Amami might be peaceful and resolutely laid back, but visitors will never want for something to do. The island offers plenty to fill days and nights with, from spying exotic creatures to people-watching in the Yanigawa-dori nightlife district; or from kayaking round a mangrove forest to sampling one of Japan’s favorite shochu brands right where it is produced.
Kayak Tour of the Mangrove Park
Amami’s southeast is home to Kuroshio no Mori Mangrove Park, a vast virgin mangrove forest that, while keeping things upbeat and exciting, introduces visitors to the ecology of the region’s endangered Ryukyu Ayu fish species. Beginner-friendly kayak tours, lasting around an hour and held five times daily, are led by experienced guides who give the lowdown on Amami’s precious ecosystem as they lead you around this expansive and stunningly beautiful park. Back on dry land, a visitor center further elaborates on the island’s many unique creatures via films, models and photographs. Admission the park costs 500 yen, with kayak tours at 2,000 yen (inc. park admission).
Tour the Rento Shochu Factory, then Get a Tasting and Buy a Bottle
Rento, hailing from a brewery by Yakiuchi Bay in Amami’s west, is one of Japan’s most popular brands of kokuto shochu (shochu made with brown sugar). A distinctive combination of fragrant sweetness with a rich, melt-in-the-mouth texture is thanks to Rento’s use of two different types of yeast; one for taste and the other for aroma. Tours of the Rento factory allow an intimate look at the process of making Amami’s emblematic liquor, taking place on weekdays from 9am through 4pm (excluding 12-1pm; and with Sundays and public holidays by appointment). Tours are followed by an opportunity to sample the finished product and buy a bottle to take home.
Catch a Glimpse of Amami's Wildlife: under Water or on the Ground
Amami is known for its rich ecology, and is home to many creatures, both on land and in the ocean, that are scarce elsewhere. The island even has its own indigenous rabbit species, the dark-furred Amami rabbit, which is found only here and on the neighboring island named of Tokunoshima. Just strolling along the coast you’re likely to encounter groups of the purple hued yadokari (hermit crab) along with other distinctly colored and patterned specimens. You may get lucky and also see the fascinating-looking lion fish, which favors coral and rocky areas and is recognizable by its fan-like fins and body striped with white and brown/maroon. Admire from a distance though: the lion fish’s venomous sting can be lethal (though deaths are thankfully rare).
Hangout with the Family at Ayamaru Misaki Kanko Park
Those with kids accompanying them will want to check out this seaside park, part grassy land and part water-based, offering various attractions including climbing frames and a family-friendly golf course. The highlight is a Sea Pool that is actually one of Amami’s most pleasant spots to go for a swim.
Sunset at Ohama Seaside Park, then a Night Out in Yanigawa-Dori
Ohama Seaside Park, in Amami’s north, includes the white sands, coral reefs, and cobalt blue ocean of Ohama Beach, together with the Amami Kaiyo Museum which is dedicated to local marine life. Scenic natural beauty makes the park a magnificent spot to watch the sun go down over the East China Sea. From there, head east (about 15 mins by car) to Yanigawa-dori. This avenue, together with the surrounding backstreets, makes up Amami City’s most vibrant nightlife district which has a history going back over 100 years. Here the neon-lit streets are home to dozens of decades-old drinking holes and eateries, where you can indulge in yakitori, fresh seafood and locally brewed kokuto shochu while soaking up Amami’s warm, laid-back hospitality.