Amami Ōshima: Southern Island of Nature and Culture
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More than 300 kilometers from the southern tip of Kyūshū, and an equal distance from Okinawa to the south, Amami Ōshima is part of Kagoshima Prefecture. With coral reefs, sparkling blue seas, and rich growths of mangroves and virgin forests farther inland, Amami Ōshima and its neighboring islands, shoals, and seas were designated the Amami Guntō National Park in 2017. Eons ago the islands were part of the Eurasian landmass, repeatedly separating and reattaching to it over millennia. This created a unique environment, making the Amami islands home to many endemic species of fauna and flora and earning them the name of “the Galapagos of the Far East.”
After humans arrived, Amami Ōshima also developed a distinct culture influenced by Okinawa and the other Ryūkyū islands, Kyūshū, and Southeast Asia. Among its cultural traditions are unique festivals like the Hirase Mankai and the Yui no Hōnen Odori style of dance, as well as Ōshima tsumugi, luxurious silk fabric whose history stretches back 1,300 years.
Below we present aerial views of the archipelago’s beautiful landscapes, along with photos of the islands’ majestic natural landscapes and mystical festivals.
(Originally published in Japanese. Photos by Kuroiwa Masakazu, 96Box. Video by Fujii Kazuyuki, 96Box. Banner photo: Cape Ayamaru, famous for its scenic views.)