TOPTravelThe Ultimate Amami Islands Bucket List

The Ultimate Amami Islands Bucket List

Itching to hop on a plane and travel again?

By Lisa Wallin

While that may not be on the cards yet, here is a bucket list of unmissable experiences on each of the Amami Islands for when you can.

Amami Oshima

The largest of the Amami Islands, Amami Oshima is a good starting point for Amami beginners. Added to the UNESCO World Heritage listing together with parts of Tokunoshima and Okinawa in 2021, it’s a treasure trove of easily accessible natural and rural encounters.

Chow down on keihan

For a taste of the island’s traditional celebratory meal of chicken on rice, head to Kyodo Ryori Keihan Hisakura.

Refresh yourself LaFonte

Amami serves homemade gelato with local flavors such as Amami kokuto sugar, Japanese plum and more. Soleil Farm & Healthy Island Café offers goat milk soft-serve and tankan (a local citrus fruit) smoothies.

Go off-grid

Uken-son consists of 14 idyllic villages where rural island life is still preserved. Get to know the locals, then take a kayak or cycle tour with Amanico to get a lay of the land. Dine and stay at Yadon Café 1-1 and Yadon Cottage, where WiFi is not an option — intentionally. For breathtaking views, head up to Yuwandake Prospect Park inside Amami Gunto National Park.

Enjoy an all-inclusive experience

Native Sea Amami has it all: exhilarating diving, snorkeling and whale watching tours, an excellent eatery and two luxurious accommodation facilities — one with a beach on its doorstep.

Learn more about diving in Amami here.

Kikaijima

This island may be small, but it is riddled with untouched historical and natural treasures waiting to be discovered.

Hire an island guide

Aden village, with its coral reef stone walls is picture postcard perfect, while a tour around Arachi reveal will fill you in on the secrets behind those walls. Guides are local volunteers and tours are offered at a reasonable rate: ¥500 per person. For more information, visit their website.

Bond with locals after hours

Book a shima-uta (island song) experience at Funky Station Sabani, a live house where locals gather for groovy music and drinks.

Imbibe a local specialty

Kikaijima Shuzo’s many varieties of kokuto shochu also come with some creative serving suggestions: drink it hot with either parsley or a dried hot pepper with ginger for an extra kick. For a non-alcoholic option, try Toba Toba Cola, a craft cola with 14 different spices.

Get a hit of vitamins

Grab lunch at Yuraiba Yui Café, which serves a seasonal rotation of dishes like the refreshing shima mikan cream pasta, which is sprinkled with the peel of fusuu, a citrus fruit grown here. While you’re here, shop locally sourced sesame seed snacks and gluten free broad bean soy sauce. 

Immerse yourself in island life

Live among the locals in Shitooke village. Weekly Shitooke is a traditional house renovated with all the latest amenities but retains its old world charm. The Namura family owns the house and also runs a nearby kokuto sugar business.

Tokunoshima

Tokunoshima equals wilderness. From its affable residents to its rugged terrain, it’s the perfect destination for those who love natural beauty with a wild side.

Take a prize fighting bull for a walk

Togyu — also known as bull sumo — is a local spectator sport that brings everyone together. For bull owners, almost every minute outside of work is spent tending to these gentle giants. Help out by giving them a good grooming, or take them on a walk to learn more about this old tradition. See more information about this fun activity here.

Go on a Tokunoshima adventure

Take a guided eco tour around Cape Kanami, get down and dirty during harvesting season, ride the waves on a SUP board or kayak, dive deep with an underwater scooter — your imagination is your only limit. Kanami Amachan Club offers a multitude of experiences to choose from, depending on the season.

Sample the local wildlife

Most of the creatures on Tokunoshima are protected species, but the Ryukyu wild boar isn’t one of them. Enjoy game meat like you’ve never had it before: in the form of Salisbury steak or katsu at Gibier Café Tougura. 

Drift off to sleep to the sound of the ocean

Denpaku manages several houses that have been converted into short term accommodation across the Amami Islands. Several on Tokunoshima have direct beach access.

Photo by Kenichi Daito

Okinoerabujima

Known affectionately as Erabu by islanders, Okinoerabujima is a raised coral reef island with deep caves, stunning coastlines and unique traditional crafts.

Go deep underground

The island has more than 200 limestone caves, many of them accessible with the aid of experienced guides from the Okinoerabu Caving Guide Union. If you’re not keen on exploring them that deeply, visit Shoryudo, a cave that is open to the public. For more information about Okinoerabu Cave, see here.

Try out a traditional craft

Okinoerabujima is famous for its banana fabric (known as bashofu), a traditional and sustainable material that is both durable and beautiful. Okinoerabu Banana Fabric Studio offers experiences and viewings of the process, and visitors can make their own banana fabric accessories to take home. 

Sleep under the stars

Though the island isn’t that large, it has coastal camping facilities perfect for the adventurous sojourner. Wanjo Beach and Okidomari Beach Park and Yakomo Beach are just three of Okinoerabujima’s beautiful seaside snoozing spots.

Yoron Island

Yoron Island is the southernmost of the Amami Islands and often referred to as the “Oriental Pearl” because of its round shape and striking white sand beaches. 

Find stars in the sand

Yurigahama, Yoron Island’s “phantom” beach is only accessible from spring to autumn, by boat. Hop on one of the glass-bottomed boat cruises to search this sandy expanse for beautiful star-shaped auspicious symbols. Legends has it that if you find the same number of stars as your age, something good will happen… 

Go beach hopping

Yoron Island is a beach lover’s paradise with seashores to suit any preference. Udonosu Beach is a short walk from the downtown area, Kanebo Beach hosts stunning sunsets and Oganeku Beach is a two-kilometer stretch lined with marine sports facilities and restaurants. See all the beaches on Yoron Island here.

Slurp some local noodles

Noodles made using mozuku, a locally sourced seaweed, are a staple here. Mozuku soba has a tougher texture than plain wheat noodles and comes with an array of mouthwatering fresh toppings. Mozuku somen features fresh seaweed served with a dipping sauce for a healthy and refreshing take on traditional somen. Try both at Izakaya Hyokin, a traditional Japanese pub with a cozy atmosphere.

Additional Information

Amami Oshima Tourism and Products Federation
https://www.amami-tourism.org/experience/

Kikaijima Tourist Information Center
http://kikaijima-kankou.com/

Tokunoshima Tourism Federation
http://www.tokunoshima-kanko.com/

Okinoerabujima Tourism Association
http://www.okinoerabujima.info/

Yoron Island Tourism Association
http://www.yorontou.info/

Book your next flight to Amami Islands at jal.co.jp/jp/en


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