Amami Islands, Southern Japan
This Pretty Much Sums it Up (ninety seconds later, powerful wind and rain slammed into us) -- Amami Ooshima, Kagoshima, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 17mm — 1/800 sec, f/6.3, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
This Pretty Much Sums it Up
(ninety seconds later, powerful wind and rain slammed into us)

We took a short trip over the New Year holiday to the Amami Islands of southern Japan, in the East China Sea about halfway between Okinawa and the Japanese mainland.

The map below shows our flight back, from the northern part of the main Amami island (circled in green) to Osaka (circled in blue). Mentally, Amami feels much further away than Hokkaido (circled in Red) where we visited last May, even though the latter is indeed farther away.

When we went to Hokkaido, we took an 18-hour ferry trip, but were almost always within sight of land. The flight back from Amami was just an hour and fifteen minutes (about 575 miles), but it felt further away. Perhaps it's that great expanse of water in between.

Arriving on the afternoon of December 30th set the tone for the entire trip: landing at Amami airport, already over the runway and just inches from touching down, the pilot decided that it was too windy to risk a landing and jammed the throttle to maximum power. I've probably been on about 350 flights, but it was my first go around (aborted landing).

Once we got our rental car and started driving around, we found out how stupendously windy it really was (a subject I post about here).

So Much For The Tropical-Island Sunset -- Kakeromajima (Amami), Kagoshima, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 26mm — 1/160 sec, f/5, ISO 500 — map & image datanearby photos
So Much For The Tropical-Island Sunset

The map below shows the main Amami Island (Amami Ooshima – “Amami Big Island”) outlined in red, and the other island we visited on the trip, Kakeroma-jima, outlined in purple. We spent the first two days in the north-east of the main island, exploring where Fumie's grandmother was born and lived until about the start of WWII. We then spent two days on the other island.

Map of the Amami Islands, Japan, with Amami-ooshima highlighted in red, and Kakeroma-jima, in purple

The two islands are virtually completely covered in mountains, and due to their cragily shape seem to be nothing more than mountains and endless fractaled coastline. The main one has an area of 275 square miles, but its shape and the lack of straight roads makes it feel much larger. There are about 80,000 people living on it, the vast majority living in Naze (pronounced nah-zeh).

Chilly, Windy, Dynamic -- Amami Ooshima, Kagoshima, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 55mm — 1/750 sec, f/8, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Chilly, Windy, Dynamic

The theme of the trip was “if you don't like the weather, wait a minute.” It might be brilliantly sunny one moment, with driving wind and rain the next. This made for perfect rainbow conditions, and we saw more rainbows during this trip than perhaps I'd seen in my entire life up to that point.

We had a wonderful time.

The innumerable beaches that ring the islands all seem to have their own character, with wildly different water colors and sand. One in particular, Honohoshi Beach, has smooth round rocks instead of sand, which for some reason makes for a very interesting and highly relaxing sound when the water of a wave recedes...

Soaking Up The Sounds At Honohoshi Beach -- Amami Ooshima, Kagoshima, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 44mm — 1/350 sec, f/4, ISO 160 — map & image datanearby photos
Soaking Up The Sounds At Honohoshi Beach

The 20-minute ferry ride between islands was at a gloomy, windy, rainy time...

Between Islands -- Amami Ooshima, Kagoshima, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 17mm — 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 500 — map & image datanearby photos
Between Islands

The first full day on the second island had marginally better weather, but everything seemed more sunny because of Hirozou Yasuda, a wonderful guide that Fumie had arranged for. He drove us around all day and treated us to all kinds of wonderful sites/sights we'd have never found on our own...

