3 Fantastic Things to Do in Yonaguni, Japan’s Westernmost Inhabited Island

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  • Yonaguni, a tiny island belonging to Japan just 125 km away from Taiwan’s coastline, is a must-visit place because of its unique attractions. Part of the Yaeyama Islands, which is located in Okinawa Prefecture, Yonaguni enjoys isolation and a variety of flora and fauna. Here are three things to do in this far end of Japan to the West which has a tiny population of less than 2,000!

    1. Check out ancient underwater ruins

    Due to its extreme location, only a few people visit Yonaguni, and mostly just for deep sea diving. A few decades back, scientists discovered a sunken mysterious city, called the Yonaguni Monument, with fine wall-like structures dating back to several thousands of years. Ever since the discovery was made public, many enthusiasts have been visiting the place to check out the undersea ruins which are still under study. Some people claim that these structures must be built by advanced humans or aliens who disappeared before the human civilization that we know of.

    There is a famous sightseeing agency that helps in scuba diving near the ruins, namely Sou-Wes Diving. Take note and do not get near Anbonia, a type of snail that is highly poisonous and can be found under the sea near the island.

    If you do not want to try diving, you can still catch what is believed to be the land extension of these ruins, namely Sanninudai, which has an undecipherable alien script carved on one of its rocks.

    Yonaguni Monument Website
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    Sanninudai Website *Automatic translation available
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    2. Enjoy unique natural beauty

    The island can be reached from the nearby Ishigaki Island, which is some 127 km away, either by seaplane or ferry. Because of its unique location, you can find pristine beaches in many places of this 28-sq km island. There is a famous but not so crowded coral reef beach called Hikawa which is a perfect place to observe the beauty of the Pacific Ocean.

    Furthermore, there are many cliffs and rock formations such as Kuburadake, which is a conservation site famous for rare birds and trees like emerald doves, Ryukyu robins, Atlas moths, date palms, and others. You can also find a unique horse breed here called Yonaguni whose population is going down and are critically endangered on the island.

    Aside from those, there are many viewpoints such as Cape Irizaki where you can find a lighthouse to observe vessels and the last sunset of the country.

    Hikawa Beach Website *Automatic translation available
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    Kuburadake Access

    Cape Irizaki Website *Automatic translation available
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    3. Learn local history, language, and traditions

    Being part of the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom and later annexed to Japan, there has been an intermixing of indigenous, Taiwanese, and Japanese cultures. For a brief period of time immediate to the Second World War, the island of Yonaguni acted as a “black market” island where goods flowed secretly without tariffs and restrictions.

    The people of this island speak a unique language that sounds incomprehensible to anyone from the rest of Japan and even nearby islands. Once you land at the Yonaguni Airport, you can look for a local phrasebook or “jiten” in the bookshop there. They even have a unique writing style, namely “kaida-dii,” which many people claim to be linked to what is written on the ancient ruins found there. There is an Ethnographic Museum in the island town of Sonai if you want to learn more about their culture, language, and so on.

    The locals also enjoy events such as sport fishing in July and the Yonaguni Island Marathon in November. The 2017 marathon is scheduled on November 11, and you can apply to join until September 29. For more information, you can check this page (automatic translation available).

    There are many bars and restaurants in the little harbor towns of Sonai and Kubura, too.

    Yonaguni Ethnographic Museum Website *Japanese only
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    Take a swim or dive in the clear waters of Yonaguni amidst hammerhead sharks and other varieties of marine life you would rarely encounter in other parts of Japan. You can also see Taiwan from one of the capes on the island on a bright summer day.

    Yonaguni Island Website *Automatic translation available
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    Would you like to stay in Yonaguni? Check out all the hotels in the area here!