On 26 July this year, four islands in southwestern Japan were added to the UNESCO Sites of World Natural Heritage. They are Amami Oshima, Tokunoshima, and Iriomote, as well as the Yanbaru Region in the north of Okinawa Island. These islands were selected based on their incredible biodiversity conservation, as demonstrated by the many rare endemic species living amidst the islands’ subtropical laurel forests and primitive vegetation.
Whether you’re an avid hiker or you prefer exploring the underwater world, there’s plenty to do, see and try in this wild and wonderful region.
Best for experiencing local traditions: Amami Oshima Island
As the most populated island in the Satsunan chain of islands that run between Kyushu and Okinawa Island, Amami Oshima offers visitors a glimpse into the rich culture of this region. Distinctive from mainland Japanese culture and even Okinawan traditions, Amami culture stands proud with its unique festivals like the Hirase Mankai and the Yui no Hōnen Odori style of dance but their most famous export is probably the Oshima tsumugi, luxurious silk fabric with a history that dates back over 1,300 years. Of course, the island is also renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty. The sea surrounding Amami Oshima is home to majestic coral reefs and semi-tropical aquatic life, beckoning snorkelers and scuba divers to explore the deep blue. You can easily book a trip with one of the many dive centres dotted across the island.