National Parks of Japan

Part 9

Keramashoto National Park

Keramashoto National Park is a national park in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. Established in 2014, it is located in and around the Kerama Islands. The park comprises a land area of 3,520 ha in the municipalities of Tokashiki and Zamami together with 90,475 ha of the surrounding waters. Excluding Oze and Yakushima National Parks which were formerly parts of other national parks, it was the first designation of a new national park since the 1987 designation of Kushiroshitsugen National Park 27 years earlier. The designated park area encompasses the Kerama Islands which are located about 30 km west of Naha City and the sea extending 7 km from their shores. The park has a land area of 3,520 ha and a sea area of 90,475 ha. Of that sea area, 8,290 ha with a depth of 30 m or less have been designated a marine park area. The two main islands of Tokashiki and Zamami are 15.8 square km and 6.7 square km, respectively, in land area.

The Kerama Islands were designated a new national park for the outstanding views they offer of the island-studded ocean around them, the exceptionally clear and distinctive blue sea which has been nicknamed “Kerama Blue,” the diverse and gorgeous ecosystems centered on the coral reefs, and the breeding areas for humpback whales. The waters around the Kerama Islands offer some of Japan’s finest diving. Local governments have developed guidelines and engage in activities to protect the coral reefs, including exterminating crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci). There are plans to set up nature restoration facilities in Tokashiki and Zamami Villages. There is also whale watching in the winter when the humpback whales come to the area.

Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park

Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park is a national park in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. It is located on and around the Yaeyama Islands of the East China Sea. The park was established in 1972 as Iriomote National Park and included the islands of Iriomote, Kohama, Kuro, and Taketomi. In August 2007 the protected area was extended to include Ishigaki Island. Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park is the southernmost park in Japan located in the south of Okinawa main island. It consists of major parts of Iriomotejima and Ishigakijima Islands in the Yaeyamashoto Islands, which mark the southwestern end of Japan, some smaller islands around them, and the broad sea area with coral reefs that lies between the two islands. Iriomotejima Island is the second largest island in Okinawa Prefecture after the Okinawa main island with an area of 289 sq. km.

Mt. Nachisan, has three shrines halfway up the mountain which are hallowed sites of the Kumano faith. It is the center of the ancient Kumano faith, and a long mountain path called the Kumano Pilgrimage Routes leads worshippers to the shrine. In the north of the shrine soars Nachinotaki Waterfall which is another hallowed site. It has a drop of 133 m and is admired as one of the most scenic waterfalls in Japan. The forest behind the waterfall is called the Nachi Primeval Forest and is protected as a holy precinct.

Sekiseishoko Lagoon, which lies between Ishigakijima and Iriomotejima Islands, is a shallow, calm sea area in which many coral reefs grow. Most islands in the lagoon including Taketomijima and Kuroshima Islands are small, flat islands formed by the upheaval of coral reefs. Unlike Iriomotejima Island, these islands have been well-developed and don't maintain much of their primeval wilderness, but they still have beautiful sand beaches and coral reefs. Taketomijima Island is known as a treasure trove of folk art and efforts are being made to conserve the landscape of traditional settlements. The area has great cultural value as well.

Iriomote wildcats, an endemic species to Iriomotejima Island, are considered to be the symbols of the island. As their population is very small, further conservation measures are needed. Regarding birds, there are some species which can be seen only on the Yaeyamashoto Islands in Japan, such as crested serpent eagles. There are also many Amphibia, reptiles and insects which are endemic to the islands.

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See Also
Encyclopedia of Japan