Yonaguni (Japanese: 与那国島 Hepburn: Yonaguni-jima, Yonaguni romanization: Dunan-chima, Yaeyama romanization: Yunoon-zïma, Okinawan romanization: Yunaguni-jima), one of the Yaeyama Islands, is the westernmost inhabited island of Japan, lying 108 kilometers (67 mi) from the east coast of Taiwan, between the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean proper. The island is administered as the town of Yonaguni, Yaeyama Gun, Okinawa and there are three settlements: Sonai, Kubura and Higawa.

Native name:
Map of Yonaguni Island
Yonaguni is located in Ryukyu Islands
Location in the Ryukyu Islands
LocationPacific Ocean
East China Sea
Coordinates24°27′20″N 122°59′20″E / 24.45556°N 122.98889°ECoordinates: 24°27′20″N 122°59′20″E / 24.45556°N 122.98889°E
ArchipelagoYaeyama Islands
Area28.88 km2 (11.15 sq mi)
Highest elevation471 ft (143.6 m)
Highest pointMount Urabu
PrefectureOkinawa Prefecture
TownYonaguni, Okinawa
Population1,684 (2009)
Pop. density58.2 /km2 (150.7 /sq mi)
Ethnic groupsJapanese (Ryukyuan)


The early history of Yonaguni remains vague. The first written record that ever mentions the island is a 1477 Korean document (Chosen Hyōryūmin no Yaeyama kenbunroku), an account of several fishermen from the current Jeju Province drifted there.

A legendary female leader, San’ai Isoba is said to be the ruler of Yonaguni at around the end of the fifteenth century. She is described as a female who possesses superhuman power that allows her to protect her people from foreign attacks multiple times, including a time when the island was attacked by Miyako, another Yaeyama island nearby. Rituals are still held once a year to worship this mythical figure.[2]

In the 15th century, the island was incorporated into the Ryūkyū Kingdom.[3] By 1879, the island was formally annexed by imperial Japan.

Until the early 20th century, Yonaguni was part of the larger Yaeyama Magiri (village after 1907), which included the neighboring Yaeyama Islands. In 1948, it became an independent village. From 1945 to 1972, it was occupied by the United States and was then returned to Japan to form a part of Okinawa Prefecture.

On May 4, 1998, a part of the island was destroyed by a submarine earthquake.

NEC J/TPS-102 radar similar to that which will be operated by the mobile aircraft control & warning squadron

As a result of increased tensions between Japan, China, and Taiwan over the disputed sovereignty of the Japanese-controlled uninhabited Senkaku/Diaoyu/Tiaoyutai Islands which are located roughly 80 nautical miles north-northeast of Yonaguni Island, Japan began construction in 2014 of a coastal monitoring/early warning station with radar and other sensors on Yonaguni to counter a perceived threat from Chinese forces.[4][5] The initial planned complement of a 150 troops include personnel stationed at a physically separate garrison camp located on the outskirts of Yonaguni town.[6] The station's radar became active on March 28, 2016.[7] Separately, a joint (GSDF/ASDF) “mobile aircraft control & warning squadron" is planned to be formed and co-located at the station.

Mythical and cultural references

As the westernmost inhabited island of Japan, Yonaguni has also been constantly associated with the myth of the island of women (Nyōgo no Shima) since the Edo period. As suggested by the name, the island of woman is an island where there are only women born and living to support each other's lives. Being a trope frequently used in Edo literary works, it not only appears at the end of The Life of an Amorous Man (好色一代男 Kōshoku Ichidai Otoko, 1682), but also dominates the second part of the five-section Strange Tales of the Crescent Moon (椿説弓張月 Chinsetsu Yumiharizuki, 1807-1811). While the whole second part of the story is about the protagonist Tametomo's time spent on the island of woman, which is the westernmost island of Japan according to the tale, the map provided at the beginning of the third section clearly marks the island as 'Yonaguni,' assuming the association between the mythical women island and Yonaguni.[8]

During the Taisho period, the Yaeyama islands including Yonaguni gradually came to be explored by people traveling from the mainland Japan, as there were ships from Osaka to Yonaguni once a year[9] that introduced outsiders to the islands, who brought their knowledge about Yonaguni back to Japan through many ways such as writing.

