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Japan’s latest Natural UNESCO World Heritage site

Partners Information: Two new UNESCO World Heritage sites were recently added in Japan, a new Cultural World Heritage site and a new Natural World Heritage site. This brings the total number of UNESCO sites in Japan to 25, with 20 cultural sites and 5 of natural significance. 

The new Natural World Heritage site consists of four islands in southern Japan. Amami Oshima Island and Tokunoshima Island are located in Kagoshima Prefecture, while the northern part of Okinawa Island and Iriomote Island are in Okinawa Prefecture

Kura Falls, Iriomote  

The islands are recognised for their importance for biodiversity conservation and are home of several endemic species, some of which are now globally threatened. 

Living among the 42,698 hectares of subtropical laurel forests and primitive vegetation, the islands’ rare endangered species include the Amami rabbit, Iriomote cat, and the Okinawa rail (species of bird). Many other endemic plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, inland water fish, and decapod crustaceans also make up the islands’ unique biodiversity. 


Crucially, the people of the islands are known for their close relationship with nature and dedication to preserving and making the islands more attractive. Below is a brief overview of each island, each well worth a visit in their own right. 


Amami Oshima Island, Kagoshima Prefecture

Coral reefs of Aon, Amami / © K.P.V.B 

Swim, kayak and dive at one of Japan's top island getaways. Home to a balmy climate similar to Okinawa’s, Amami Oshima boasts stunning beaches, beautiful coral reefs and crystal-clear water.


Tokunoshima Island, Kagoshima Prefecture


Nature lovers will be spilt for choice on Tokunoshima Island, with a range of outdoor activities on offer in breathtaking surrounds. Snorkel, dive, surf or even take part in a triathlon that is held each year around late June to early July. 


Northern part of Okinawa Island, Okinawa Prefecture

Discover lush green forests, mangroves and waterfalls in Yambaru National Park. Kayak through Gesahi Mangrove Forest, go on a night hike to experience the nocturnal wildlife or camp by the stunning Hiji Falls.


Iriomote Island, Okinawa Prefecture

Dive deep into nature on the jungle-covered island of Iriomote, where the entire place is designated as a national park. Trekking, kayaking, canoeing or going on a jungle cruise are popular ways to enjoy the tropical landscapes, waterfalls and mangroves on this remote island. 


More information


All images ©OCVB unless otherwise stated 



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