is an island in the Pacific Ocean and is part of the Kerama Islands group in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan.
is commonly known as Aka or
Akashima and is located some 15 miles to the
southwest of Okinawa
It has a subtropical climate and a
population of approximately 330 people.
Coral reefs and wildlife
The water surrounding Akajima is supplied from the Kuroshio
current. Healthy coral reefs, with a rich
diversity of sea life, make the area a treasure trove for marine
scientists, divers and snorkelers.
Day trippers and locals boarding the
return ferry from Akajima to Okinawa.
In 1988 Akajima Marine Science Laboratory (AMSL) was established
under the auspices of the Japanese Science and Technology Agency. A
number of scientists visit AMSL every year to research the coral
Around 360 fish species and 1,640 invertebrate species (including
hermatypic corals) and 220 seaweed species have been recorded in
the Kerama Islands, but many groups of organisms have not yet been
surveyed. Green turtles, loggerheads, and hawksbill turtle lay eggs
on the beaches in summer. Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae
) are regular
visitors in January to April and use the Kerama Islands as their
Akajima is also noted for its terrestrial wildlife, especially its
birds, butterflies and Golden
spiders. Kerama deer (a subspecies of the
Japanese deer) are unique to the Kerama islands group and are able
to swim between the islands. These deer have been designated a
national protected species of Japan.
Golden silk orb-weaver spiders are
plentiful on Akajima
Summers have extreme oceanographic conditions and about about five
typhoons approach Akajima every year, especially in early summer.
The northern monsoon brings strong north winds and large swells
from October to April.
port has a regular ferry service that links the island with
neighbouring Zamami and the
capital of Okinawa (Naha).
The Island is
also served a small airstrip on Gerumajima, the two islands being
linked by a small road bridge.
Historically, the Kerama Island group was a
part of the Ryukyu
For some 600 years, the islanders were
employed as navigators for the Kingdom’s trading vessels between
Okinawa and China. The islands also provided good moorings on the
sea route. A house of the Takara family, one of the captains of
these vessels, is preserved as an important cultural property of
Aka was one of the first landing places for US Forces in the
Battle of Okinawa
. US Forces
landed on March 26, 1945 and went on to take Zamamijimi
. Over 500 residents
committed suicide by order of the Japanese troops in order to avoid
Akajima is also famous for the story of two dogs: Shiro on Akajima
and Marilyn on Zamamijima. They met when Shiro travelled on his
owners boat to Zamami but the passion was such that he started
swimming over every day to rendezvous with Marilyn on Zamami's Ama
The locals frequently sighted Shiro paddling across the (3km)
strait. His feat was so amazing that it gained national recognition
and inspired the film: Marilyn ni Aitai (I want to see Marilyn).
Marilyn died in 1987, bringing an end to Shiro's seafaring days,
and he himself died at the advanced age of 17. There is a statue of
Shiro on Nishihama beach (his point of departure) and a similar
monument to Marilyn also exists on Zamamijima.
- Marine Science Laboratory (AMSL) information
- Marine Science Laboratory Website (AMSL)
- In The News Article
- Hayashibara T (1995) Ecological studies on reef-building corals
and their sexual reproduction around Akajima Island, Kerama Islands
group. PhD thesis, Tokyo University Fisheries, 123 pp. (in
- Iwao K (2000) Study on the effect of geographical features on
the cause of coral bleaching. In: Research and Development Bureau,
Science and Technology Agency (ed.): Report on the Urgent Research
on the Mechanism Elucidation of Coral Bleaching, pp.15-39 (in
- Iwao K (2003) Surveys of marine fauna around Kerama Islands by
visiting scientists and staff members of AMSL. Midoriishi, 14:
38-41 (in Japanese)
- Iwao K (2004) Kerama Islands. In: Tsuchiya M et al. (eds.):
Coral Reefs of Japan. Ministry of the Environment and Japanese
Coral Reef Society, Tokyo, pp.185-189
- Kizaki K (1992) Geological history of the Kerama Islands.
Midoriishi, 3: 1-2 (in Japanese) Nadaoka K, Nihei Y, Wakaki K,
Kumano R, Kakuma S, Moromizato S, Omija T, Iwao K, Shimoike K,
Taniguchi H, Nakano Y, Ikema T (2001) Regional variations of water
temperature around Okinawan coasts and its relationship to offshore
thermal environments and coral bleaching. Coral Reefs, 20:
- Ohba H (1995) A list of seaweeds of Akajima Island and its
vicinity in Kerama Islands, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. Midoriishi,
6: 23-28 (in Japanese)
- Omori M and Fujiwara S (eds.) (2003) Manual for the Restoration
and Remediation of Coral Reefs. Bureau of Natural Environment,
Ministry of the Environment, Tokyo, 84pp.
- Veron JEN (1992) Conservation of biodiversity: a critical time
for the hermatypic corals of Japan, Coral Reefs, 11: 13-21
- Zamami Village History Compilation Committee (1989) History of
Zamami Village. Vol. 1, Zamami Village Office, Okinawa, 710pp. (in