Amami Ōshima

Amami Ōshima (奄美大島, Okinawan: Uushima (ウーシマ); Amami: Ushima (ウシマ)) is the largest island in the Amami archipelago between Kyūshū and Okinawa. It is one of the Satsunan Islands.[1]

The island, 712.35 km2 in area, has a population of approximately 73,000 people. Administratively it is divided into the city of Amami, the towns of Tatsugō, Setouchi, and the villages of Uken and Yamato in Kagoshima Prefecture. Much of the island is within the borders of the Amami Guntō National Park.

Amami Ōshima
Native name:
奄美大島, Amami Ōshima

Nickname: Uushima
Amami Oshima ISS019
Amami Ōshima
LocationPacific Ocean
Coordinates28°19′35″N 129°22′29″E / 28.32639°N 129.37472°ECoordinates: 28°19′35″N 129°22′29″E / 28.32639°N 129.37472°E
ArchipelagoAmami Islands
Area712.35 km2 (275.04 sq mi)
Coastline461.1 km (286.51 mi)
Highest elevation694 m (2,277 ft)
Highest pointYuwandake
PrefecturesKagoshima Prefecture
DistrictŌshima District
Largest settlementAmami (pop. 44,561)
Population73,000 (2013)
Ethnic groupsJapanese


It is uncertain when Amami Ōshima was first settled. Stone tools indicate settlement in the Japanese Paleolithic period, and other artifacts, including pottery, indicate a constant contact with Jōmon, Yayoi and Kofun period Japan.

The island is mentioned in the ancient Japanese chronicle Nihon Shoki in an entry for the year 657 AD. During the Nara period and early Heian period it was a stopping place for envoys from Japan to the court of Tang dynasty China. Mother of pearl was an important export item to Japan. Until 1611, Amami Ōshima was part of the Ryukyu Kingdom. The island was invaded by samurai from Shimazu clan in 1609 and its incorporation into the official holdings of that domain was recognized by the Tokugawa shogunate in 1624. Shimazu rule was harsh, with the inhabitants of the island reduced to serfdom and forced to raise sugar cane to meet high taxation, which often resulted in famine. Saigō Takamori was exiled to Amami Ōshima in 1859, staying for two years, and his house has been preserved as a memorial museum. After the Meiji Restoration Amami Ōshima was incorporated into Ōsumi Province and later became part of Kagoshima Prefecture. Following World War II, along with the other Amami Islands, it was occupied by the United States until 1953, at which time it reverted to the control of Japan.

Since February 1974, a 7,861-hectare (19,420-acre) area that includes portions of the island and surrounding sea was protected as the Amami Gunto Quasi-national Park.[2] The area also has a large mangrove forest.

In December 2001 there was a naval battle called the Battle of Amami-Ōshima between an armed North Korean spy craft and Japanese Coast Guard ships near Amami Ōshima. The spy craft violated the Exclusive economic zone of Japan. This was a six-hour confrontation that ended with the sinking of the North-Korean vessel.[3][4]

In 2017 the Amami Guntō National Park was established. It absorbed the former Amami Gunto Quasi-national Park and other land and sea areas in adjacent municipalities.


Amami Ōshima is the seventh-largest island in the Japanese archipelago after the four main islands, Okinawa Island and Sado Island (excluding the disputed Kuril Islands). It is located approximately 380 kilometres (210 nmi) south of the southern tip of Kyūshū and 250 kilometres (130 nmi) north of Okinawa. The island is of volcanic origin, with Mount Yuwanda at 605 metres (1,985 ft) above sea level at its highest peak. The coast of the island is surrounded by a coral reef. It is surrounded by the East China Sea on the west and the Pacific Ocean on the east.