Guide Hirozou Yasuda and Fumie -- Kakeromajima (Amami), Kagoshima, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 17mm — 1/750 sec, f/7.1, ISO 640 — map & image datanearby photos
Guide Hirozou Yasuda and Fumie
Taking Advantage of Some Sun -- Kakeromajima (Amami), Kagoshima, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 55mm — 1/500 sec, f/9, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Taking Advantage of Some Sun
View While Having Lunch On Day 4 minutes before heavy wind and rain slammed into us -- Kakeromajima (Amami), Kagoshima, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 17mm — 1/250 sec, f/10, ISO 160 — map & image datanearby photos
View While Having Lunch On Day 4
minutes before heavy wind and rain slammed into us
Eerily Emerald (and although it's hard to tell in the picture, there's a touch of rainbow left of center) -- Kakeromajima (Amami), Kagoshima, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/1250 sec, f/4, ISO 160 — map & image datanearby photos
Eerily Emerald
(and although it's hard to tell in the picture, there's a touch of rainbow left of center)
The Calm Before the Storm Two minutes later – you guessed it – heavy wind and rain slammed into us. -- Kakeromajima (Amami), Kagoshima, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 17mm — 1/160 sec, f/13, ISO 160 — map & image datanearby photos
The Calm Before the Storm
Two minutes later – you guessed it – heavy wind and rain slammed into us.
Sort of a Sunset -- Kakeromajima (Amami), Kagoshima, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 22mm — 1/5000 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Sort of a Sunset
Later, From Our Lodge on the other side of the island -- Kakeromajima (Amami), Kagoshima, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 48mm — 1/500 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Later, From Our Lodge
on the other side of the island

Weather was a central theme because most of our time was outdoors, but there's so much more to our trip that I want to share that I've yet to even touch on, so I hope to be able to post more in the future.

Just before leaving on this trip, we had a traditional New-Year's lunch with Fumie's brother, Fumie's mom, and her mom's mom (Fumie's Dad was in Malaysia on business). Her mom's mom – her grandma – was born in Amami and lived there until her mid teens. At that lunch before we left, we spent a pleasant afternoon looking at maps and satellite photos, coaxing as much from Grandma's memory as 65 years of absence would allow. She's had slight Alzheimer's for the past few years, but the topic of Amami seemed to bring somewhat of a spark.

Sadly, upon our return on the 3rd we found out that she suffered a stroke while we were away, and that her prognosis isn't particularly good. Fumie brought some of the photos from our trip to the hospital today to show her. It's unclear whether she recognized anything that was happening, but Fumie's mom said that she seemed a bit better than yesterday, so that's hopeful.


All 4 comments so far, oldest first...

Hello,the reason for the smooth round rocks at honohoshi beach is because there are conflicting currents that at times will cause whirlpool. There has been small boats that were pulled under during the whirlpool. My mother was born there and we still have many relatives there. We were there in October of 06 for three weeks. My wife and I are planning to retire there within four years and build a bed and breakfast, likely on Kakeroma. My great aunt there has offered me some land on the water. I really enjoyed your pictures and stories. Thanks very much.

Wow, that plan sounds both relaxing and hectic at the same time. If you do set up a business, be sure to leave a note back here!
I regret not recording the sound of the surf there, so I hope to give it a try when I’m there again next month…. —Jeffrey

— comment by david mcdowell on February 4th, 2008 at 4:02am JST (9 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Hi!

I have been looking at all the pictures in your site, but one site has caught my attention.
Amamai island, I think it is one of the best places in your collection.
Now, I am thinking of living in Amami, I am retiring soon and lookling for a quite place in Japan but that is really not Japanese.
I am an English teacher here in Hmamatsu, Shizuoka ken, city life for me is so tiring and am thinking of transfering to peaceful place in Japan.
I hope you can give me some advise on my plans. I am thinking of finding work even if the salary is low. What do you can I do there? It will be boring to go to the beach and fishing everyday.
I hope you can find the time to advise me.

Thanks,

William

(I replied to William privately —Jeffrey)

— comment by William Mizobe on October 13th, 2008 at 10:26am JST (9 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

I thought your pictures are beautiful. What an incredible place! It takes me back to my homeland in Chile… the beaches, the storms, the wind, the cold water…. 😀 I was looking for information on Amami Islands and found your site. Thanks for sharing so much, it really is valuable information.
Have a wonderful day!!!!

— comment by Paula on March 25th, 2010 at 1:25am JST (7 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

You’ve already got quite many comments with questions (about life in Kyoto or so), do you usually answer them privately? (Well, this is one more question, but I wouldn’t mind if you don’t answer, I’d understand that there is no time for it!

Comments that I answer privately don’t show up on the blog. If it shows up on the blog but remains unanswered, I likely didn’t see it or didn’t have energy to reply. —Jeffrey

— comment by Anne on September 8th, 2012 at 11:14pm JST (5 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink
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