Out of all these early records about Yonaguni, one of the earliest and most influential writings was An expedition to the Southern Islands (Nantō tanken) by Sasamori Gisuke. In Sasamori's research of Yonaguni, the island was signified by the women: "Women on the island have white skin, attentive and thoughtful. It takes only a few pennies for someone who enjoys accompaniment of beautiful women to have one of them in attendance during his stay provide drinks and serve him all night."[10] The statement was confirmed by a later published collection of essays. A folk culture scholar, Motoyama Keisen, asserts that "Yonaguni is the island of women," and continues to quote and agree with Sasamori's account of Yonaguni women, saying that "Surely this was true in 1893, when the author went on his expedition there."[11]

However, a counter-statement is found in a collection of some comical essays by a Taishō novelist and script writer, Murakami Namiroku, in his Collection of Satire Essays (Hiniku Bunshu), and gives a more detailed view of the circumstances of Yonaguni women. One of the essays is titled Yonaguni and focuses on the same topic, claiming that "once a man steps on the island, no matter how strong he is, the man would be attacked by women coming from all directions, and hardly ever there could be men who could safely withdraw from there." Furthermore, he describes Yonaguni as an island where although there are almost only women, for reproductive purposes there are also men as many as around one-tenth of the women.  Curiously, maybe because the weather here strange, there are only female newborns. Serving as reproductive tools for the women, men are rarely able to live long." Murakami expresses his worries as well at the end, as the women here are all naturally beautiful and potentially they would attract those driven by sexual desire to explore "the hidden paradise."[12]

Nevertheless, these introductory essays aiming to bring an exotic taste are less specific than a quite comprehensive travel log by Yanagita Kunio, who was inspired by Sasamori's work and finally did his own research, An Account of the South Sea (Kainan shōki), published in 1925. A long essay from the collection is titled and devoted to "Yonaguni Women." He provides a detailed written record of their customs and daily life, and writes about how they are busy farming, cooking, and taking care of the kids, with two photographs attached, wearing clothes not so much different from those in mainland Japan.[13]


Yonaguni Island ISS039
Yonaguni from space, April 2014

The island has an area of 28.88 km2 (11.15 sq mi), a population around 1700, an annual mean air temperature of 23.9 °C, and annual precipitation of 3000 mm.

Yonaguni, more specifically Cape Irizaki 24°26′58″N 122°56′01″E / 24.44944°N 122.93361°E at the western tip of the island, is the westernmost point of Japan. Taiwan is said to be visible from Irizaki on a clear day.

Notable features

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.

Yonaguni's densely forested areas provide a suitable habitat for the Ryukyu atlas moth (A. a. ryukyuensis).

Yonaguni is a popular attraction for divers because of the large numbers of hammerhead sharks that gather in the surrounding waters during winter.

Yonaguni agarizaki

Agarizaki Lighthouse, Yonaguni island

Irizaki WestmostPoint

Monument for Japan's westernmost point, Cape Irizaki


Sunset at Yonaguni, Ryukyu Islands. The last sunset in Japan.


Kubura Bari

Sonai from Tindabana 2019

Sonai from Tindabana

Yonaguni Monument

Yonaguni Monument Terraces midpart NWW
Yonaguni Monument, underwater rock formations

In 1986, local divers discovered a striking underwater rock formation off the southernmost point of the island. The formation, known popularly as the Yonaguni Monument, has staircase-like terraces with flat sides and sharp corners. Masaaki Kimura, a professor from Okinawa, believes it is an artificial (or artificially modified) structure, however, the majority of the academic society regard the rock formation as a natural geologic structure.[14]


Cape Irizaki is the westernmost point of Japan and the place to see the final sunset in Japan.