Amami beach

Coastal area of Amami Ōshima

View of Katetsu cove from nearby Manen-zaki

View of Katetsu cove from nearby Manen-zaki(Cape Manen)

Mangrove in amami

Mangrove forest of the Amami Guntō National Park in Amami Ōshima

Kinsakubaru wildwood

Kinsakubaru wildwood in Amami Ōshima


Amami-Oshima towns
5 municipalities of Amami Ōshima

Amami Ōshima belongs to Kagoshima prefecture. It consists of the following municipalities.

  • Amami
  • Tatsugo
  • Yamatomura
  • Usomura
  • Part of Setouchi-cho


The climate of Amami Ōshima is classified as has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa) with very warm summers and mild winters. The rainy season lasts from May through September. The island is subject to frequent typhoons.


Amami Ōshima is home to several rare or endangered endemic animals, including the Amami rabbit and the Lidth's jay, both of which are now found only in Amami Ōshima and Tokunoshima. The Amami rabbit is sometimes called a living fossil because it represents an ancient Asian lineage that has elsewhere disappeared.

The island is also home to the habu, a venomous snake that can be found throughout the Ryūkyū Islands. Mongooses were introduced to kill the habu, but have become another problem, as an increase in the mongoose population has been linked to the decline of the Amami rabbit and other endemic species.[5]

Whale watching to see humpback whales has become a featured attraction in winter in recent years.[6] It is also notable that North Pacific right whale, the most endangered of all whale species, have repeatedly appeared around the island[7] (there are five records of three sightings, a capture, and a stranding since 1901) and as of 2014, Amami is the only location in East China Sea where this species has been confirmed in the past 110 years. It is also one of two locations in the world along with the Bonin Islands where constant appearance in winter has been confirmed since the 20th century. Discovery of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in Seto strait made it the first confirmation in the nation. Other species include whales (Bryde's, sperm), smaller whales or dolphins (false killer, spinner, spotted), and so on. Before being wiped out, many large whales such as blue and fin were seasonal migrants.[8]

The island marks the northernmost limit of dugong distribution, with occasional sightings throughout the 20th and into the 21st century.[9]

Amami Oshima is the only place where a nesting of leatherback turtle has been seen in Japan.


Amami city1
Skyline of Amami city

Amami Oshima had a population of 73,000 people in 2013. 44,561 people live in the city of Amami. The total area of Amami city is 308.15 km² with a population density of 145 persons per km².


The economy of Amami Ōshima is based on agriculture (sugar cane, rice and sweet potatoes), commercial fishing, and the distillation of shōchū. The favorable climate allows for two rice crops a year. Seasonal tourism is also an important part of the economy. The traditional crafts include the production of high quality hand-crafted silk, which has, however, suffered from the abandonment of traditional Japanese clothing and competition from overseas.


Naze port2
Naze port on Amami Ōshima
Amami Airport2
View of the Amami Airport runway

The port of Naze, located in the city of Amami is a major regional shipping and ferry hub.

Amami Airport, located at the northern end of the island, is connected to Tokyo, Osaka, Naha, Fukuoka and Kagoshima as well as local flights to the other Amami Islands. There are bus routes and roads on the island.


Two dialects of the Amami language are spoken in Amami Ōshima: the Northern Ōshima dialect and the Southern Ōshima dialect. These dialects are part of the Ryukyuan languages group. According to Ethnologue, as of 2005 there were about 10,000 speakers of the Northern Ōshima[10] dialect and about 1,800 speakers of the Southern Ōshima dialect.[11] These dialects are now spoken mostly by older residents of the island, while most of the younger generations are monolingual in Japanese. The Amami language, including the Ōshima dialects, is classified as endangered by UNESCO.

There is also a village sign language, named as Amami Oshima Sign Language, being used in the area.

