Zamami-jima has sourced much of its fame from the animal kingdom. The millions of fish enjoyed by divers (and diners at local restaurants) are an obvious draw, but dogs and whales have also made their mark. Historically, whaling was an important part of the local economy, but in the 1960s the whales disappeared and the industry died. Then, towards the end of the last century, the humpbacks started coming back to their winter breeding grounds – which the locals have been quick to exploit, though this time for tourism rather than hunting (see Whale-watching). In addition, most young Japanese associate the Keramas with the cutesy 1988 film I Want to See Marilyn. Based on a true story, it tells of a romance between two dogs on neighbouring islands: Shiro on Aka-jima, and Marilyn some 3km away on Zamami. They met when Shiro travelled to Zamami in his owner’s boat, but the passion was such that he started swimming over every day to rendezvous with Marilyn on Zamami’s Ama beach – or so the story goes. So enduring is this story that the pup’s supposed route is often featured on local maps.

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