Ringed by white, sandy beaches and crystal clear water, Zamami is the largest island of Zamami Village, located around 40 kilometres to the west of the Okinawa capital at Naha. In total, the village contains more than 20 islands, although only three of these are inhabited which include Zamami, Akajima and Geruma.
Zamami forms part of the recently designated Derama-shoto National Park, recognised by Ramsar as a Wetland of International Importance. The park provides a home for Kerama deer and rare birds on land, while its offshore reef houses a huge variety of tropical fish, sea turtles, manta rays and migrating humpback whales between January and March each year. Zamami’s mountainous interior offers spectacular scenery and viewpoints looking out across the archipelago, with its narrow, winding roads cascading down to a picture-perfect coastline. Scuba diving and snorkelling are the main activities from the popular beaches at Furuzamami and Ami, together with sea kayaking and standup paddle boarding. While fishing was once a major industry in the region, this is now in decline, although the edible seaweed known as “mozuku” is still sold in abundance and remains popular in Okinawan cuisine. The village itself exhibits a few traditional wooden-beamed, red-roofed Okinawan-style homes and comes to life at the end of each summer with its annual festival, featuring Eisa dancing, dragon boat racing and traditional musical entertainment.
The Queen Zamami high-speed ferry is the best way to access Zamami Island from the Tomari Port in Naha, with two departures daily, while the Ferry Zamami also makes the journey stopping at Aka en route. A bus runs between the port and the beaches to the east and west, and motorbikes, cars and bicycles can be rented for those who want to explore at their leisure.
Shell middens indicate that Zamami Island was settled as far back as the Jōmon period, or around 12,000 BC and formed part of the Ryukyu Kingdom as Jiyaman magiri. Zamami’s port and its proximity to Okinawa Island saw it used as an important trade centre during the 14th century, particularly for ships bound for China who waited in its sheltered waters for favourable winds.