Notable people from Amami Ōshima

See also


  1. ^ Teikoku's Complete Atlas of Japan, Teikoku-Shoin Co., Ltd., Tokyo, ISBN 4-8071-0004-1
  2. ^ "List of National and Quasi-national Parks". Ministry of the Environment, Government of Japan. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  3. ^ "Japan announces sunken boat was N. Korean spy ship". BNET. 7 October 2002. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  4. ^ "Japan says 'spy ship' fired rockets". BBC News. 25 December 2001. Retrieved 29 January 2009.
  5. ^ Watari Y, Yamada F, Sugimura K, Takatsuki S (2006). "Direct and indirect effects of an alien mongoose (Herpestes javanicus) on the native animal community on Amami-Oshima Island, southern Japan, as inferred from distribution patterns of animals" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-22. Retrieved 2009-05-22.
  6. ^ Oki K., 2014. Amami whale and dolphin association. retrieved on 28-05-2014
  7. ^ Ito, H. (1 February 2014). "Endangered whale captured on film off Amami-Oshima". Asahi Shimbun. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-28.
  8. ^ Miyazaki N, Nakayama K (1989). "Records of Cetaceans in the Waters of the Amami Island". Memoirs of the National Science Museum (in Japanese). National Museum of Nature and Science, Museum of History and Folklore in Kasari. pp. 235–249. Retrieved 2015-01-12 – via CiNii.
  9. ^ Shirakihara M, Yoshida H, Yokochi H, Ogawa H, Hosokawa T, Higashi N, Kasuya T (1 July 2007). "Current status and conservation needs of dugongs in southern Japan" (PDF). Marine Mammal Science. 23 (3): 694–706. doi:10.1111/j.1748-7692.2007.00123.x.
  10. ^ Lewis MP; Simons GF; Fennig CD, eds. (2015). "Amami-Oshima, Northern". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (18th ed.). Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  11. ^ Lewis MP; Simons GF; Fennig CD, eds. (2015). "Amami-Oshima, Southern". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (18th ed.). Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  • Eldridge, Mark. The Return of the Amami Islands: The Reversion Movement and U.S.–Japan Relations. Levington Books (2004) ISBN 0739107100
  • Hellyer. Robert. Defining Engagement: Japan and Global Contexts, 1640–1868. Harvard University Press (2009) ISBN 0674035771
  • Turnbull, Stephen. The Most Daring Raid of the Samurai. Rosen Publishing Group (2011) ISBN 978-1448818723
  • Ravina, Mark. The Last Samurai: The Life and Battles of Saigo Takamori. Whiley (2011) ISBN 1118045564
  • Yeo, Andrew. Activists, Alliances, and Anti-U.S. Base Protests. Cambridge University Press. (2011) ISBN 1107002478

External links

1911 Kikai Island earthquake

The 1911 Kikai Island earthquake (1911年喜界島地震 Sen-kyūhyaku-jyūichi-nen Kikai-jima Jishin) occurred on June 15 at 14:26 UTC (23:26 local time). The earthquake was located near Kikai Island, Japan. It had a magnitude of Ms 8.1.The earthquake occurred near the northern end of the deepest region in Ryukyu Trench. The hypocenter was located near 28.00°E, 130.00°N, about 30 km south of the Kikai Island, with a depth of about 100 km. However, due to the instrumental precision of that time, the location of the hypocenter was just an approximation, and estimations differ. A recent study estimated that the hypocenter was located near 28.90°E, 130.25°N, about 60 km NNE of the Kikai Island, with a depth of about 30 km.Twelve people were reported dead, including one on Kikai Island. Four hundred and twenty two houses were completely destroyed, 401 of which on Kikai Island. Damage was also reported on Amami Ōshima, Toku-no-shima, and Okinawa Island. The wall of Shuri Castle in Shuri was damaged. This earthquake could be felt as far as in Shanghai, China, Tainan, Taiwan (then under Japanese rule), and Fukushima, Japan.

Amami Airport

Amami Airport (奄美空港, Amami Kūkō) (IATA: ASJ, ICAO: RJKA) is an airport located 21.9 km (13.6 mi) east northeast Amami, a city on Amami Ōshima (Amami Island) in the Kagoshima Prefecture of Japan.

