KAGOSHIMA
|
NATURE & PARKS

Tokunoshima Island: An Unspoiled and Beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site

Surf and snorkel among sea turtles on Tokunoshima Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site you can visit using the JAL Japan Explorer Pass.
Tokunoshima Island: An Unspoiled and Beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site

Experience the unspoiled beauty and interesting cultural traditions of Tokunoshima Island on their own, or combine a visit to the island with a trip to Amami-Oshima and/or Okinawa. In 2021, Tokunoshima Island, along with Amami-Oshima Island and the northern part of Okinawa, became UNESCO World Heritage sites because of its rich cultural heritage and unique natural beauty. Tokunoshima Island lies between Amami-Oshima Island and Okinawa Island and is part of the Amami archipelago. 

Ecotourism in Tokunoshima

The unique and well-preserved natural and cultural environment is one of the primary reasons Tokunoshima Island has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Island enjoys Japan's strictest protection for natural conservation areas, and island residents are committed to maintaining the environment and preserving precious local ecosystems, on-shore and offshore.

There are many opportunities for ecotourism and activities that will not harm the local environment. Tokunoshima Island's weather is sub-tropical, and its beaches provide spectacular views and opportunities for relaxation amid pristine sands and clean waters. The stunning beaches are merely one of the reasons to visit and experience this remote and unspoiled Japanese island. 

Beaches to Explore on Tokunoshima Island

Tokunoshima Island has many beaches to explore on all sides of the island. As a coral island, the natural environment creates beautiful white sand for you to relax and enjoy. Coral formations also create interesting arches and other natural features for you to explore. Here are four of the most interesting and enjoyable beaches on Tokunoshima Island:

Yonama Beach

Yonama Beach

Only about 15 minutes by car north of Yonama Seaside Park, Yonama Beach is always open. Yonama Beach has ample parking, and swimming and snorkeling are allowed. This beach has ample amenities, including restrooms, changing rooms, showers, and barbecue pits. The summer season offers a swimming pool and water slide. Yonama Beach is relaxing and pleasant. It's also the starting point for the Tokunoshima triathlon, and it serves as the swimming location. One of the local landmarks is an interesting driftwood arch and memorial bell.

Kinenhama Seaside Park

More secluded than Yonama Beach, Kinenhama Seaside Park is located on the Island's southeastern side. You may access the park off Route 80, the island's main road. This unspoiled white sand beach has ample parking, along with restrooms and changing rooms. You may find many seashells along the shoreline in this park, along with trails for hiking and pleasant walks. Snorkeling at this beach may be particularly rewarding for interesting wildlife.

Aze Prince Beach

Aze Prince Beach is noted for its rare coral species and beautiful Hitachi trees. Located on the northeast side of the island about 25 minutes by car from the airport, Aze Prince Beach is also close to Rikuhama Beach, and you may choose to combine visits to each. Aze Prince Beach has beautiful coastline views and is also an excellent snorkeling location along the coral reef. The beach was named in 1969 when Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko visited the area.

Kanemi Beach Park

Kanemi Beach Park is located near the Sago Palm Tunnel at the northeastern corner of the island. Like other public beaches on the island, it is open 24 hours a day. You may also wish to visit nearby Tete Beach Park while you are visiting this area and enjoying the Sago Palm Tunnel and nearby Mushiroze, a location of impressive granite rocks.

Exploring Tokunoshima Island

The unspoiled natural history of Tokunoshima Island is one of the main reasons it has been included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island is an uncrowded and easy-to-navigate wonder for digital nomads and others seeking to experience one of Japan's loveliest subtropical southern islands.

In general, you will find lush subtropical forests, including beautiful trees, as well as wildlife unique to Tokunoshima and other nearby islands like Amami-Oshima.

Innojofuta Park

Innojofuta Park

Innojofuta Park on the island's west coast is the source of some of the most famous pictures you will see from Tokunoshima Island. It is the site of Megane Iwa, the "glasses cave," which features two openings in the limestone karst, revealing a stunning view of blue surf and sky. This smaller park is located within Amami Gunto National Park, which also includes areas on other islands in the area. 

Inutabu Cape

South of Innojofuta Park on the western coast of the island is Inutabu Cape, which is the westernmost part of the island. The cape offers spectacular views and opportunities to view local birds as well as marine life through snorkeling and tide pool exploration. The Cape Observatory offers additional opportunities to view the local coastline and sea. Local people often spot sea turtles swimming off the shore of the cape. Cape Inutabu has a memorial for the Battleship Yamato, which was sunk off the coast during the Second World War.