Cape Agarizaki is the easternmost cape of Yonaguni. Tourists come here to meet sunrise, see scenic view of the ocean at the 100 meter-high cape, a lighthouse and Yonaguni horses.

South-east coast

  • Gunkan-iwa is a rock formation near the shore that looks like a battleship
  • Tachigami-iwa (Tatigami-iwa) is a single big rock outstanding offshore
  • Sanninudai is a place with step-like slate rock terraces, and also is a viewing point for Gunkan-iwa
  • Jinmen-iwa is a big rock in the forest that resembles a human face
Gunkan-iwa Sanninudai Yonaguni

Warship rock (Gunkan-iwa)


Tachigami rock

Step-like rock formations at Sanninudai


Jinmen-iwa 人面岩



Yonaguni Airport serves Yonaguni island.


Yonaguni was the filming location for Fuji TV's drama series, Dr. Kotō Shinryōjo (Dr.コトー診療所 / Dr. Koto's Clinic), which aired between 2003-2006. A fictional Chinese naval incursion into Yonaguni's territorial waters and the ensuing military standoff was a plot point of the second season of House of Cards (S2E10).


Yonaguni has a tropical rainforest climate (Köppen climate classification Af). The average yearly temperature is 23.8 °C (74.8 °F), and the average monthly temperature ranges from 18.4 °C (65.1 °F) in January to 28.8 °C (83.8 °F) in July. September is the wettest month while July is the driest.

See also


  1. ^ Alexander Vovin (2010). Korea-Japonica: A Re-Evaluation of a Common Genetic Origin. University of Hawaii Press. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-8248-3278-0.
  2. ^ Tranter, Nicolas (2012). The languages of Japan and Korea. New York: Routledge. p. 412. ISBN 9781136446580.
  3. ^ Kerr, George H. (2000). Okinawa: the History of an Island People. (revised ed.) Boston: Tuttle Publishing.
  4. ^ Tiezzi, Shannon (18 April 2014). "Japan to Station Troops on Yonaguni, Near Disputed Islands". thediplomat.com. The Diplomat. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  5. ^ "Japan wary of China military threat." Archived June 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Al Jazeera, 17 December 2010.
  6. ^ "Yonaguni votes in favor of GSDF deployment on island". the-japan-news.com. The Yomiuri Shimbun. 23 February 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  7. ^ "Japan opens radar station close to disputed isles, drawing angry China response". reuters.com. Reuters News Service. 28 March 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  8. ^ Takizawa, Bakin (1958). Chinsetsu yumiharizuki, Vol 60 Nihon koten bungaku taikei (日本古典文学大系 60 椿説弓張月 上). Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten. p. 448.
  9. ^ Satō, Sōnosuke (1923). Eye of the Storm: A Collection of Poems on Ocean (Gufū no me kaiyō shishū 颶風の眼 海洋詩集). Tokyo: Arusu. p. 124.
  10. ^ Sasamori, Gisuke (1894). An expedition to the Southern Islands (Nantō tanken 南島探験). Self-pub.
  11. ^ Motoyama, Keisen (1925). A Taste of the Southern Islands (Nantō jōshu 南島情趣). Tokyo: Shūeikaku. p. 160.
  12. ^ Murakami, Namiroku (1919). A Collection of Satire Essays (Hiniku bunshu 皮肉文集). Tokyo: Kōyō. pp. 320–323.
  13. ^ Yanagita, Kunio (1925). An Account of the South Sea (Kainan shōki 海南小記). Tokyo: Sōgensha. pp. 179–201.
  14. ^ "Yonaguni, Japan". New Scientist (2736). 2009-11-25. Retrieved 2010-07-06.
  15. ^ "Yonagunijima Climate Normals 1981-2010" (in Japanese). Japan Meteorological Agency. Retrieved February 5, 2014.

