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Yoron Island

  • Natives of Okinawa are famously keen to stress that their homeland has a unique culture distinct from that of mainland Japan. Less well known to travelers is that the Amami archipelago, a clutch of small islands situated between Kyushu to the north and Okinawa to the south, again have a singular culture all their own. This, combined with a subtropical climate and crystal-clear ocean, makes the Amami Islands worth serious consideration as a destination in their own right, not only as a stepping stone to Okinawa. Yoron, the third smallest of this island chain and the furthest south towards Okinawa, is an Amami highlight.

    Yoron Island

    Yoron Island

    Just over 20 sq. km in size and lying 22 km from Okinawa’s northernmost point (Kyushu’s southernmost tip is some 563 km north, with Yoron actually under the governance of Kyushu’s Kagoshima prefecture), Yoron Island boasts around 60 white-sand beaches, and is entirely surrounded by a stunningly beautiful coral reef. Year-round temperatures of 20 degrees upwards make it a perennial hotspot for water sports such as diving, sea kayaking, and snorkeling, and Yoron forms part of the vast Amami Gunto Quasi-National Park.

    Yoron Island

    Yoron Island

    Notable among the island’s abundance of beaches is Pricia Resort Yoron, on the island’s western shore. This is an upscale holiday apartment complex offering an outdoor pool; beauty, massage and spa facilities; sports, including tennis and golf; and restaurants serving international cuisine.

    Yoron Island

    Yoron Island

    Hakibina Beach in the southwest presents a stark, rugged contrast to all that swish luxury. Here, jagged rock formations jut dramatically out of the coastline, with the blackness of many of them creating a brooding spectacle amid the unrelenting sunlight and tranquil hues that surround. Elsewhere, Yurigahama Beach is a magical-feeling sandbar that appears only at certain times of the month from spring through fall, 1.5 km out from the eastern shore’s Oganeku Beach. Here, what appear to be star-shaped grains of sand beneath your feet are actually tiny shells, left behind by microscopic organisms called foraminifera.

    Yoron Island

    Yoron Island

    Inland from these beaches, on Yoron-jima’s interior, is where local culture comes to the fore. The Shinto religion responsible for the majority of Japanese festivals spread here from the mainland long ago, resulting in the establishment of shrines such as Kotohira-jinja. This is close to the ruins of Yoron Castle in the south, and offers a lofty vantage point from which to look out over the island. Amami people, however, including the population of Yoron which numbers around 6,000, also keep their own ancient traditions and celebrations very much alive.

    Yoron Island

    Yoron Island

    Yoron also has its own language, Yunnu Futuba, which is spoken by most adults but no longer studied by schoolchildren. The Southern Cross Museum, adjacent to Kotohira-jinja, offers the chance to get acquainted with Yoron and wider Amami culture. The top floor of the museum, at 106m above sea level, houses an observatory with a 360-degree view that encompasses the northern part of Okinawa itself. Also worth a visit for the culturally curious is the Yoron Furusato Village, which illustrates how islanders lived in pre-modern times and preserves a number of traditional thatched-roof houses of a style distinct to Amami (inhabited examples of the latter can still be found dotted over Yoron).

    Food-wise, specialties include suuna, a seaweed variety that is harvested off the island and is said to bring good fortune to those who eat it. Drinkers, meanwhile, will want to sample some potent yusen, Yoron’s very own liquor made with fermented brown sugar.

    Getting there and getting around: a 1h 50min flight takes you from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Kagoshima Airport. It is then a 1h 20 min journey from Kagoshima to Yoron Airport. From Osaka, Kagoshima Airport is first reached via a 1h 10 min trip from Itami Airport. Alternatively, ferry services run to Yoron from both Kagoshima City and Okinawa. Yoron is too small to have a rail system, but there is a bus service as well as bicycle, scooter and car rental options.

    与論島
    Address
    鹿児島県大島郡与論町
    Phone
    Pricia Resort Yoron
    Address
    358-1 Richo, Yoron-cho, Oshimagun Amamioshima Kagoshima
    Phone
    0997-97-5060
    Hyakugo ke Hama
    Address
    Kagoshima Prefecture Oshima-gun Yoron-cho Oganeku coast offshore
    Phone
    0997975151
    Oganeku Kaigan
    Address
    Kagoshima Prefecture Oshima-gun Yoron-cho
    Phone
    0997975151
  • Yoronjoseki
    Address
    Kagoshima Prefecture Oshima-gun Yoron-cho
    Phone
    0997973111
    Southern Cross Ctr
    Address
    Kagoshima Pref. Oshimagunyoronchou Ricchou 3313
    Phone
    0997973396
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