Mushiroze

In a rare sight for southern Japan, the large broken granite slabs of Mushiroze present a dramatic vision for tourists as well as interesting opportunities for rock scrambling and climbing. Winter surf can add to the dramatic experience. Located at the northern tip of the island, Mushiroze also offers opportunities for fishing and sightseeing.

Local experiences for digital nomads

Part of the joy of visiting new places is experiencing the unusual and unique experiences each has to offer. Tokunoshima produces sugar cane, and one of the most popular local beverages is green tea sweetened with local raw cane sugar called kokuto.

There are three communities on the island: Amagi, Isen, and Tokunoshima. These lovely towns have been home to some of the world's oldest residents, including supercentenarians well over 100 years of age. In addition to the island's annual triathlon, local people enjoy bullfights held at one of seven bullrings found around the island. Other sights and experiences include:

Agon, 300-year-old Banyan Tree

Agon: 300-year-old Banyan Tree

Near the southernmost town of Isen, you will find Agon, the 300-year-old Banyan tree, which is said to host a folklore spirit that can give good health. The tree is the oldest on the island and spans two beautiful ancient coral walls which mark the ancient Samurai dwellings. 

Kanamisaki Sago Palm Tunnel

Kanamisaki Sago Palm Tunnel

Located at the northeastern corner of the island, the Kanamisaki Sago Palm Tunnel is a natural form that leads 200 meters to a beautiful beach and ocean destination. Some of the trees may be a hundred years old or more, and their natural bend creates the impression of a tropical wonderland. Once you reach the beach, you may see hermit crabs gathering to lay their eggs and start a new generation.

Unbuki Underwater Cave and Senma Coast

If you enjoy snorkeling and scuba, one of the best spots on the island is the Senma Coast and Umbuki underwater cave. Even more conveniently, these sights are close to the Airport and Amagi Town. Depending on the time of year that you visit, you will see sea turtles migrating or enormous schools of tropical fish.

Workcation on Tokunoshima

Workcation on Tokunoshima

You can find several locations in one of Tokunoshima Island's three communities to have a pleasant workcation with WiFi access and amenities. When it's time for relaxation, enjoy beachgoing, sightseeing, and hiking, as well as several types of watersports along the island's coasts. Surfing, scuba diving, and snorkeling are all popular. Several beaches are suitable for body surfing. One of Tokunoshima's nicknames is "sporty island." Using a Tokunoshima Island map, you'll find community sports facilities in each community, as well as three golf courses. While you're exploring, you may want to try some delicious Tokunoshima shochu made from local kokuto sugar.

Visiting, playing, and working on the island

The Mirai Zukuri Innovation Lab is a co-working space on Tokunoshima Island that offers opportunities to work, play, and create. The Innovation Lab offers space for island visitors to experience the island's culture and schedule time for work and play. Located in the village of Inogama, the Innovation Lab offers a convenient facility for visitors to work and investigate potential business opportunities.

Getting to Tokunoshima Island

The Tokunoshima ferry operates between Okinawa and Kagoshima stopping at Kametoku port in Tokunoshima. Hetono Seaport in Amagi on the island offers ferries to Kagoshima and Amami-Oshima. If you have arrived in Tokyo and are wondering how to get to Tokunoshima, your next stop is Kagoshima Airport. It will take approximately one hour and 50 minutes to fly from Tokyo to Kagoshima Airport with the JAL Japan Explorer Pass. From there, you will travel to Tokunoshima Airport, located on the northwest side of the island. The trip from Kagoshima Airport to Tokunoshima Airport will take approximately one hour to one hour and 20 minutes, depending on the type of aircraft you select.

If you are traveling from Osaka, the trip from Itami Airport to Kagoshima Airport takes approximately one hour and 15 minutes using the JAL Japan Explorer Pass. Once you have arrived at Kagoshima Airport, the second leg to Tokunoshima Airport takes one hour to one hour and 20 minutes, depending on your aircraft selection. Flights between Kagoshima and Tokunoshima Airport are operated by Japan Air Commuter, a group company of Japan Airlines. Explore JAL Japan Explorer Pass to visit Tokunoshima Island.

Getting There