External links

1966 Hualien earthquake

The 1966 Hualien earthquake occurred on March 13 at 00:31 local time of Taiwan. The epicenter was located in the offshore area between Yonaguni Island, Japan and Hualien, Taiwan.

The intensity in Yonaguni reached shindo 5. Two people were reported dead in Yonaguni, Japan, and four in Taiwan. Building damage was reported. A tsunami with a run-up height of 50 cm (20 in) was observed.This earthquake released a seismic moment of 4.86×1020 Nm. The magnitude of this earthquake was put at Ms 8.0, Mw 7.79, MJMA 7.8, or ML 7.8. This earthquake had a strike-slip faulting focal mechanism.

The fault plane solutions of this earthquake suggested that there is a sliver of crust off the east coast of Taiwan other than the Philippine Sea Plate. The map of shallow earthquakes shows that the Philippines are encircled by a zone of seismicity. There is a difference between the slip direction in the east coast of the Philippines and the relative motion between the Philippine Sea Plate and the Eurasian Plate. Together with other evidences, it has been suggested that most of the Philippines might belong to a minor plate other than the Eurasian Plate.

2009 Hualien earthquake

The 2009 Hualien earthquake occurred on December 19 at 21:02:14 (local time) with a moment magnitude of 6.4 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of VI (Strong). The oblique-slip event took place off the coast of Hualian, Taiwan. Strong shaking could be felt in Hualian City (Shindo 5 according to Central Weather Bureau) and Taipei (Shindo 4 according to Central Weather Bureau). The earthquake could also be felt in Hong Kong and Xiamen, China, and on several islands between Yonaguni and Tarama, Japan.

Agelasta yonaguni

Agelasta yonaguni is a species of beetle in the family Cerambycidae. It was described by Masao Hayashi in 1962. It is known from Japan.

Bumetopia sakishimana

Bumetopia sakishimana is a species of beetle in the family Cerambycidae. It was described by Hayashi in 1966.

Cape Irizaki

Cape Irizaki (西崎, Irizaki) is the western tip of Yonaguni Island and the westernmost point in Japan. The cape is within the town of Yonaguni, Okinawa.There is a lighthouse, an observation platform, and a monument titled "Monument of the Westernmost Point of Japan" (日本最西端の碑, Nihon Saiseitan no Ishibumi) on the cape. Tourists gather at the cape daily to see the final sunset in Japan.

Dr. Kotō Shinryōjo

Dr. Koto Shinryojo (Dr.コトー診療所, Dr. Kotō Shinryōjo, literally Dr. Koto's Clinic) is a manga series by Takatoshi Yamada that was serialized in Shogakukan's Weekly Young Sunday until the magazine's demise in 2008, at which point it moved to Big Comic Original.

In 2004, it won the Shogakukan Manga Award for general manga. The series was adapted as a live-action Japanese television drama series, titled in English as Dr. Coto's Clinic, which aired between 2003 and 2006 on Fuji Television. The drama series was filmed on the Japanese Archipelago island Yonaguni.

Japonic languages

The Japonic or Japanese–Ryukyuan language family includes the Japanese language, spoken in the main islands of Japan, and the Ryukyuan languages, spoken in the Ryukyu Islands. The family is universally accepted by linguists and significant progress has been made in reconstructing the proto-language. The reconstruction implies a split between all dialects of Japanese and all Ryukyuan varieties, probably before the 7th century. The Hachijō language spoken on the Izu Islands is also included, but its position within the family is unclear. There is also some fragmentary evidence suggesting that Japonic languages may once have been spoken in central and southern parts of the Korean peninsula.

Possible genetic relationships with many other language families have been proposed, most systematically with Korean, but none have been conclusively demonstrated.

