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Tokunoshima

Tokunoshima (V) is a subtropical island south of Amami Oshima that belongs to Kagoshima Prefecture and is part of the Satsunan island chain which runs between Kyushu and Okinawa Island. Although less touristically developed, its climate, beaches and vegetation make Tokunoshima similar to the Okinawan islands. The island has three main town centers: Amagi in the west where the airport is located, Tokunoshima in the east and Isen in the south.

Tourists visit Tokunoshima to experience its relatively uncrowded beaches, several of which are part of Amamigunto National Park. As with Okinawa, the best weather for beach activities is usually experienced from late June to October. In addition to its beaches, the island is known for its style of bullfighting or "bull sumo", and the annual Tokunoshima Triathlon which is held each June.

Like other islands in the region, historically Tokunoshima was part of the Ryukyu Kingdom. In 1624 it was made part of the Satsuma Domain which became present day Kagoshima Prefecture. For two months in 1862 the legendary samurai Saigo Takamori was exiled to Tokunoshima before being transferred to Okinoerabu Island further south. After World War II Tokunoshima was occupied by the United States until its return to Japan in 1953.

Below is a list of some of the island's primary attractions:

Beaches and Snorkeling

Yonama Beach

Hours: Always open
Admission: Free
Facilities: parking lot, restrooms, changing rooms, showers, BBQ pits
Yonama Beach is part of Yonama Seaside Park, located about a 15 minute drive north from Tokunoshima Airport. The beach itself is about 300 meters long. Swimming and snorkeling are allowed; however, the marine life around the beach is not too exciting. During peak season a swimming pool and water slide are operational. Yonama Beach is the starting point and the site of the swimming event of the annual Tokunoshima Triathlon which takes place at the end of June.

Aze Prince Beach

Hours: Always open
Admission: Free
Facilities: small parking lot and restrooms
Aze Prince Beach is on the north east side of the island, about 25 minutes by car from the airport. The small beach provides nice views of the nearby coastline along with swimming and snorkeling opportunities among the coral reef and marine life. Next to the parking lot is a green space which is ideal for recreation and gatherings.

Kinenhama Seaside Park

Hours: Always open
Admission: Free
Facilities: parking lot, restrooms, changing rooms
This quiet and secluded beach stretches about one kilometer along the southeast side of Tokunoshima Island. From the main road, Route 80, there are two well marked access roads which become somewhat narrow and lead to Kinenhama Seaside Park.

Other Attractions

Mushiroze Park

Hours: Always open
Admission: Free
Facilities: parking lot
Mushiroze Park consists of a small network of cement boardwalks running through large granite rock formations along the island's north shore. Located about a 15 minute drive from Tokunoshima Airport, the park offers pleasant walks and picturesque coastal views.

Kanamizaki Sotetsu Palm Tree Tunnel

Hours: Always open
Admission: Free
Facilities: parking lot and restrooms
The Kanamizaki Sotetsu Palm Tree Tunnel is part of a walking trail on the north east point of the island which takes about ten minutes to complete. Lined by palm trees, which at times bend low over the path, the trail ends at an observation deck with stunning views of the surrounding coastline. During peak season the snack shop near the observation deck is open.

Nakusamikan Bullfighting Arena

Hours: 9:00 to 16:30
Admission: 200 yen (small museum)
Facilities: parking lot, restrooms
The Nakusamikan Bullfighting Arena was completed in 2012 and hosts the local bullfighting events which are held only on a few day each year in January, during Golden Week and in October. When no competition is taking place, visitors can learn more about the tradition in a small museum in the arena. The arena is located on a side road off Route 80, about a ten minute drive from Kinenhama Beach.

Seta Seaside Park

Hours: Always open
Admission: Free
Facilities: parking lot, restrooms, changing rooms
The Seta Seaside Park is small coastal park with a 120 meter long beach, clear water and interesting volcanic rock formations which contain a large number of tidal pools. The park is located about 35 minutes by car from the airport on the south west side of the island near the town center of Isen.

Yamato Memorial Monument

Hours: Always open
Admission: Free
Facilities: car park, restrooms, cafe
The Yamato Memorial Monument is a 24 meter tall structure located in a well maintained coastal park on the island's western tip, Cape Inutabu. The monument is dedicated to Battleship Yamato which sunk during WWII about 320 kilometers northwest of the cape. From the parking lot it is a five minute walk to the monument and another three minutes to the park's farthest point which provides a nice view of the coast. Directly next to the parking lot there is a small observation deck as well as a cafe attached to a small museum.

Innojofuta Park

Hours: Always open
Admission: Free
Facilities: car park, restrooms
Innojofuta Park is a park on the west coast of the island with many nice views of the surrounding seaside cliffs. Next to the parking lot is an observation tower resembling a chess piece. The main attraction of the park is Megane Iwa ("glasses cave") which is one of Tokunoshima's most iconic photo spots. Innojofuta Park is part of Amamigunto National Park and is located about a 15 minute drive south from the airport.

Access and Orientation

How to get to Tokunoshima

By air

JAL operate a few flights per day between Tokunoshima Airport and Kagoshima from where there are connecting flights to Tokyo and other major airports in Japan. The flight between Tokunoshima and Kagoshima take about 70 minutes, and the regular one way fare is around 31,000 yen, however discount tickets are usually available for around 19,000 yen.

There are also a few flights per day between Tokunoshima Airport and the neighboring islands of Amami Oshima and Okinoerabu. The flight to Amami Oshima take 35 minutes, and the regular one way fare is around 15,000 yen, however discount tickets are usually available for around 10,000 yen.

By ferry

Tokunoshima has two ports: Kametoku Port on the east side and Hetono Port on the west side of the island:

Kametoku Port is used by the daily ferries along the route that connects Kagoshima with Amami-Oshima and Naha in Okinawa. The one way ride from Kagoshima to Tokunoshima takes 15 hours and costs around 12,000 yen, while the one way ride from Naha takes 9.5 hours and costs around 7,000 yen. With a vehicle, the prices increase 5-6 fold depending on the vehicle's size. The ferries are operated by Marix and A Line.

Hetono Port is used by ferries on the Kagoshima-Okinoerabu route which stop at a few additional ports around Amami Oshima and does not go all the way to Okinawa. Ferries are operated by A Line and operate roughly once every two or three days.

How to get around Tokunoshima

Public transportation on Tokunoshima is infrequent. As a result, a rental car makes it much easier to get around the island. A small number of car rental outlets are found at the airport and near Kametoku Port.

There are two main bus lines on Tokunoshima: one line, the Airport Line, connects the airport with Tokunoshima's town center on the east coast once every 1-2 hours, while the other connects central Tokunoshima's town center via Isen Town along the island's southern coast with Amagi's town center once every 3-4 hours. There are also a few minor bus lines, but they operate even less frequently. Fares depend on the distance traveled and range from 120 yen to 1230 yen.