Amami Oshima: A destination for nature and cultural adventures

Photos courtesy of PhotoAC
Photos courtesy of PhotoAC

Amami Oshima: A destination for nature and cultural adventures

by Shoji Kudaka
Stripes Okinawa

Somewhere between Okinawa’s main island and Kagoshima’s mainland, you’ll find Amami Oshima, an island of beauty with lots of untouched nature sure to make even the traveled tourist fall in love.

The island is about two-thirds the size of Okinawa’s main island, and its population is a fraction of the size in comparison. It is because of this that you’ll find untamed subtropical forests, exquisite flora and fauna and plenty of Amami Oshima’s designated natural treasures— the Amamino kuro usagi rabbit and the kenaganezumi long-tailed rat.

There are other similarities between Amami and Okinawa you’ll discover when you visit. This is because  Amami Oshima came under the Ryukyu Kingdom jurisdiction in the mid-15th century, according to Amami City’s online museum. Though the governing system ended when the Shimazu clan, who ruled the island that was then known as Satsuma, invaded the Ryukyu Kingdom in 1609, there are still remnants of the past, which you’ll find in some of their dialect. One being they both call their folk songs “shima uta.”

Though some of Amami’s features may seem familiar if you’ve visited Okinawan islands, you’ll soon find that its unique beauty and landscape are incomparable to any other. For great trekking and canoeing head to Kinsakubaru Genseirin, a forest with countless mangroves and ferns that is home to the island’s many rare species. Or, for a heart-pumping climb, head to Mt. Yuwan, which boasts the highest elevation on the island at 694 meters above sea level. There are also several waterfalls to explore in the jungle on Amami Oshima.

Beyond what Amami Oshima offers on land, its surrounding waters aren’t any less enticing. Tsuchimori Kaigain is often mentioned as one of the best among the beautiful beaches of Amami. The emerald green ocean is less than a 10-minute drive from Amami Airport. And, while you’re there, check out Ayamaru Misaki or Cape Ayamaru, which offers a great view of the ocean and the island.

Surfers will want to head to Tebiro Kaigan beach, known for its amazing waves. In 2011, an international surfing competition was held there, contributing to the popularity of this mecca of surfing. Bathrooms, showers, and lodging are available nearby to support surfers.

On the northern coast, Ohama Kaihin Koen, or Ohama Seaside Park, offers a beautiful sunset view. Tourists and local alike visit this spot for the golden sunset in this amazing setting.

When it comes to food, Amami has many unique dishes. A good example is Keihan chicken rice, a local specialty featuring rice in a savory soup cooked with chicken and dried shiitake mushrooms. Top that with dried laver, red pickled ginger, and pickled radish and more to perfect the dish to your taste. Gomazata is a sweet made from brown sugar and sesame seeds, which couples the Amami’s signature brown sugar with neighboring island Kikaijima’s sesame seeds. The sugar is also coincidentally used to produce Kokuto Shochu, a signature distilled spirit of Amami Oshima.

One of the great things about Amami Oshima is the cultural and historical ties it has with its neighboring islands. Let this island enchant you with its pristine beaches, impressive waves and untamed nature which cannot be replicated.

kudaka.shoji@stripes.com

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