Katoku, also referred to as Jurassic park by foreign visitors, is one of the most out of the way secluded cove/beach in Amami Oshima. Requiring a long drive through the mountainous terrain and down a lush tropical valley, Katoku is one of those truly special places where all nature lovers feel at home.
A sandy beach nourished by a natural river-mouth and pristine fresh water
Katoku is the only beach left in Amami-Oshima where a significant river-mouth hasn't been concreted. The fresh water flows from the valley forming the gentle and dynamic curves visitors love so much.
An amazing lush tropical valley
It isn't just the beach, natural river-mouth and lush vegetation that makes Katoku such a breathtaking beautiful place. The sight of the deep valley and green mountains from which the water flows to the beach is one to behold.
Various type of fresh water fish can be seen along the sandy river bed and all kind of native birds, snakes, frogs, as well as the famous black rabbit strive in this amazing natural ecosystem.
Up the river bed into the valley, deep in the rain forest, one will discover a series of beautiful waterfalls with crystal clear water.
Surrounded by a pristine ecosystem, one feels a continuum between the clear ocean water, sandy beach, freshwater river, trees, rain forests, and the many beautiful mountain streams from which the water flows all the way down to the beach. It is this continuum of the life cycle one feels when standing on the beach and starring up towards the valley. This may explain the sense of awe many a visitor has experienced in Katoku; An experience not easily found anywhere else on the island without some serious exploring.
No man-made structure to be seen
The view from the beach and water is breathtaking. A beach surrounded by lush vegetation without any man mande structure in sight is a rarity in Japan. Most beaches in Japan have some sort of seawall and breakwaters known as tetrapods, as well as concreted river mouths and hillsides.
The absence of such structure combined with the quality of the water and the abundance of life forms makes Katoku one of the most soothing spot for the soul in Amami-Oshima. In few other places does one feel completely surrounded by mother nature while swimming in the ocean and looking at the shore and its incredibly beautiful valley.
Revered by eco-tourists and eco-tours
Not directly exposed to any high traffic road and requiring a long drive through the mountains and down a lush tropical valley in order to be reached, Katoku is one those secluded places where time stands still. Its isolation from most forms of commercial activity, its authentic and tiny seaside village, all contribute to making Katoku a hidden jewel of the Ryukyu islands.
While some visitors may only go to Katoku because it's the birth place of Hajime Shitose, a star singer in Japan, for most visitors, it's all about discovering a magnificent natural spot where few people have gone before. For nature lovers, eco-tourists and eco-tours, there is no doubt Katoku is one of the top 2 most attractive place in Amami-Oshima.
Most deserving place as a world heritage site
In one incredible valley Katoku combines all the elements that make it ideal as a World Heritage Site: a natural river-mouth, a lush tropical valley, a beautiful sandy beach, crystal clear water flowing from mountain streams, a series of waterfalls, endemic species of plants and animals, almost non existent road traffic (mostly the dozen of people in the seaside village who can still drive).
In fact, Katoku is in the process of becoming a National Park, so that one day, it may join the list of protected World Heritage Sites.
Saving Katoku from the concrete industry
This may come as a shock to all nature lovers, but today, Katoku beach and its magnificent river mouth are in grave danger of becoming another casualty of the concrete industry and the Amakudari politics that prevail. As in so many other places in Japan, the concrete industry, which has grown and spread like a cancer at a record rate since the end of WWII, is targeting all that makes Katoku unique and beautiful.
While Katoku residents in times past had the fortitude to fight pork barrel public works such as proposed dams and concrete seawalls, this time around, those few courageous men and women who stood for Katoku and its "raison d'être", and for the lifestyle it provided them, are no longer.
Hope still remains, as we, along with the only child bearing family left in Katoku, are taking this matter public and finding ways to save Katoku from one of the least desirable fate imaginable. A fate that so many other places in Japan have sadly met without any opposition. Once magnificent but long forgotten, those places have become playgrounds for the concrete industry, as its keeps finding more ways to add ugly blocks of concrete each and every year.
More information regarding this issue and how you can contribute to this grassroots effort will be made available in English soon... In the meantime, if you are able to read Japanese, head directly to this blog post: 嘉徳 ”ジュラシックパーク”.
Suggestions are welcome and much appreciated.