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KS Cover no. 75 2006 August

August 2006 :: 075
 

A dip in the blue sea

Yoron Island, Okinawa

Yoron Island is a tranquil getaway and a slice of Japan away from the mainland that is different enough to make you think you're in another country.

Yoron is situated only 25 minutes north of Okinawa's Naha Airport or is a slightly longer ferry ride from Kagoshima. The island is filled with traditional villages, farms and has in abundance the atmosphere of island life.

Yoron is the sister island of Greece's Mikonos and there is a Greek village and even namesake Mikonos Street. You can pop into one of the Greek cafes and experience some Greek favourites like feta cheese and olives.

Back to the Okinawan heritage, the island boasts the Yoron pottery or Adule pottery factories which keep local crafts thriving. Although a Japanese island, Yoron has its own way of life. This can be experienced when visiting one of the local villages. Front gardens are replaced with a dozen cows, tractors replace cars and it seems like the closest neighbour is at least ten minutes away.

Beach town Chabana is located west of the island and features all the aspects of town life. This is a great place to mix with the locals and test out your Japanese. Izakiya and restaurants lie around the harbour area to offer you different food choices including Japanese, Chinese and other Asian cuisine. The town also features a church, a few convenience stores and is central to several nearby hotel resorts.

For water fun, choose from many of the beaches dotted around the island. Yoron is a haven for water sports enthusiasts with a diving shop or jetski to hire at every beach. North choices Chabana, Merabi and Ukatchi beaches all offer diving opportunities and the island is surrounded by coral reefs, which offer great snorkeling.

For a more tranquil experience, continue south past the harbour to find Hakibina and Akasaki beaches. On the far South- East coast, the famed Yurigahama beach can be found 1.5 kilometres offshore and can only be visited when the tide is out. Yurigahama is also known as the stardust beach because deposits of dead plankton on the beach look like star-shaped sand.

The Kotohira Shinto shrine and the site of Yoron Castle are sightseeing musts. The shrine can be seen from most of the south coast as it stands proudly on the edge of a hilltop. This is a great place to get a bird's eye view of the island and is also the venue for the Yoron Full Moon Night Dance, which is performed three times a year.

Close to the shrine, the site of Yoron Castle, which dates back to the 15th century, reflects the island's historical link with Okinawa and stands incomplete in honour of the Third Son of the Okinawa King.

Yoron is easy to get around and the whole island can be covered in a one-day trip. Bicycles and cars are available for hire but it is fun to explore on foot and most locations are reachable without transport.

So what lies in the future for Yoron-to? The island is currently in the middle of a ten-year plan to promote information and the environment. Locals and tourists alike are being encouraged to keep the island as green as possible with maximum recycling efforts and the information age has arrived with the installation of broadband internet connections. Yoron is keeping up with the times but is also preserving its idyllic posture in this simple and traditional destination.

Text & photos: Naheen Madarbakus

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:: FEATURE

Yoron Island
Okinawa

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:: ART

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:: EVENTS

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:: LIVE

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:: CLUB

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:: DRINK

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:: FESTIVAL

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:: READ

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:: FILM

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:: LANGUAGE

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:: UPDATE

I Scream, you Scream, everybody loves ice cream
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:: TRAVEL

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Ways & Means

Yoron is accessible from Okinawa's Naha Airport. The 25-minute flight leaves twice daily from the main land.

There is a real danger of sunburn, so apply block.

You can take advantage of the island tours that are organised by the hotels or visit the tourist information desk at the airport for more information.

Try any type of seafood that's on offer, and head to the port for a look at the lively marketplace where food stock is auctioned off.

For more info, contact the Yoron Island Information Bureau.
Tel: 099-797-5151
www.jnto.go.jp/eng/RTG/RI/kyushu/
kagoshima/yoronto/yoronto.html