Keramashoto National Park

Non-profit Nature Service http://www.natureservice.jp/

Clear seas and white sandy beaches across more than 30 Okinanwan islands

The subtropical islands of Keramashoto National Park are far south of mainland Japan, and 40 kilometers west of mainland Okinawa. They are a treasure trove of immaculate beaches, blue waters and distinct island culture. Island hop along the archipelago, and explore the beaches and sea, with rare coral reefs, turtles and darting fish. Read more about Keramashoto National Park's lush hills, nature trails and marine life.

Visiting Japan's National Parks

Keramashoto National Park, like all of Japan's national parks, has no entrance fees, no opening and closing hours, and no permit is required to enter or stay in the park. The national parks of Japan differ from national parks worldwide in that the land within the national parks is not exclusively designated for national park use and is made up of private property as well as public and protected areas. Visitors are free to enter and leave at any time. 

Park Highlights

The Kerama Islands have exceptionally transparent waters, dense coral reefs, sandy beaches, sea cliffs and unique vegetation. The park includes a land area of 3,520 hectares, and 90,475 hectares of ocean area.

DON'T MISS

  • Spotting humpback whales on a whale watching tour from late December to early April  
  • Snorkeling with sea turtles at Keramashoto National Park's beaches 
  • A sunset SUP (stand-up paddleboarding) tour in a quiet cove on Tokashiki Island 

With a travel time of only 35-50 minutes via high-speed vessel from the main island of Okinawa (Tomari Port, Naha), visitors can easily experience scuba diving and snorkeling in a beautiful ocean, as well as whale watching in winter.

ZAMAMI ISLAND 

The greater part of the northern coast of Zamami Island forms a precipitous cliff. The south of the island forms a gentle slope, where you will find Furuzamami Beach. Observe schools of tropical fish swimming around a large coral reef near the edge of the surf.

Furuzamami Beach

From the Inazaki Observatory on the hillside, you can see Aguni Island, Tonaki Island and Kume Island on clear days. From December to April, humpback whales frequent the area, and this is the best place from which to view them.

AKA ISLAND 

Adjacent to Zamami Island and part of Zamami Village, this diamond-shaped island is made up of steep slopes. Its main attraction is Nishibama Beach, a white, sandy beach from which you can see miles of the Kerama blue ocean. 

Nishibama Beach

GERUMA ISLAND 

Geruma Island is a mountainous island connected to Aka Island by bridge. Takara Residence, designated as an Important Cultural Property, is a preserved Okinawan house in a traditional settlement on Geruma Island. The captain's house (Sendosuya) dates from the latter part of the 19th century. 

The Takara Residence

TOKASHIKI ISLAND 

This is the largest island of the Kerama Islands and extends along a narrow strip of gentle hilly terrain from north to south. The highest peak on the islands is Mt. Akama standing at 227 meters. Cape Aharen consists of sandstone cliffs, where you can see the distinct vegetation of this windy region. 

Aharen Beach

See the massive sandstone cliffs from Aharen Cape Observatory's walking paths at the southern tip of Tokashiki Island. Situated in the southwest of Tokashiki Island long, sandy Aharen Beach extends along the bay. Dine, lodge and enjoy marine activities from Aharen Village, adjacent to the beach.

Plants & Animals

The sea around the Kerama Islands is home to 248 species of reef-building corals and was designated a Ramsar site in 2005. Around June of each year, corals spawn, and some of the surviving larvae of corals that are swept out off shore make their way to the west coast of the main island of Okinawa and plant themselves at the bottom of the sea. 

The islands are inhabited by rare wildlife including Ryukyu flying foxes, Japanese black-breasted leaf turtles, green turtles, Ryukyu robins and Kerama sika. The outer-lying sea areas of the Kerama Islands are breeding grounds for humpback whales.

 

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    Coral Reef

     

    The coral reefs of Keramashoto National Park are inhabited by a wide variety of colorful fish including damsel fish and butterfly fish. These reefs are an important supply source of coral larva to the main island of Okinawa.

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    Kerama Sika

     

    The Kerama sika (Cervus nippon keramae) are smaller in size compared with sika deer observed in Kyushu, and are characterized by a smaller head and antler. The species is recognized as a National Treasure.

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    Green Turtle

     

    Distributed widely in tropical and sub-tropical zones, the green turtle goes ashore to lay its eggs on the sandy beaches of the Kerama Islands.

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    Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

     

    This mammal, 13 to 15 meters in length and weighing 30 tons, can be seen around the Kerama Islands between December and April. Its main breeding grounds are in the Ogasawara Islands and the Nansei Islands.

Culture 

The Kerama Islands abound with sacred and historic sites, including many shell mounds.

Life on the island is closely connected to the ocean. Each village has its own place of worship and still follows ancient traditions. These observances include a festival held in the honor of the sea gods in late August, and Hamauri, a March event to pray for plentiful catches and safe voyages.

 

Takara Residence

 

The Takara Residence was built by a boatman who worked on a public ship that sailed to Qing dynasty China in the 19th century. Now it is recognized as an National Important Cultural Property, highlighting the historical importance of China-Ryukyu trade.

U.S. forces made their first landing during the Battle of Okinawa in the Kerama Islands, and old battle sites can still be found. The land was returned to Japan along with the main island of Okinawa after WWII, and the National Okinawa Youth Friendship Center was built as a symbol of the area's peaceful use.

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    Seasonal Information

     

    The subtropical climate of Keramashoto National Park makes it a pleasant destination to visit year round. From May to November, the waters are warm enough to swim, dive and snorkel. From July to October, tropical storms and typhoons do occur. Check the weather forecast and plan your trip accordingly.

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    The weather is stable during the winter months, free from tyhpoons, and stays a pleasant 15-25 degrees Celsius. From late December to early April, you have an excellent chance of seeing humpback whales on their migratory route either from the parks observatories or on a whale watching tour.  

About the Park 

The Kerama Islands are located around 40 kilometers west of Naha City in Okinawa Prefecture, comprising more than 30 islets and a number of rock reefs. The islands were designated the 31st national park in Japan on March 5, 2014, which coincides with Coral Day.

FACTS & FIGURES

  • Date of National Park Designation: March 5, 2014
  • Area: 3,520 ha (35.20 square kilometers) *land area only, not including off shore areas
  • Location: Okinawa

VISITOR INFORMATION CENTERS 

Keramashoto National Park's three visitor centers will help you make the most of your exploration of the park. Get practical travel information at Tokashiki Tourist Information Center, find out where to go for the best whale watching at Zamami Village Tourist Information Center, and understand more about coral reefs at Sango Yuntaku Kan Visitor Center.

PARKS RULES & SAFETY 

As with any national park or conservation area, visitors to the national parks are required to observe the following rules for safety and to protect the area's natural biodiversity:

  • Carry in, carry out: Take all of your trash with you. 
  • Do not pick wildflowers or damage plants. 
  • Do not feed the wild animals. 
  • Hunting is not permitted. 
  • No fishing unless with a certified guide.
  • No smoking while walking. 
  • Campfires are only permitted in designated areas.
  • Check the tidal times and levels prior to visiting beaches.
  • Bring sun protection.
  • Be respectful of sacred worship sites in the area as they are a place of worship for locals.
  • Be aware of poisonous animals such as habu snakes and marbled rockfish.
  • Do not touch or damage coral.
  • Do not bring any living organisms to the islands.