WHEN TO GO
As the most northerly islands of Okinawa, Yoron-to has a subtropical climate. This means hot and humid summers with maximums above 32ºC and minimums around 27, winters with maximum temperatures around 20ºC and minimums around 15 and possibility of precipitation greater than 25% throughout the year, although with more intensity during the spring months. The best time to visit is therefore autumn, since the temperatures are optimal, the rain is less frequent than in spring and receives fewer tourists. The worst moment would be the summer months, because of the suffocating heat and humidity, combined to Japanese holidays, although the worst week about this is, as in all Japan, the Golden Week.
HOW TO GET THERE
Although it is closer to Okinawa, and both the climate and the surroundings make us relate them, Yoron belongs to Amami Islands, being the southernmost of them, in the south area of Kyushu. Its development is much lower than that of its neighbor Okinawa Island or the rest of its northern sisters, which has allowed to maintain it, if we can not say virgin, we can qualify its environment as rural and pristine.
Airport. The tiny airport in Yoron only receives expensive flights from:
- The nearby islands:
- Naha, 1 daily, from ¥ 12,000 one way.
- Amami Oshima, 1 daily, from ¥ 15,000 one way.
- Okinoerabu, 3 per week, from ¥ 9,000 one way.
- and Kagoshima, 1 daily, from ¥ 18,000 one way.
Ferry. The slowest but usual transport, since it is much cheaper. For non-Japanese tourists and also for many Japanese, the most frequent, and what I did, is to visit Yoron as one of the intermediate stops on the Naha-Kagoshima route. There are two companies, A-Line Ferry and Marix Line, that leave every other day, so, from one company or the other, there is one a day in each direction:
- Sets sail in north direction, to the other Amami Islands and Kagoshima: 12:10.
- Sails south, to Naha: 14:00.
The price for the entire journey is the same in both: from ¥ 21,000 in second class (passenger, without car, it is a common room without beds, you sleep on a carpeted tatami). The price goes up approximately ¥ 2,000 a year; to me, at the beginning of 2013 it cost ¥ 14,700. The official websites of both shipping companies are in Japanese and are very unintuitive even using an automatic translator. Obviously, if we only buy the trip from Naha, Amami Oshima or Kagoshima, it would be cheaper, but we will have to leave the island by plane.
Even in high season they do not fill up, so it is recommended to go to the port and buy the ticket in the office one or two days before, although I personally went an hour before sailing from Naha and there was plenty of room, and note that all passengers had been trapped on Okinawa Island for at least 5 days due to bad weather.
Round shaped and just 5 km in diameter, we could walk to any part of the island, but unless we stayed in Chabana, the main town, it would be a bit inconvenient to carry our luggage. Fortunately, there is public transport, a bus that runs clockwise and another that circulates in the opposite direction:
- To the south, buses leave from Chabana at 8:32, 11:32, 14:32, 16:02 and 18:32.
- To the north, at 7:32, 9:32, 10:32, 13:02 and 17:42.
I think I remember that a single ticket cost 170 ¥.
But the best thing without a doubt, is to travel the island by bike or scooter rental. For both the scooter and the car, as in all of Japan, we will need the international driving license. There are two motor vehicle rental companies, both in Chabana, Nankoku motors (南国 モ ー タ ー ス tel 97.2141) and Yoron Rent-a-car (ヨ ロ ン レ ン タ カ ー tel 97.3633). Bicycles can be rented in any accommodation, they cost between 2,000 and 3,000 ¥ for a full day.
WHERE TO EAT AND SLEEP
Virtually all the accommodation and restaurants are in Chabana. There are some Ryokans and Izakayas.
I stayed at the privileged Oganeku Beach campsite, a wonderful beach. Price per night:
- Tent: 500 ¥.
- Mushroom-shaped minibungalows, located on a pole (for 2 people): 800 ¥. I used my tent and I regretted, in these mushroom bungalows I would have slept great, while with the night wind in the tent I did not sleep well at all.
- Cabins (there are 6): 5,000 ¥, for up to 4 people.
When I went, the campsite office was attended, but if you want to use a bungalow or cabin, you should ask at Chabana Information Office before going there, since it is often unattended and this office has the keys.
Yoron is a bucolic and tranquil haven on earth, but it can present two drawbacks:
- We may can not get there or leave when we want. Climatic conditions in this area of the East China Sea can cause neither airplanes nor ferries to leave. This is something I know very well, since I had to prolong my stay in Okinawa for 5 days because the sea was so rough that ferries did not set sail until after that time. Despite the rough sea, it did not rain, so I had a terrible time, suffering a lot: all day on the beach, eating shabu-shabu and having dinner at Naha’s Dojo Bar, although I had a worse time when I realized that If I had decided to leave a couple of days before, I would have been stuck for 5 days in Yoron.
- Foreign tourism has not arrived. I am more than certain that during my stay I was the only gaijin on the island. Here nobody speaks a word in English nor any another language.