Amami Ōshima

Coordinates: 28°19′35″N 129°22′29″E / 28.32639°N 129.37472°E / 28.32639; 129.37472
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Amami Ōshima
Native name:
奄美大島, Amami Ōshima
Nickname: Uushima
Amami Ōshima
Amami Ōshima is located in Japan
Amami Ōshima
Amami Ōshima
Amami Ōshima is located in Asia
Amami Ōshima
Amami Ōshima
Amami Ōshima (Asia)
LocationPacific Ocean
Coordinates28°19′35″N 129°22′29″E / 28.32639°N 129.37472°E / 28.32639; 129.37472
ArchipelagoAmami Islands
Area712.35 km2 (275.04 sq mi)
Coastline461.1 km (286.51 mi)
Highest elevation694 m (2277 ft)
Highest pointYuwandake
PrefecturesKagoshima Prefecture
DistrictŌshima District
Largest settlementAmami (pop. 44,561)
Population73,000 (2013)
Ethnic groupsRyukyuan, Japanese

Amami Ōshima (奄美大島, Okinawan: Uushima (ウーシマ);[1] Amami: Ushima (ウシマ)[2]), also known as Amami, is the largest island in the Amami archipelago between Kyūshū and Okinawa. It is one of the Satsunan Islands.[3]

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.

In 2021, it was listed as part of the serial UNESCO World Heritage Site of Amami-Ōshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, northern part of Okinawa Island, and Iriomote Island.


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.[4] 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.[5][6]

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, and the island may also have been home to some of the northernmost coral reefs in Japan during the last glacial period.[7] It is surrounded by the East China Sea on the west and the Pacific Ocean on the east.


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 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.[8]

Whale watching to see humpback whales has become a featured attraction in winter in recent years.[9] It is also notable that North Pacific right whale, the most endangered of all whale species, have repeatedly appeared around the island[10] (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.[11]

The island marks the northernmost limit of dugong distribution, with occasional sightings throughout the 20th and into the 21st century.[12]

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


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. Traditional crafts on the island include the production of high quality hand-crafted silk called Ōshima tsumugi which along with Persian carpets and Gobelin tapestries, is said to be one of the world's three great textiles. They are famously dyed with mud and a dye taken from the Ōshima tsumugi to create their characteristic black color.[13]


Naze port on Amami Ōshima
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[14] dialect and about 1,800 speakers of the Southern Ōshima dialect.[15] 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[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "ウーシマ". 首里・那覇方言音声データベース (in Japanese).[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ "ウシマ". 奄美方言音声データベース (in Japanese).[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Teikoku's Complete Atlas of Japan, Teikoku-Shoin Co., Ltd., Tokyo, ISBN 4-8071-0004-1
  4. ^ "List of National and Quasi-national Parks". Ministry of the Environment, Government of Japan. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  5. ^ "Japan announces sunken boat was N. Korean spy ship". BNET. 7 October 2002. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  6. ^ "Japan says 'spy ship' fired rockets". BBC News. 25 December 2001. Retrieved 29 January 2009.
  7. ^ Matsuda, Hiroki; Arai, Kohsaku; Machiyama, Hideaki; Iryu, Yasufumi; Tsuji, Yoshihiro (September 2011). "Submerged reefal deposits near a present-day northern limit of coral reef formation in the northern Ryukyu Island Arc, northwestern Pacific Ocean: Submerged reefal deposits in the Ryukyus". Island Arc. 20 (3): 411–425. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1738.2011.00775.x. S2CID 128790253.
  8. ^ 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. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ Oki K., 2014. Amami whale and dolphin association. retrieved on 28-05-2014
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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. 22: 235–249. Retrieved 2015-01-12 – via CiNii.
  12. ^ 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". Marine Mammal Science. 23 (3): 694–706. doi:10.1111/j.1748-7692.2007.00123.x.
  13. ^ "About Ooshima Tsumugimura|Ooshima Tsumugi Mura". Retrieved 11 March 2023.
  14. ^ Lewis MP; Simons GF; Fennig CD, eds. (2015). "Amami-Oshima, Northern". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (18th ed.). Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  15. ^ 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[edit]