Yonaguni Jima is an island that lies near the southern tip of Japan’s Ryukyu archipelago, about 75 miles off the eastern coast of Taiwan. It is a popular place to dive as it is home to a large population of hammerhead sharks during the winter. During a dive in 1987, Dive Tour operator Kihachiro Aratake found a series of strange rock formations on the seabed, which resembled man-made buildings. He reported his find, and a group of scientists directed by Masaaki Kimura of the University of the Ryukyus began surveying the area. What they found was a series of ten structures, which resemble a castle, temples and a huge stadium. All of these structures are connected by roads and water lines. Kimura described the most spectacular find as “The largest structure (Yonaguni monument) looks like a complicated, monolithic, stepped pyramid that rises from a depth of 25 meters [82 feet]”.
However, this discovery has not been without controversy. Kimura is convinced this is the remnants of man-made stepped monoliths belonging to a 5,000 year old city. However, other scientists including Robert Schoch of Boston University, believe these are natural formations, which were at most possibly used and modified by humans. Kimura’s argument is the square corners and flat parallel faces of the buildings indicate human creation. Schloch and others believe these are the result of sea currents and natural erosion. Kimaura also points to what he believes are drawings of people and animals, including that of a horse which resembles a character from the Kaida script. He has also found what he believes are quarry marks. Unfortunately, we have no other evidence around the stone structures of Yonaguni. “Pottery and wood do not last on the bottom of the ocean, but we are interested in further research on a relief at the site that is apparently painted and resembles a cow,” Kimura said.
Kimura believes that the city sank into the ocean during one of the huge seismic events that are common in the Pacific Rim. A tsunami struck Yonaguni Jima in April 1771 with an estimated height of more than 131 feet. A similar occurrence would have been enough to send the city to the ocean floor. Kimura and others believe this is the ruins of the ancient continent of Mu, which in legend disappeared beneath the waves. However, evidence of the existence of Mu past rumors and myth is hard to come by. First suggested in the works of Augustus Le Plongeon in the 19th century, and further popularized by the works of James Churchward. Most scientists dismiss the existence of Mu due to lack of evidence.
Other scientists dispute Kimura’s evidence for human creation of Yonaguni as natural phenomena. Notably, Robert Schoch, suggests the holes in the rock, which Kimura believes were quarry marks, were made by underwater eddies. He also believes what Kimura calls drawings are natural scratches in the rock. There are human settlements on the nearby coast which have been dated to 2500 BCE. However, these were small communities, and archaeologist Richard J. Person has said, “They are not likely to have had extra energy for building stone monuments.”
In recent years, Yonaguni has been the focus of alternative historians and has even been featured on the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens. (Side note: If you have not seen this show, go now as the main guy’s hair is worth the price of admission. It’s the best unintentional comedy out there.)
Without further study and additional evidence, we cannot definitively say what these structures are. However, at this time neither the Japanese government’s Agency for Cultural Affairs nor the government of Okinawa Prefecture recognize the remains off Yonaguni as an important cultural property, said agency spokesperson Emiko Ishida.
Sources available on request