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ARTS, CULTURE, HISTORY

Retreat to Japan's Remote Island Getaways - Yoronjima Island and Okinoerabujima Island

Use the JAL Japan Explorer Pass to visit a "Phantom Beach" and magnificent limestone caves on Yoronjima and Okinoerabujima Islands.
Retreat to Japan's Remote Island Getaways - Yoronjima Island and Okinoerabujima Island

Where is Yoronjima Island located? It is one of Japan's southernmost islands, at the southern end of Kagoshima prefecture, very close to Okinawa. You may have seen the award-winning film Megane, the funny and charming story of a university professor who has a vacation of unexpected surprises and delights on this southernmost part of Japan. The island used for filming is Yoronjima (Yoron Island).

You will find more relaxing, beautiful, and inspiring natural scenes on Yoronjima and Okineorabujima Islands, two unspoiled southern Japanese destinations for swimming, snorkeling, ecotourism, cultural experiences, and more.

Yoronjima Island: Must-visit Amami Islands' southernmost paradise

Yoronjima Island: Must-visit Amami Islands' southernmost paradise

The blue sea and glittering white sand of Yoronjima Island indicates the pristine environment you will enjoy while visiting this subtropical paradise. When seen from above, this southernmost of the Amami Islands has the shape of a green comma surrounded by coral reefs and sand.

Yoronjima Island weather is subtropical and pleasant throughout the year. One of Japan's southernmost islands, Yoronjima, has approximately 6,000 residents and is only 22 kilometers from Okinawa. With many spectacular beaches, Yoron Island is a water-lover's paradise. It's also less developed and known to travelers than Amami Oshima or Okinawa, making it the perfect island escape.

Beaches on Yoron Island

Thanks to several inlets and bays, Yoronjima Island is blessed with many spectacular beaches. The island's white sand comes courtesy of its development as a coral reef, lifted from the sea bed thousands of years ago. The island is also known as "Therapy Island" because it is so relaxing and enjoyable.

Some of Yoronjima Island's beaches where you can engage in relaxation and natural therapy are:

O-kaneku Beach

Located on the eastern side of the island and with a length of about two kilometers, O-kaneku Beach offers world-class snow-white sand and dramatic coral rocks. The beach is very popular with locals and visitors and is one of the locations where you'll find glass-bottom boats and snorkeling activities. The beach is close to shelters where you can relax and picnic, as well as local shops and attractions. Jet skis are available at this beach, along with other amenities, including a shower and rooms for comfortable changing. 

Diving in Yoronjima

Chahana and Udonosu Beaches

Only about ten minutes from the airport, the white stage and arch on Chabana Beach may be the perfect place to watch the sunset. Its large white shell and arch frame the rays of the setting sun, and the location also hosts the party for the Yoron Marathon race. Nearby Chahana Beach is Udonosu Beach, where you can see sea turtles and wade far into the surf. Both beaches also feature dramatic and picturesque limestone features. Udonosu Beach is recommended for snorkeling and diving as the coral reef has a healthy and active ecosystem full of colorful fish and other sea life.

Terasaki Coast

At the northeastern corner of the island, two rocks shaped like a dragon can be seen along the Terasaki Coast, including Tumai Beach, where you can see a female dragon-shaped rock. Tumai Beach is popular and offers restrooms and showers for visitors. It's also the location of one of the island's popular shaved ice stores, which features humorously named and exotic flavors of the refreshing treat.

Akasaki Beach

On the southeastern tip of the island, Akasaki Beach features a lighthouse along with nearby shopping and restaurants. This beach also features watersports rentals and sandy and rocky areas, each offering different opportunities for wildlife viewing, swimming, and other water activities.

Yurigahama Sandbar

Yurigahama Sandbar

Offshore from O-kaneku Beach on Yoron Island's eastern side, the beautiful and pristine white sandbar, Yurigahama, appears only at low tide or middle tide between March and October each year. Sometimes called the "Phantom Beach," you can walk to the sandbar when the tide has revealed the beach. Whether visiting for a few moments or staying longer to soak up the subtropical sun, you won't soon forget the bright white sand and crystal-clear water. This unique location has been called one of the 50 places to visit at least once during your lifetime in Japan.

Ecotourism and sights of Yoronjima Island

Ecotourism and sights of Yoronjima Island

Although Yoronjima Island's beaches are spectacular, there is much more to the island than just beaches and watersports. One way to enjoy the island is by bicycle, but be forewarned: most of the two-wheeled conveyances on the island are single-speed beach-style bikes with baskets. The island's quiet agricultural lifestyle rewards slow and relaxed travelers.