Kaidā glyphs

Kaidā glyphs (Kaidā ji (カイダー字)) are a set of pictograms once used in the Yaeyama Islands of southwestern Japan. The word kaidā was taken from Yonaguni, and most studies on the pictographs focused on Yonaguni Island. However, there is evidence for their use in Yaeyama's other islands, most notably on Taketomi Island. They were used primarily for tax notices, thus were closely associated with the poll tax imposed on Yaeyama by Ryūkyū on Okinawa Island, which was in turn dominated by Satsuma Domain on Southern Kyushu.

Ryukyuan languages

The Ryukyuan languages (琉球語派, Ryūkyū-goha, also 琉球諸語, Ryūkyū-shogo or 島言葉, Shima kutuba, lit. Island Speech) are the indigenous languages of the Ryukyu Islands, the southernmost part of the Japanese archipelago. Along with the Japanese language, they make up the Japonic language family. The languages are not mutually intelligible with each other. It is not known how many speakers of these languages remain, but language shift towards the use of Standard Japanese and dialects like Okinawan Japanese has resulted in these languages becoming endangered; UNESCO labels four of the languages "definitely endangered" and two others "severely endangered".

Sakishima Islands

The Sakishima Islands (先島諸島, Sakishima-shotō) (or 先島群島, Sakishima-guntō) (Okinawan: Sachishima, Miyako: Saksїzїma, Yaeyama: Sakїzїma, Yonaguni: Satichima) are an archipelago located at the southernmost end of the Japanese Archipelago. They are part of the Ryukyu Islands and include the Miyako Islands and the Yaeyama Islands. The islands are administered as part of Okinawa Prefecture, Japan.

Southern Ryukyuan languages

The Southern Ryukyuan languages (南琉球語群, Minami Ryūkyū gogun) form one of two branches of the Ryukyuan languages. They are spoken on the Sakishima Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. The three languages are Miyako (on the Miyako Islands) and Yaeyama and Yonaguni (on the Yaeyama Islands, of the Macro-Yaeyama subgroup). The Macro-Yaeyaman languages have been identified as "critically endangered" by UNESCO and Miyako as "definitely endangered".All Ryukyuan languages are officially labeled as dialects of Japanese by the Japanese government despite mutual unintelligibility. While the majority of Ryukyuan languages have used Chinese or Japanese script for writing, the Yaeyama Islands never had a full-featured writing system. Islanders developed the Kaidā glyphs as a simple method to record family names, items, and numerals to aid in tax accounting. This system was used until the 19th century introduction of Japanese-language education. Even today, communication in the Yaeyama or Yonaguni languages is almost exclusively oral, and written communication is done in Japanese.

Taketomi, Okinawa

Taketomi (竹富町, Taketomi-chō, Yaeyama: Teedun, Okinawan: Dakidun) is a town located in Yaeyama District, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan.

The town includes all of the islands in the Yaeyama Islands excluding Ishigaki, Yonaguni, and the Senkaku Islands. This includes the islands of Iriomote, Taketomi, Kohama, Kuroshima, Hateruma, and Hatoma. Although Ishigaki is not part of the town of Taketomi, the town hall is located there.

As of October 2016, the town has an estimated population of 4,050 and the density of 12 persons per km2 (31/sq mi). The total area is 334.02 km2 (128.97 sq mi).

Yaeyama District, Okinawa

Yaeyama (八重山郡, Yaeyama-gun, Yaeyama: Yaima, Yonaguni: Daama, Okinawan: Yeema) is a district located in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. The district covers all of the Yaeyama Islands except Ishigaki and the disputed Senkaku Islands.

As of 2003, the district has an estimated population of 5,579 and the density of 15.37 persons per km². The total area is 362.89 square kilometers.

