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Yonaguni is a small, remote, untouched island, a 2 hour flight to the west of Naha (Okinawa's capital). It is one of the Yaeyama Islands in the prefecture of Okinawa. Less than 2,000 people inhabit the island. The main residential area is the town of Sonai, situated on the north coast near the airport.
Yonaguni is known in Japan for the hanazake, a 120-proof rice-based distilled beverage (awamori) produced only on the island. The island is also the only natural habitat of a distinctive horse breed, the Yonaguni horse.
In the diving world, Yonaguni is known for the chance to dive with hammerhead sharks during the winter months as well as its mysterious Underwater Monument discovered in 1986 by Kihachiro Aratake. The waters around Yonagunijima are said to be the third clearest in the world.
Yonaguni Island, and more specifically Cape Irizaki at the western tip of the island, is Japan's most westerly point located 110 kilometres off the east coast of Taiwan between the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean proper. The island is characterised by a rugged, dramatic coastline of towering cliffs, capes and beaches and is only 6km long x 2km wide. There are several peculiarly-shaped reef rock formations off the coast such as Gunkan-iwa, the Battleship Rock; Sanninudai - believed by some to be an above-water portion of the mysterious undersea ruins because it is shaped almost like a stairway and Tatigamiiwa, the Standing God Rock.
Yonaguni hosts several events and festivals throughout the year including in June - the Dragon Boat Race; July - the Japan International Billfish Tournament and the Harvest Festival; August - the Obon Eisa festival honouring the spirits of departed ancestors (usually lasts 3 days around the 13th of the month); November - Yonigunijima Marathon with 10km or 24km run options.
From Kuburabari, a cliff near the northern side of Kubura's port, you can watch the last sunset in Japan. On a good day it is possible to see the shadow cast by Taiwan in front of the setting sun from here.
Hikawa Beach (Hikawahama) located on the southern shore of the island is the island's largest beach offering a coral reef good for snorkeling and swimming. It is very quiet here with little to no waves.
Yonaguni has a humid subtropical climate bordering on a tropical rainforest climate with very warm summers and mild winters. Rainfall is abundant throughout the year; September is the wettest month while July is the driest.
The coolest months are December to March when the mean average temperature drops below 20°C and the water temperature can drop to 23°C. For the rest of the year the daytime temperatures are between the mid 20's to low 30's (Celsius) and the water temperature is at it's warmest between June to October (27-29°C).
Hammerhead sharks roam the waters surrounding Yonaguni throughhout the winter months of November to May. The best months to see the hammerheads in their large schools is from January to February and sometimes into March.
Onsite Shop: No
Onsite Dive Centre: No
Most dives around Yonaguni are drift dives and the currents can be quite strong. Throughout the year there are schools of big eye trevally, barracuda, dogtooth tuna, turtles, large cuttlefish and more. Many large rock formations, caverns and tunnels provide plenty of areas for exploration.
The 70+ dive sites around Yonagunijima provide fantastic diving experiences for advanced divers and beginners alike with excellent visibility, plus the thrill of seeing the mysterious Underwater Monument and encountering schools of hammerheads. With lots of beautiful coral, interesting rock formations and an abundance of sub tropical marine life around the islands, Yonaguni could be the best kept diving secret in the world!
Yonaguni's unique attraction for both archaeologists and divers alike are the mysterious underwater ruins which lie off the south coast of the island. Discovered in 1986 by then divemaster, Mr Kihachiro Aratake when he was scouting the area for new hammerhead schooling sites, the megalith structures have sparked much debate as to whether they were completely naturally formed, were naturally formed then modified by man or are man-made structures created by an ancient civilisation dating back to the last Ice Age (around 10,000 BC) which would make the Monument the oldest man-made artefact on earth, pre-dating the pyramids in Egypt.
Once you have seen the Monument with your own eyes, it is hard to believe that they were formed by completely natural processes. Key features include an archway entrance; twin megaliths standing perfectly side by side; a staircase; the main monument measuring some 100 metres long x 50 metres wide and 25 metres tall, with perfectly carved perpendicular terracing; a triangular shaped pool with a drainage channel; decorative rock carvings; a formation which looks distinctly like a face; and evidence of a cobbled loop road around the structures.
Could this be the mythical lost continent of Mu?
The currents around Yonaguni Monument can be ferocious which can be a challenge for newer divers.