Amami-Oshima has a tropical climate not unlike Okinawa’s. Think humidity, sudden thunderstorms, rows of palm trees, and the carefree island atmosphere.
Catch up with to nature and spot wildlife on the Mangrove Primeval Forest (478 Sumiyo-cho Ishihara, Amami, tel: +81-99-756-3355), considered one of Japan’s largest mangrove reserves.
I’m going on a canoe tour through rows of mangroves before disembarking and wading through knee-deep water in low tide, as my guide explains the ecology.
Travellers from Singapore can also feel some affinity with Amami-Oshima for its local speciality is keihan (chicken rice).
Within the local, healthier twist, strips of chicken are placed on a bed of rice, together with slices of omelette, ginger, mushrooms and green onion. Chicken broth is then poured over the ingredients.
While a lot of the island’s restaurants serve the dish, you’ll be able to interact with the locals – and the resident dog – while seeing how the dish is made on the Kuninao Community Centre (105-2 Kuninao, Yamato, Oshima, Kagoshima; tel: +81-99-757-2828; reservations essential three days prematurely).
Then explore the nearby tunnel of sacred centuries-old Fukugi trees that protect locals from the seasonal typhoons that batter the island.
Book a guide through your hotel to go to the last word power spot: a “killer tree” in a dense forest that requires some climbing to get to.
Often called the shimegoroshi (literally, to kill by strangling), this ako (Japanese sea fig) entwines and devours other plants around it, with their trunks intertwined like lattice-work. It’s for good reason that many imagine the tree is sacred and a source of vitality and strength.
Island of the gods
Iki, which perhaps is best known to video game fans as a backdrop in Ghost Of Tsushima (also an actual island), is value a pilgrimage for its wealthy power spots and history.
One theory has it that Iki, dubbed the Island Of The Gods, is the birthplace of Shinto. The island is very spiritual with 150 registered shrines – and a whole lot more unregistered – across 138.5 sq km.
Hiroshima’s Itsukushima Shrine (incidentally, also a Unesco site on an offshore island) could also be more famous for its “floating” torii gate, but Iki has its own Kojima Shrine (1969 Moroyoshifutamatafure, Ashibecho, Iki, Nagasaki) that’s considered the Mont-Saint-Michel of Japan.