Yaeyama Islands

The Yaeyama Islands (八重山列島 Yaeyama-rettō, also 八重山諸島 Yaeyama-shotō, Yaeyama: Yaima, Yonaguni: Daama, Okinawan: Yeema) are an archipelago in the southwest of Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, and cover 591.46 square kilometres (228.36 sq mi). The islands are located southwest of the Miyako Islands, part of the Ryukyu Islands archipelago. The Yaeyama Islands are the remotest part of Japan from the main islands and contain Japan's most southern (Hateruma) and most western (Yonaguni) inhabited islands. The city of Ishigaki serves as the political, cultural, and economic center of the Yaeyama Islands.The Yaeyama Islands are home to numerous species of subtropical and tropical plants, and mangrove forests. The islands produce sugarcane and pineapples. Coral reefs around the islands are ideal habitats for dolphins, sea turtles, and larger fish such as manta rays and whale sharks. Before being wiped out by humans, whales and dugongs were common as well, and Yaeyama once had the largest population of dugongs in the Ryukyu Islands. On Aragusuku Island, there is a Utaki which specially enshrines hunted dugongs with their skulls, but non-residents are not permitted to enter unless they receive special permission from inhabitants, and it is said that any aliens without permission will be driven out by force.

Yonaguni, Okinawa

Yonaguni (与那国町, Yonaguni-chō, Yonaguni: Dunan, Yaeyama: Yunoon, Okinawan: Yunaguni) is a town located entirely on Yonaguni Island in Yaeyama District, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. It is the westernmost municipality in Japan, and is known for billfish fishing and as a diving spot. In 1987, divers discovered the Yonaguni Monument, a rock formation that some believe may be man-made.

It is also home to two Ryūkyūan writing systems, pictographic "kaida-di" (also used on Ishigaki and Taketomi islands where it is called "kaida-ji") and the symbols used to indicate family names, "dāhan" (also used on Ishigaki Island where they are called "yāban").

Yonaguni Airport

Yonaguni Airport (与那国空港, Yonaguni Kūkō), (IATA: OGN, ICAO: ROYN) is a third-class airport located in Yonaguni, Yaeyama District, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan.

Yonaguni Monument

The Yonaguni Monument (Japanese: 与那国島海底地形, Hepburn: Yonaguni-jima Kaitei Chikei, lit. "Yonaguni Island Submarine Topography"), also known as "Yonaguni (Island) Submarine Ruins" (与那国(島)海底遺跡, Yonaguni(-jima) Kaitei Iseki), is a submerged rock formation off the coast of Yonaguni, the southernmost of the Ryukyu Islands, in Japan. It lies approximately a hundred kilometres east of Taiwan.

Marine geologist Masaaki Kimura claims that the formations are man-made stepped monoliths. These claims have been described as pseudoarchaeological. Neither the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs nor the government of Okinawa Prefecture recognise the features as important cultural artifacts and neither government agency has carried out research or preservation work on the site.

Yonaguni horse

The Yonaguni or Yonaguni uma (与那国馬) is a critically-endangered Japanese breed of small horse. It is native to Yonaguni Island, in the Yaeyama Islands in south-western Japan, close to Taiwan. It is one of eight horse breeds native to Japan.

Yonaguni language

The Yonaguni language (与那国物言/ドゥナンムヌイ Dunan Munui) is a Southern Ryukyuan language spoken by around 400 people on the island of Yonaguni, in the Ryukyu Islands, the westernmost of the chain lying just east of Taiwan. It is most closely related to Yaeyama. Due to the Japanese policy on languages, the language is not recognized by the government, which instead calls it the Yonaguni dialect (与那国方言, Yonaguni hōgen). As classified by UNESCO, the Yonaguni language is the most endangered language in all of Japan.

Climate data for Yonaguni
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 20.5
Daily mean °C (°F) 18.4
Average low °C (°F) 16.4
Average precipitation mm (inches) 198.8
Average relative humidity (%) 74 77 78 79 81 83 80 81 79 75 74 72 78
Mean monthly sunshine hours 55.7 57.2 82.4 99.5 140.1 182.1 258.9 229.3 182.5 136.9 85.9 64.7 1,575.2
Source: JMA (1981-2010) [15]


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.