The Yoron do not speak standard Japanese. Yoron homes might be Japanese style homes or Yoron thatched houses. Tourism is important, and they cater primarily to Japanese visitors. There is an airport on the island with daily flights from Kagoshima in Kyushu, Japan. In addition, there are daily ferries to and from the island. The ferries bring travelers and weekly supplies such as food and other products necessary for those on the island. There is a cultural center on the island called The Southern Cross Cultural Center. In addition there is a unique Yoron Culture museum to tour and see three different traditional housing structures and be introduced to the Yoron heritage and language.
The Yoron people live on an island near Okinawa in the Ryukyu Island chain south of Japan proper. It is within a Japanese national park of the Amani Island group. It is a popular tourist site. There are about six thousand people, including the 900 aboriginal Yoron peoples, who live on Yoron island. The majority of the residents are originally from the Japanese mainland and the surrounding islands.
Their religion differs from the Japanese; they blend in their own traditional Yoron belief and practice (a mix of Chinese and Japanese beliefs and practices) with Buddhism and Shintoism. There are three main Shinto shrines on the island. The Yuta (or as the people on Yoron Island call them, the "Yabu") are a people who practice spiritually animistic beliefs on many of the Ryukyu islands. They often visit Yoron and make offerings on a number of volcanic rock out-cropping sites all over the island.
As of September 2022, there has been one known Yoron person to come to know Jesus and be baptized. That individual is currently being discipled towards planting a church.
The Bible is available only in standard Japanese, not Yoron. While island life on Yoron is much more relaxed than city life anywhere on the mainland, the Yoron, like most Japanese, are still very committed to any industry they are involved in. So, availability can be an issue in gospel training. Many young people who grow up on the island, once they become young adults, seek to leave the island for a more prosperous life. Fewer and fewer young people today still learn or speak the Yoron ancestral language, although there is a push to preserve it as one man on the island is preparing a Japanese/Yoronese parallel dictionary. Ancestor worship is strong on the island although there are more and more family grave sites not being maintained due to cost, lack of family left to do so, or loss of interest in continuing the tradition. The Yuta worship and the Yoron version of Ryukyu Shinto-Buddhism are also great spiritual obstacles as these are deeply woven into the fabric of the Yoron culture. Prayerwalking is needed on the island due to these spiritual strongholds. Also, with the great effort being made to maintain the unique Yoron culture on the island, it is good to at least understand that the gospel could be seen as a negative influence seeking to further change a culture that is seeking preservation. That, however, does not negate the need of the gospel on this very spiritually dark island. It is worthy to note there is a Japanese-Christian syncretized "church" that wields some power on the island. It is called "The Spirit of Jesus Church." It preaches a mix of the love and concern Jesus has for everyone (thereby living in the spirit of Jesus) with ancestor worship and other Japanese/Chinese religious practices. This church has much influence on the island and it is said that in order to set-up and own a business on the island, any business owner/operator must first be baptized into this church, although attendance is not required.
Because standard Japanese is increasingly spoken, Bible distribution may be possible, as would the JESUS Film in the Japanese language. Audio Bibles are also a resource to be considered for use on the island. Developing unique worship songs using traditional island music found on the island might also be an area worth investigating. Fishing is also another area that could be used to access the island with the gospel message. Okinawan churches should adopt the Yoron and seek to start churches among them, as should the mission-minded at Okinawa Christian College. Indeed, the college may be able to offer English classes, using the Bible as a text. Christian tourists can also serve as catalysts of evangelism. Currently, there is an effort with one Okinawan church to reach out to Yoron Peoples. They have been trained to share the gospel and are beginning to make efforts to do so on the island. There are also tourism efforts going on to access the island for prayerwalks and population engagement with the gospel. Whatever is done, as this is a Japanese island, it will need to be done through appropriate channels. As tourism is an important part of Yoron Island's industry, going through the tourism office and, more importantly, going through known relationships on the island will have the greatest impact on the island.
Pray that other Okinawa churches would adopt the Yoron for evangelism and church planting and that the one who has begun to engage the Yoron Peoples will be faithful to share Jesus' love on the island. Pray for the Lord to touch their hearts and minds.
Pray that the Yoron would be receptive to the gospel; that they would become spiritually hungry and seek God. Pray for visions and dreams of Christ among the Yoron. Pray this would be a decade of spiritual harvest for this people group, leading to abundant life.
Pray that, like Gideon being from the least family within the least tribe of Benjamin, God would move in the hearts of those on Yoron Island to come to know Jesus and a great revival and awakening wave will start there and spill over to engulf surrounding islands as well as the Japanese mainland with God's glory, love and gospel message.
Scripture Prayers for the Yoron in Japan.
|Profile Source: Joshua Project
|People Name General
|People Name in Country
|Population this Country
|Population all Countries
|Frontier People Group
|1 (per PeopleGroups.org)
|Pioneer Workers Needed
|National Bible Society
|Location in Country
|Kagoshima Prefecture, north central Okinawa, Yoron island. Source: Ethnologue 2016