Check Out This Hidden Japanese Island Full Of Sparkling Beaches And Natural Wonders

By Melissa Mason

When you think Japan, you probably think of packed city streets, ancient temples and castles, and snow-capped mountains. You think Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Snow season. Cherry blossom season at Mount Fuji. This is all part of the enticing Japan experience, but there is plenty more to discover outside of the Japan you know. What you might not expect? That it involves turquoise beaches and coastal natural wonders.

The Kagoshima Prefecture is in southern Japan and includes a stunning island that locals know and love for summer holidays, but is a bit of a hidden gem that you probably have never heard of—Amami Ōshima. Surrounded by beaches you’d expect to see on lush tropical islands, it’s like paradise – and that’s because Amami Ōshima is a lush tropical paradise. Not what you’d expect in Japan, right?

In 2021, both Amami Ōshima and its sister island, Tokunoshima, were named UNESCO sites, joining many others in the Kagoshima Prefecture like the very-worth-visiting like Shoko Shuseikan and its museum, a historic relic from Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution, and Yakushima National Park, which looks like it was lifted from a fairytale with its moss-covered rocks and adorable deer.

But, we digress. Hee's everything you need to know before visiting the lush paradise of Amami Ōshima.


Keihan Chicken Rice Japanese dishImage credit: MAFF | Website

Amami Ōshima is famous for Keihan, so expect to eat it a lot. You won’t complain, though—this nourishing chicken rice dish is addictive. Served as a selection of small plates with shredded omelette, shredded chicken, ginger pieces, spring onion, mushrooms and seaweed alongside plentiful bowls of rice and hot, clear broth, it’s one of the most comforting meals you’ll ever eat.

If you have never tried shochu, now is the time—if you’re a shochu fan, you will be in heaven on Amami Ōshima, which boasts its own variation, Kokuto Shochu. Based on brown sugar, there are just 28 distilleries creating the beverage, but you’ll find it on offer at practically every restaurant in Amami Ōshima.


Denpaku The Beachfront Majora Japan hotelImage credit: The Beachfront Majora | Website

When visiting Amami Ōshima, you have to stay by the beach for at least a few nights, if not all. There are plenty of resorts to choose from, dotted all along the coastline, and the island is easy to navigate with a hire car, so you can do day trips from the coast to check out some of the incredible inland surrounds.

One resort we love is Denpaku The Beachfront Majora. A luxury retreat with floor-to-ceiling ocean views, chic minimalist guest rooms and fine dining on-site, a huge drawcard is the incredible infinity pool overlooking the East China Sea. Like, incredible. Swim at the beach, or float around the pool. Most importantly, go completely smooth-brained and worry about nothing.

Another stunning resort on Amami Ōshima is Miru Amami. A collection of villas with ocean views, the resort also features a high-end restaurant, Amanari, with Japanese omakase-style dinners and an extensive shochu menu.


Tomori Beach Japan coastlineImage credit: Tourist In Japan | Website

It’s hard to pin down Amami Ōshima’s best beaches, but you won’t have a bad time at Tomori Beach, Ohama Beach and Yadoribama Beach. All three have calm, turquoise waters, pale white sand and loads of coral reefs to explore. BYO snorkel for sure, as the aquatic life is something else.

When you’ve had enough swim time, get out and explore the incredible sub-tropical forests of the island. Definitely get to the Amami Ōshima World Heritage Conservation Centre first up, to understand the flora and fauna of the island and why it’s been listed as a UNESCO site. Consider booking a day tour to get out and see more of Amami Ōshima’s beautiful natural wonders, as it can be difficult to know where to go—guides will have all the insights into the best waterfalls and nature paths on offer.

Kayaking through the mangroves is a blissful experience worth making time for. Mangrove Park is your best bet here, as you don’t need to book ahead. Tours take around an hour and a half, and it’s an easy ride down the river and through the low-hanging mangrove trees. 

A trip to the Tanaka Isson Museum is also a must, especially if you have an interest in art. Isson was an Amami-based artist famous for painting the local flora and fauna, and the stylish museum showcases his delicate works across five rooms.

Getting to Amami Ōshima from Tokyo takes around two-and-a-half hours by plane, so it’s an easy one to add to your next Japan trip—and makes a refreshing break from the chaos of the big cities.

Inspired for your own dreamy Japan trip now? Check out:

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