Okinawa: Yonaguni Island
One of the Yaeyama Islands – a grouping that also includes the more popular islands of Ishigaki and Iriomote – Yonaguni is the westernmost island in both Okinawa and Japan. Famous for its diving, rugged coastal scenery, free-roaming Yonaguni horses and ‘hanazake’ – a strong distilled liquor – Yonaguni takes a little time and effort to get to but is well-worth making the effort, especially for keen divers. Divers are drawn to Yonaguni by large numbers of migrating hammerhead sharks that are seen in the surrounding waters from November until May along with the somewhat controversial ‘Yonaguni Monument’ – a submerged stone formation that some people claim is man-made and a relic of a lost civilization.
Yonaguni has a limited range of accommodation most of which are small guesthouses, lodges and hostels located in the island’s major towns. Many guesthouses are ‘minshuku’ – family-run, basic accommodation – with Japanese-style rooms and often including home-made meals. Yonaguni is a popular destination for dedicated divers meaning that accommodation can book-out well in advance especially from November to May when people head to the island to dive with migrating hammerhead sharks. The island also offers limited dining and entertainment meaning that it’s best-suited to visitors solely focused on diving.