Photo/IllutrationExhibits at the Amami Museum in Amami, Kagoshima Prefecture, introduce traditional folk songs and dialects on Amami-Oshima island. (Makoto Hokao)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

AMAMI, Kagoshima Prefecture--With a new focus on “environmental culture,” the city-run Amami Museum here has regained popularity after renewing its exhibits this summer.

Through video footage, models and panels, visitors are introduced to the rich natural surroundings, unique cultural traditions and complicated history of Amami-Oshima, where humanity and nature are deeply involved with one another. With the new exhibits, the museum seeks to help visitors gain a better understanding about the characteristics and charms of the island.

The three-story museum originally opened in 1987. The city government spent about 100 million yen ($914,900) since last fall to remodel the entire facility, which reopened in late August.

Displayed on the first floor are a model of Amami-Oshima, video footage and other exhibits to provide basic knowledge about the island. There is also an interactive display that helps visitors understand the characteristics of dialects and traditional folk songs, which are different in each area, with audio recordings and texts.

The second floor is dedicated to history and culture. The island’s history from feudal to modern times is explained on informational panels to shed light on the complicated background of Amami-Oshima “unwritten in textbooks,” according to officials. The panels show how the island had been ruled by the Ryukyu Kingdom (present-day Okinawa Prefecture), Satsuma Domain (Kagoshima Prefecture) and the U.S. military.

The officials put an effort into introducing the nonviolent campaign organized by residents that led to the reversion of Amami-Oshima and the surrounding islands to Japanese sovereignty in 1953.

Scenes from the daily lives on the island depicted in a book of folklore titled “Nanto Zatsuwa” (Miscellaneous accounts of the southern islands) are shown with illustrations and actual folk tools. There is also a model for visitors to gain hands-on experience weaving “Oshima tsumugi” silk.

Placed in the center of the third floor that focuses on nature is a diorama re-creating a forest. Stuffed indigenous animals and plants are placed, complete with touchscreens for spectators to learn about their characteristics with video footage and audio recordings.

Displayed on the walls are panels that show how the lives of residents and nature are intertwined, featuring festivals and customs associated with the transitions of nature.

The number of visitors to the museum had gradually decreased after peaking at more than 20,000 per year, with the figure for 2011 falling below 7,000. But in recent years, the figure rebounded to around 10,000, thanks to accelerated momentum to seek inclusion of Amami-Oshima and its surrounding areas on UNESCO’s World Natural Heritage list.

After the museum reopened, the number of visitors in September increased by 1.5 times year on year to about 1,700.

“We want visitors to feel the culture supported by a unique history and the interactions between nature and people,” said Nobuhiro Hisashi, head of the section in charge of cultural assets at the city board of education.

Admission to the permanent exhibition is 310 yen for adults, 150 yen for high school and college students and 100 yen for junior high and elementary school students.

For inquiries, visit the city government’s website at (https://www.city.amami.lg.jp/bunka/kyoiku/bunka/hakubutsukan/shokai.html).