Idyllically poised between earth and sky, the Amami Islands are only a 3hr-flight from Tokyo and 1hr from Kagoshima. Despite being little more than a stone’s throw from the very touristy island of Okinawa-honto, they remain as yet off the beaten tourist track. Here are four good reasons to visit these tiny pristine pearls of paradise.
Part and parcel of the Amamigunto National Park, these remote islands are thought to have separated from the Asian continent much earlier than the main islands. As a result, they boast a host of unique and often endemic wild and plant life, such as the Noguchigera woodpecker and the Amami black rabbit. This biodiversity is accessible to all on excursions to the virgin forest or the mangroves of the large islands of Amami-Oshima and Tokunoshima.
Each island boasts a viewing point from which it is possible to admire stunning coastlines of reefs, ranging from jagged coasts smothered in giant tree ferns to limestone cliffs, sheltering spectacular coves and long sandy beaches. On Yoron island, one of the archipelago’s top destinations, you can swim in an aquamarine lagoon in the company of sea turtles and multicoloured fish while observing the coral reef of the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Sea of China on the other.
The locals are at one with their natural environment and almost each natural element embodies a god. Their life expectancy alone is proof that they know how to select the best ingredients. The regional dish, keihan, is a mixture of rice, mushrooms, finely sliced eggs and chicken, smothered in broth. Tempura fish and seafood is prepared with a fresh water seaweed paste…
The subtropical humid climate that bathes the entire archipelago results in almost permanently green vegetation, as the crops of sugar cane and orchards demonstrate. The water is particularly crystalline and ideal for bathing during the mild winters; the rainy season is in May and June.
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.