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Wednesday, 5th March 2014
In General Japan News,

Kerama-ji Islands get national park status

Japan's Environment Ministry has confirmed today (March 5th) that the Kerama Islands of the Okinawa Prefecture will be designated the 31st national park of the country in recognition of their popularity and beauty.

The area in question covers the 90,000 hectares of the archipelago itself, but also extends around seven kilometres from the coastline in order to protect the breeding area of humpback whales.

Known for their diverse and concentrated coral formations, along with their clear aqua waters, the Kerama Islands are a popular holiday destination in Asia with more than 30 islands to choose from.

At a discussion last week that involved the designation of Japan's 31st national park, Makoto Tsuchiya, professor at the University of the Ryukyus Marine Science Department, gave a keynote speech on how the change might impact the islands.

"The designation as a national park is not the final goal. It is important to know the importance of nature and keep a positive relationship with it for the next generation," he commented.

Tokashiki Village mayor Masashige Zamami added that caution will be required as the recognition will likely increase the number of people wishing to visit the area.

"It is necessary to improve preparation for hosting tourists," he said.

Kerama-ji is considered one of the best locations in the world for diving, with the vibrant coral reefs surrounding the largest inhabited island, Tokashiki-jima, proving especially popular.

Outdoor enthusiasts in particular will enjoy this beautiful location with white sandy beaches stretching as far as the eye can see, coupled with an abundance of wildlife that occupies the tropical vegetation.

Between January and March is considered one of the best times to visit as this is when the humpback whales are present, although the diving is superb in the months from spring until fall.

Written by  Mark Smith

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