Yoron Castle and shrines

As close as it is to Okinawa, Yoronjima Island offers visitors a glimpse of Ryuku culture and heritage in several ways, including the dramatic hilltop "Dragon Castle," where stone walls in the shape of a dragon are still visible. The castle and shrines are located at the southern tip of the island. Ancient cycad plants lend even more of an exotic air to the castle and its surroundings. Also at the site, which overlooks much of the island and shore, are the Jishu and Kotohira Shrines, where ceremonial dances still take place.

Southern Cross Center

Adjacent to the Yoron Castle and Shrines is the Southern Cross Center and observatory. From the Southern Cross Center, you can look across the sea to Cape Hedo on Okinawa, a scant 23 kilometers away. The five-story Southern Cross Center is named for its view of the Southern Cross constellation: it is the most northern location in Japan where this famous constellation of the Southern hemisphere can be seen. The Center is constructed like an octagonal tower, and each floor features different exhibits showcasing the island's biodiversity, cultural artifacts, and photography. History and culture are on full display at this interesting destination.

Yunnu Taikenkan: Yoron Folk Village

On the way to Akasaki Beach at the southern end of the island lies the Yoron Folk Village, providing a glimpse of how life was for centuries on the island before the arrival of technology and change in the 1950s. The village includes restored traditional houses with conical thatched roofs. Displayed inside the houses and huts are traditional toys, woodworking tools, and hollow wooden headrests used for sleeping. The folk village has living demonstrations of traditional Ryukyu culture and life.

Akasaki Limestone Cave

Only minutes from the restored Yoron Folk Village is the Akasaki Limestone Cave. The small but dramatic cave was formed by rain falling through the porous limestone created by the coral and compressed shells that are the main basis of Yoron Island. The cave is thought to be around 10,000 years old. The cave features dramatic limestone formations made from water dripping over limestone, as well as a small shrine that commemorates ancestral bones and good health.

Sunset in Udonosu Beach

Enjoy a workcation on Yoronjima Island

You will have several places to stay while visiting Yoron Island, including Shima Hotel, where you can live like an islander. Although it is only 10 minutes from the airport, Shima Hotel features breathtaking views of the surf directly outside your windows. Under its beautiful red tile roof and wooden pillars, the hotel can accommodate up to 10 visitors. Another one of Yoron Island's accommodations is a pristine white vacation home with a private pool, the Thalassa Beach Hotel and Pool Villa. This location offers a refined experience with modern amenities. Another option for a workcation on Yoron Island is the Yurigahama Beach House, which has a coffee shop, free WiFi, and free breakfast.

Visiting Okinoerabujima Island

Nestled between Yoronjima and Tokunoshima Islands, Okinoerabujima (Okinoerabu Island) is sometimes called the island of caves. There are 200 to 300 caves on the island, with many regarded as sacred spots and many opportunities for interesting cave exploration and sightseeing.

Okinoerabujima Caving

The largest and best-known cave on the island is Shoryudo Cavern, which has been designated as a national natural, historical monument. The cave extends a stunning 3,500 meters, with the first 600 meters open to the public.

Also on the island are the ruins of castles built by ancient rulers as well as well-preserved and picturesque ancient graves. As a limestone coral island, fresh water was and is a precious commodity on Okinoerabu. You can observe beautiful and interesting public "watering holes," including Jokkinuho or "river's end," which shows how locals gathered together to wash clothing and get fresh water.

Getting to Yoronjima and Okinoerabujima Islands

If you are traveling from Amami airport, you can reach Yoron Airport in only 40 minutes with a Japan Air Commuter flight. If you are traveling from Tokyo to Yoronjima Island, it will take approximately one hour and 50 minutes to fly to Kagoshima Airport with the JAL Japan Explorer Pass. From there, you will travel to Yoron Airport, which takes approximately one hour and 35 minutes. It is an approximately one hour and 30-minute flight from Kagoshima Airport to Okinoerabu Airport.

If you are traveling from Osaka, the trip from Itami Airport to Kagoshima Airport takes approximately one hour and 15 minutes using the JAL Japan Explorer Pass. Once you have arrived at Kagoshima Airport, the second leg to Yoron Airport takes one hour and 35 minutes. From Kagoshima Airport to Okinoerabu Airport, it is one hour and 30 minutes. Flights between Kagoshima and Yoron or Okinoerabu Airports are operated by Japan Air Commuter, a group company of Japan Airlines. You can use JAL Japan Explorer Pass to visit Yoronjima and Okinoerabujima Islands.

Getting There