The Environment Ministry is planning to designate the Amami Islands between Okinawa and Kyushu as the country's 34th national park, according to government sources.

Ensuring strict conservation by designating the area as a national park is a prerequisite for Japan to recommend that the Amami and Ryukyu islands be added as a Natural Heritage site to UNESCO's World Heritage list.

The government is hoping to get the islands added to the UNESCO list in 2018.

Other areas of the Amami and Ryukyu islands have already been designated as national parks. The northern part of Okinawa's main island was designated as the 33rd national park in September.

The Amami Islands, including Amami-Oshima and Tokunoshima, provide a habitat for rare plants and animals, such as Amami rabbits.

Japan currently has four Natural Heritage sites.