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Southwest islands

A chain of semitropical, coral-fringed islands

The southwest islands comprise of the fourth-largest island, Kyushu, and all the tiny islands beyond, all the way to Yonaguni which lies only 80km from Taiwan.

Kyushu is home to Sakurajima, the most active volcano in Japan

Kyushu is home to Sakurajima, the most active volcano in Japan. Here the Japanese’s embrace of its violent geological roots shines at its best as people bathe in the sand heated around the volcano’s periphery and even grow giant vegetables in the mineral-rich soils. Just off its shore the islands begin, starting with Yakushima, whose pristine thousand-year-old cedar tree forests have allowed it to gain UNESCO world heritage status. This island is still home to a deer and macaque population that is 10,000 each strong.

Beyond these shores lush tropical islands are dotted about that once were part of their own kingdom of the so-called ‘Ryukyu’s’ not so long ago, and each has its own unique personality. Okinawa, the largest of the islands and most populous, has some world-class diving off of its shores whereas further beyond, the Iriomote mangroves and forests are home to the secretive iriomote cat as well as some of the world’s smallest wild boar and its beaches serve as popular breeding grounds for green turtles.

The Ishikawa frog, the Amami rabbit, the atlas moth and Okinawa rail are all species that are unique to these little islands and all life, on and underneath the land, breathes to the beat of the Kuroshio current, a unique stream that brings minerals and warm water up through these islands and onto the mainland further north.