Amami Guntō National Park

Amami Guntō National Park (奄美群島国立公園, Amami Guntō Kokuritsu Kōen) is a national park in Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. Established in 2017, the park comprises a land area of 42,181 ha (104,230 acres) and

a sea area of 33,082 ha (81,750 acres). The national park includes areas of these islands: Tokunoshima, Kikai, Amami, Yoron, Okinoerabujima, Uke Island, Kakeromajima and Yoroshima.

Amami Islands

The Amami Islands (奄美群島, Amami-guntō) is an archipelago in the Satsunan Islands, which is part of the Ryukyu Islands, and is southwest of Kyushu. Administratively, the group belongs to Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan and the Japan Coast Guard agreed on February 15, 2010, to use the name of Amami-guntō (奄美群島) for the Amami Islands. Prior to that, Amami-shotō (奄美諸島) was also used. The name of Amami is probably cognate with Amamikyu (阿摩美久), the goddess of creation in the Ryukyuan creation myth.

Amami Oshima Sign Language

Amami Island Sign, or Amami Oshima Sign (AOSL), is a village sign language, or group of languages, on Amami Ōshima, the largest island in the Amami Islands of Japan. In Koniya region of the island, there exist a high incidence of congenital deafness, which is dominant and tends to run in a few families; moreover, the difficulty of the terrain has kept these families largely separated, so that there is extreme lexical geographical diversity across the island, and AOSL is therefore perhaps not a single language.

Amami Ōshima language

The Amami language or languages (島口, シマユムタ, Shimayumuta), also known as Amami Ōshima or simply Ōshima ('Big Island'), is a Ryukyuan language spoken in the Amami Islands south of Kyūshū. The southern variety of Setouchi township may be a distinct language more closely related to Okinawan than it is to northern Ōshima.

As Amami does not have recognition within Japan as a language, it is officially known as the Amami dialect (奄美方言, Amami Hōgen).


Amorōnagu (天降女子, "girl who fell from heaven"), is a tennyo (celestial maiden) from the folklore of the island of Amami Ōshima, in Kagoshima prefecture. She bathes in pools and waterfalls in ravines.

Battle of Amami-Ōshima

The Battle of Amami-Ōshima, also known as the Spy Ship Incident in the Southwest Sea of Kyūshū (九州南西海域工作船事件, kyūshū-nansei-kaiiki-kōsakusen-jiken), was a six-hour confrontation between the Japan Coast Guard and an armed North Korean vessel, which took place near the island of Amami Ōshima, in the East China Sea. The December 2001 encounter ended in the sinking of the North Korean vessel, which the Japanese authorities later announced was determined to have been a spy craft. The encounter took place outside Japanese territorial waters, but within the exclusive economic zone, an area extending 200 nautical miles (370 km; 230 mi) from Japanese land, within which Japan can claim exclusive rights to fishing and mineral resources.

Japan National Route 58

National Route 58 (国道58号) is a highway in Japan. This very unusual road has continuous numbering over disconnected segments on the islands of Kyūshū, Tanegashima, Amami Ōshima, and Okinawa. The road has a total of 255.5 km on land. It originates in the prefectural capital of Kagoshima in Kagoshima Prefecture and terminates in Naha, the capital of Okinawa Prefecture.

At the northern terminus, Route 58 meets Routes 3 and 10. The segment in the city of Kagoshima measures only about 700 m. The next segment links Nishinoomote, Nakatane, and Minamitane. On Amami Ōshima, the highway connects Amami, Tatsugo, and Setouchi. The final segment starts in Kunigami at the northern tip of Okinawa Island and runs along the west coast to the southern terminus in Naha.

Kikai language

The Kikai language (しまゆみた Shimayumita) is spoken on Kikai Island, Kagoshima Prefecture of southwestern Japan. It is debated whether it is a single dialect cluster. Regardless, all Kikai dialects are members of the Amami–Okinawan languages, which are part of the Japonic languages.

