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Travel to Amami・Okinawa: A Natural Paradise

The islands of southwest Japan are full of unique creatures, breathtaking UNESCO sites, and secluded beaches. Island hop to see what all they have to offer.
Travel to the Ryukyu Islands: A Natural Paradise

Amami・Okinawa are where a wide variety of endemic and rare species co-exist.

Tourists that visit Amami Oshima and Tokunoshima in Kagoshima Prefecture, northern part of Okinawa Island and Iriomote Island experience UNESCO world natural heritage sites, local traditions, and breathtaking natural beauty. This 12 million-year-old island chain south of the Japanese archipelago is extremely biodiverse due to its unique evolutionary path. As you hop from island to island, you'll be in awe of the number of outdoor activities you can take part in. You can even spend a day living the life of a bullfighter or trekking through the jungle after dark.

Don't Miss Amami, Tokunoshima, Northern part of Okinawa Island, and Iriomote islands

Amami-Oshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, Northern part of Okinawa Island, and Irimote Island are part of the Ryukyu Island chain located southwest of the main Japanese island of Honshu. Each island has its own unique natural features and experiences.

Amami-Oshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture is the northernmost of this group of islands. Amami-Oshima, Japan, is a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site best known for its rich biodiversity and stunning landscapes. It is home to various species that you can only find here due to its remoteness and high levels of protection. Amami-Oshima has many natural sites like the Kinsakubaru Forest and Native Mangrove Forest, both of which you can experience by trekking and kayak.

Tokunoshima Island is just off the coast of Amami Island and is known for its bullfighting culture. Visitors here can soak in the bull sumo tradition and even spend the day learning with a hands-on experience. This island is also home to rare nocturnal wildlife that you can view through a nighttime trek.

Experience a dynamic sense of nature with the expansive Yanbaru Forest in the northern part of Okinawa Island. It has one of the region's most unique and beautiful locations - Daisekirinzan in the Yanbaru Forest.

Iriomote Island is the farthest away from the mainland and is near Taiwan. This small island is one of the few places in the world where you can see star-shaped grains of sand.

Mangrove Forest in Gesashi Bay

Don't Miss Amami, Tokunoshima, Okinawa, and Iriomote islands

Explore the Mangrove Forest in Gesashi Bay, a designated National Natural Monument, by kayak while taking in views of flora and fauna only found in brackish water surroundings.

Kakeroma Island: Pristine beaches and watersports

Kakeroma Island: Pristine beaches and watersports

This is a secluded island found at the south of Amami-Oshima Island. This island is home to sandy white beaches, blue seas, and rich nature. Kakeroma Island is a great place to try your hand at activities such as snorkeling through beautiful clear waters, exploring deserted islands, or just kicking back and relaxing while gazing up at the starry sky above.

Another place to try other watersports is the Oshima Channel, between Amami Oshima Island and Kakeroma Island. The calm water in the channel, along with all of the inlets you can explore, make it a wonderful spot to do some kayaking or diving. The channel also offers a breathtaking view of the sunset and the surrounding islands by taking a short hike up the appropriately named Sunset Hill.

Tokunoshima Island: Bull sumo and The Bullfighting Experience

Tokunoshima Island: Bull sumo and The Bullfighting Experience

Unlike the man vs. bull bullfighting spectacles of Europe, the Tokunoshima version, known as bull sumo, is more humane and pits bull against bull. This tradition is an important part of the traditional culture of Tokunoshima that has continued for more than 400 years. A bull sumo match typically has two bulls lock horns and push each other around until one tires and gives up, thus losing the match. Each bull has a "coach" that trains it from a young age and shouts encouragements at it during the match. If you have an interest in seeing what it takes to be a bull sumo coach and spend some quality time with the bulls, The Bullfighting Experience is right up your alley.

Daisekirinzan: A karst formation in Yanbaru Forest

Daisekirinzan: A karst formation in Yanbaru Forest

If you journey to the Northern part of Okinawa Island, you'll come across the world’s northernmost tropical karst landform. This limestone formation, known as Daisekirinzan, is over 200 million years old and is in the Yanbaru Forest, Okinawa. Once you get your first glimpse of Daisekirinzan, you'll understand why it became a UNESCO site in Okinawa. The area is also home to four hiking trails that traverse through giant banyan trees, jarring rock formations, and unique local plants.

When entering any natural surroundings in the area, you should wear long sleeves, long pants, and boots or sneakers. In addition, visitors should not randomly pick plants, catch animals, or bring plant seeds or animals from outside the island. Even the smallest changes could break natural chains and cause major environmental impacts.

Night tour: Spot a rare animal

Night tour: Spot a rare animal

The Amami-Oshima and Tokunoshima Island Night Tours offer visitors the chance to come across some of the valuable endemic animal species found in this region that are nocturnal in nature. These include the Amami rabbit, the Amami jay, the Amami woodcock, and other wild birds and a wide variety of other frogs. Be on the lookout for rare flora and fauna with an experienced eco-tour guide. The tour takes place by car and always with a local guide because there are whole host of dangerous animals in the forests, including poisonous habu snakes.

Night tours under a starry sky are also available on Amami-Oshima and Tokunoshima Island, Iriomote Island. Experience the many sights of Amami and Okinawa by going trekking by day and taking a night tour after the sun goes down.

Hoshizuna Beach: Sand in the shape of a star

Hoshizuna Beach: Sand in the shape of a star

As the name suggests, Hoshizuna Beach (literally Star Sand Beach) in Iriomote Island is home to grains of sand in the shape of a star.  Typically beach sand comes from ground-down rocks, shells, and coral, but not on Hoshizuna Beach. This star-shaped sand is formed by foraminiferal shells, and are not to be missed.

How to get to the islands

Amami・Okinawa offer a glimpse of nature in its pristine form. Whether you see it by snorkeling on Kakeroma, getting close up with bulls on Tokunoshima Island, or seeing its raw beauty by trekking on Okinawa, you won't be disappointed. Once you're ready to do some island hopping in Japan, all you need to do is book a flight to Haneda Airport on Japan Airlines from any of the 30 cities in Japan Airlines' domestic network.

• How do you get to Amami-Oshima Island? Amami-Oshima Island can be accessed in two hours with flights from Haneda Airport to Amami Airport. 

• How do I get to Tokunoshima Island? Get to Tokunoshima Airport by flying from Haneda to Kagoshima Airport (one hour and 45 minutes) and then onto Tokunoshima Island. 

• Where is Yanbaru? Yanburu, which is in the northern part of Okinawa Island, can be reached by a flight from Haneda to Naha Aiport (two hours and 30 minutes) and take a bus ride (two hours). 

• How do I get to Iriomote Island? Access Iriomote Island by flying to Painushima Ishigaki Airport from Haneda (three hours), then take a bus (30 minutes) to the ferry terminal and sail to the island (40 minutes). 

The JAL Japan Explorer Pass allows travelers to fly affordably to over 30 cities on JAL's domestic network. Book your journey with JAL to elevate your time in Japan.

Getting There