islands forming superb landscapes. The lagoon as far as the coral reef is tinted in sublime colours that span every hue of blue, like at the beach of Oganeku or around the Yurigahama sandbar at Yoron. On the south coast of the island of Kikai, the Araki-Nakasato promenade was formed only 40,000 years ago, making it possible to distinguish the different layers of ancient coral and to observe natural masterpieces shaped by the storms and currents: spurs, ridges, hollows, furrows, mushrooms…

 

Practical information

The Japanese airline company, JAL and its local partners, JAL Express and Ryukyu Air Commuter, operate daily flights between Kagoshima to the south of Kyushu, and the islands of Amami-Oshima, Kikai, Tokunoshima, Okinoerabu and Yoron, as well as daily flights between the islands themselves, making the entire archipelago fully accessible.

For its part, the “A” Line Ferry company offers individual island-hopping tickets, as well as an “unlimited travel pass” (norihodai kippu), valid between all the islands, making it possible to customise your trip at a very reasonable cost.

 

The author

Manuel Sanchez

Writer and photographer who seeks out contacts, other cultural identities, distinctive architectures. As a seasoned traveller, my approach has been honed little by little, from insider hacks to in-depth explorations. I especially love early travel writers, for their detail and their feeling for the sanctity and inviolability of the cultures they describe.

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The tourist attractions mentioned

Mushiroze Walkway Mushiroze Walkway
Mushiroze Walkway
Innojō-futa Arches Innojō-futa Arches
Innojō-futa Arches
0:30
Fūcha Blowhole Fūcha Blowhole
Fūcha Blowhole
1:00
Shoryudo Caves Shoryudo Caves
Shoryudo Caves
1:00
Oganeku Beach and Yurigahama Sandbar Oganeku Beach and Yurigahama Sandbar
Oganeku Beach and Yurigahama Sandbar
4:00
Araki-Nakazato Promenade Araki-Nakazato Promenade
Araki-Nakazato Promenade