Yurigahma is a magical wisp of a place that emerges from the ocean and disappears before your very eyes. The sandbar changes shape and location as the tides vary and is unreachable except for a brief time once every month throughout the year. The magic penetrates its very core as the star-shaped grains of sand are said to bring luck to its visitors.
The phantasmal sandbar is located in Kagoshima prefecture, 1.5 meters away from Yoron island’s balmy beach of Ooganeku. Yoron island, or Yoronjima, is a tropical island part of the Amami Islands sprinkled between mainland Japan and Okinawa. Barely 21 km in circumference, the island is surrounded by magnificent coral reefs in the plumbing depths of the surrounding sea. There’s a strong influence of Okinawan culture, and the local population is only 6,000 strong. The island has a very chill vibe and visitors can luxuriate on the stretches of gleaming white sandy beaches, explore the clear waters by boat, swimming or snorkeling, or chill with locals and participate in the drinking game of Yoron Kenpo, which happens to be a popular way to welcome visitors.
There are flights to Yoron island from both Kagoshima city on the mainland of Japan as well as from Naha in Okinawa. Ferries leave from Kagoshima for the Okinawan shore and stop at each of the Amami Islands along their way, including Yoron island. However, Yoron is closer to Okinawa than Kagoshima and is three hours away from the Motobu port in the Okinawan district of Kunigami. There are limited bus services on the island, so the most convenient way of getting is around is by either rental car or taxi. You can also rent a moped or bicycle to explore the island. Besides the many beaches, Yoron island also has the Akasaki limestone cave, which was naturally hollowed out with the movement of water.
In order to visit the ephemeral sandbar, it’s best to take a taxi to Ooganeku beach as parking may be a problem. Once on the beach, there are small boats waiting to take visitors to Yurigahama. The emergence of Yurigahama is capricious to season, wind and water, materializing best between April and October, so it’s better to look up its appearance forecast beforehand. Spring and summer are the best seasons to catch the shape-shifting beach that rises out of the water. It’s barely accessible during the day in the winter time as the low tides that enable the appearance of the Yurigahama occur only at night. While waiting for the fleeting moment, visitors can wait on the warm sandy beach of Ooganeku, where you can snorkel, go for boat rides or laze in the sun and take in the windswept skies and glittering waters of the ocean.
Yurigahama appears like a minuscule island floating serenely as the low tides roll back to reveal its sandy surface. The sand itself has distinct star-shaped grains and is called “Hoshi no suna”. It is said if a visitor collects a number of sand grains that equal their age, they will receive good fortune. As the sandbar is reachable only for a few hours of low tide and many people try to catch it, don’t expect to drop a towel there and start sunbathing for the rest of the day. Instead, embrace the ephemeral and hunt for stars in the sand.