Yonaguni Island (与那国島, Yonaguni-jima) is the westernmost island of Japan. It is located in Okinawa Prefecture and is a part of the Yaeyama Islands. The small island has a circumference of about 30 kilometers and a population of under 2000 people. The island is known for its marine activities like scuba diving, as well as for some of its native fauna like the Atlas moth and Yonaguni horse.
The main attractions for scuba divers are large numbers of migrating hammerhead sharks that can be seen around the island between late November and May, and the unique "underwater ruins", known as the Yonaguni Monument. The underwater stone formations are geometrically so perfectly shaped that there is a debate to whether they are natural or man-made.
Prices for single dives for certified divers start from about 8500 yen and typically only include a guide, transport, tank and wetsuit. Trial dives are available for non-certified divers, and the prices typically start from 15,000 yen including all equipment and gear. Note that trial dives to the underwater monument cost around 25,000 yen, but are not recommended for beginners due to strong currents.
Numerous beaches can be found along the island's coast, offering clear waters for swimming. Unlike the other Yaeyama Islands, Yonaguni does not have much coral reef, but is exposed to the sea and its currents. Swimmers enter at their own risk.
Yonaguni is home to the Yonaguni horse, a native Japanese breed. These pony-sized horses typically have brown hair and were originally used as riding horses. Today they are a protected breed and allowed to roam freely in the three pastures near the villages. Texas gates, a grid of slates above a depression on the road, act as a barrier and deter the horses from leaving the pastures.
There are three villages on the island: Sonai in the north, Kubura in the west and Higawa in the south. The most populous village is Sonai, followed by the fishing village of Kubura. Higawa has only around 100 inhabitants.
Below are some of the attractions on Yonaguni:
Westernmost Point and Irizaki Lighthouse
The western cape of Yonaguni and some stones in the water off the cape make up Japan's westernmost point. As such, it is also the last place in the country to see the sunset. Irizaki Lighthouse and a monument celebrating the extreme point can be found at the cape. Taiwan can be seen just over 100 kilometers across the sea in the distance when visibility is good.
The Agarizaki Lighthouse stands at the opposite end of the island, at the eastern cape of Yonaguni. It is surrounded by spectacular, high sea cliffs that make up the coastline. Iriomote Island can be seen in the distance when visibility is good. The pony-sized, native Yonaguni horses are often seen roaming the pastures around the Agarizaki Lighthouse.
Gunkan and Tategami rocks
The coast southeast of Yonaguni's western cape continues to offer a spectacular scenery with rugged terrain, high sea cliffs and numerous notable rock formations. Of interest are the Gunkan-iwa, a stout and imposing rock named after a warship, and Tategami-iwa, a tall candle-shaped rock. There are multiple lookout points along the road.
Tindabana is rock outcrop that towers about 85 meters above the village of Sonai. A lookout point in the outcrop offers panoramic views of the village, the nearby Nanta Beach and the East China Sea. The viewpoint is reached via a 200 meter long walking trail along the cliff from the nearest parking lot.
The Atlas Moth Museum (Ayamibabiru-kan) is located in the middle of the eastern half of Yonaguni. The museum showcases the Atlas Moth - or Ayamibabiru as it is known locally - which is the largest moth in the world. The museum introduces the habitat of the tropical moth, and visitors will be able to see them up close as well.
Dr. Koto Clinic
Hours: 10:00 to 17:00 Admission: 300 yen Closed: No closing days
The Dr. Koto Clinic served as the location setting for a highly popular television drama of the same name that ran from 2003 to 2006. The small building stands at the edge of the beach on the eastern end of Higawa village. Visitors can see props and material used in the drama.
Ryukyu Air Commuter (RAC), a member of the JAL Group, operates one daily flight between Naha Airport and Yonaguni Airport. Flight duration is around 75 minutes. The regular one way fare is about 33,000 yen, while discount fares are usually available for between 18,000 and 20,000 yen.
Ryukyu Air Commuter (RAC), a member of the JAL Group, operates three daily flights between Ishigaki Airport and Yonaguni Airport. Flight duration is around 30 minutes. The regular one way fare costs about 12,000 yen, while discount fares are usually available for about 7500 yen.
Twice weekly, a car ferry makes the journey between Ishigaki and Kubura Port on the western end of Yonaguni Island. The one way journey takes about 4.5 hours and costs 3550 yen. A round trip fare is available for 6750 yen and must be used within 14 days. The cost for bringing an average sized car onto the ferry is about 30,000 yen one way.
How to get around Yonaguni Island
There is one road that runs along the perimeter of Yonaguni Island and connects Yonaguni Airport, the three villages and most of the island's attractions with each other, as well as a few roads that cross the island.
A free community bus runs about once every two hours along the western half of the island and serves the three villages. Besides the public bus, rental vehicles like cars and mopeds are available on the island. A compact car costs about 5000 yen per day, while a moped costs about 3000 yen. Advance reservations are strongly recommended as the number of vehicles is limited.
Rental bicycles are also available from the rental shops or from your accommodation. It takes about three to four hours to cycle around the island, and an electric-assisted bicycle is recommended due to the distance and hilly terrain in some parts of the island. It costs between 1500 and 3000 yen to rent a bicycle for 24 hours.