As Kikai does not have recognition within Japan as a language, it is officially known as the Kikai Island dialect (喜界島方言, Kikai-jima hōgen).

Longnose sawtail catshark

The longnose sawtail catshark (Galeus longirostris) is a little-known species of catshark, part of the family Scyliorhinidae, found off the northwestern Pacific islands of Amami Ōshima, Ogasawara, and Izu at depths of 350–550 m (1,150–1,800 ft). Reaching a length of 80 cm (31 in), it is characterized by a long flattened snout, a long space between the pelvic and anal fins, and a crest of enlarged dermal denticles along the dorsal caudal fin edge. Adults are plain dark gray above, while juveniles have a few faint dark saddles on the back and tail. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) presently lacks the information to assess the conservation status of this species.

Northern Ryukyuan languages

The Northern Ryukyuan languages are a group of languages spoken in the Amami Islands, Kagoshima Prefecture and the Okinawa Islands, Okinawa Prefecture of southwestern Japan. It is one of two primary branches of the Ryukyuan languages, which are then part of the Japonic languages. The subdivisions of Northern Ryukyuan are a matter of scholarly debate.

Setouchi, Kagoshima

Setouchi (瀬戸内町, Setouchi-chō) is a town located primarily on Amami Ōshima, in Ōshima District, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan.

As of June 2013, the town had an estimated population of 9,379 and a population density of 39.1 persons per km². The total area was 239.91 km².

Shō Sei

For the 19th-century king of Ryūkyū, see Shō Sei (r. 1803).Shō Sei (尚清, 1497–1555) was king of the Ryukyu Kingdom from 1526 to 1555. He was the fifth son of King Shō Shin, who he succeeded.

Shō Sei suppressed a rebellion on Amami Ōshima in 1537 and took steps to improve defenses against wakō that same year.

Shō Sei died in 1555 and was succeeded by his second son Shō Gen.

Tatsugō, Kagoshima

Tatsugō (龍郷町, Tatsugō-chō) is a town located on Amami Ōshima, in Ōshima District, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan.

As of June 2013, the town had an estimated population of 5,992 and a population density of 73 persons per km². The total area was 82.06 km².


Uken (宇検村, Uken-son) is a village located on Amami Ōshima, in Ōshima District, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan.

As of June 2013, the village had an estimated population of 1,843 and a population density of 17.9 persons per km2. The total area was 103.07 km2.

Yamato, Kagoshima

Yamato (大和村, Yamato-son) is a village located on Amami Ōshima, in Ōshima District, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan.

As of June 2013, the village had an estimated population of 1,638 and a population density of 18.6 persons per km². The total area was 88.15 km².

Yanbaru whiskered bat

The Yanbaru whiskered bat (Myotis yanbarensis) is a species of vesper bat in the genus Myotis.

It is known only from three islands of the Ryukyu Archipelago, south of Japan, Okinawa (where the Yanbaru forest is situated), Amami Ōshima, and Tokunoshima.

The species has been classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.

Ōshima Subprefecture (Kagoshima)

Ōshima Subprefecture (大島支庁, Ōshima-shichō) is a subprefecture of Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. The subprefectural office is located in Amami.

It includes the following municipalities on the Amami Islands:

Ōshima Subprefecture

Amami (city on Amami Ōshima)

Tatsugō (town on Amami Ōshima)

Yamato (village on Amami Ōshima)

Setouchi Office

Uken (village on Amami Ōshima)

Setouchi (town on Amami Ōshima, Kakeromajima, Yoroshima, Ukejima, and others)

Kikai Office

Kikai (town on Kikaijima)

Tokunoshima Office

Tokunoshima (town on Tokunoshima)

Amagi (town on Tokunoshima)

Isen (town on Tokunoshima)

Okinoerabu Office

Wadomari (town on Okinoerabujima)

China (town on Okinoerabujima)

Yoron (town on Yoronjima)



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