The Mystery at YONAGUNI: Is there a 10,000 year old pyramid and city underwater at Yonaguni?

One of the greatest mysteries in Japan is the origin and nature of underwater stone structures lying underwater off Yonaguni Island.

Japanese marine biologist Masaaki Kimura has identified ten structures off Yonaguni and a further five related structures off the main island of Okinawa.The structures include the ruins of a castle, a triumphal arch, five temples, and at least one large stadium, all of which are connected by roads and water channels and are partly shielded by what could be huge retaining walls.  In total the ruins cover an area spanning 984 feet by 492 feet (300 meters by 150 meters). Also found were a triangular bath-pool structure, two post-holes, structure similar to a dance platform  inscription, castle entrance gate, ditches, staircases, a turtle-shaped relief rock, terraces and a rock inscription that appears to belong to the ancient Kaida script that was a writing system in use in the Yaeyama Islands and on Yonaguni Island before the introduction of the nation’s education system in Japan.

According to Kimura, the ruins date back to at least 5,000 years, based on the dates of stalactites found inside underwater caves that he says sank with the city.

The article below has more details. You can also watch ABC Australia’s documentary link here  or History Channel’s video clips on Yonaguni’s underwater structures go to Youtube in English, or for more comprehensive video footages of the underwater structures watch “the mystery of Japan’s mysterious pyramids” documentary in English:

Or watch a documentary “the mystery of Yonaguni underwater structure” in Japanese below…

Watch Part 2 (in Japanese) here (or in French here).

Japan‘s Ancient Underwater “Pyramid” Mystifies Scholars

September 19, 2007

Submerged stone structures lying just below the waters off Yonaguni Jima are actually the ruins of a Japanese Atlantis—an ancient city sunk by an earthquake about 2,000 years ago.

Enlarged Photo

That’s the belief of Masaaki Kimura, a marine geologist at the University of the Ryukyus in Japan who has been diving at the site to measure and map its formations for more than 15 years.

Each time he returns to the dive boat, Kimura said, he is more convinced than ever that below him rest the remains of a 5,000-year-old city.

“The largest structure looks like a complicated, monolithic, stepped pyramid that rises from a depth of 25 meters [82 feet],” said Kimura, who presented his latest theories about the site at a scientific conference in June.

But like other stories of sunken cities, Kimura’s claims have attracted controversy.

“I’m not convinced that any of the major features or structures are manmade steps or terraces, but that they’re all natural,” said Robert Schoch, a professor of science and mathematics at Boston University who has dived at the site.

“It’s basic geology and classic stratigraphy for sandstones, which tend to break along planes and give you these very straight edges, particularly in an area with lots of faults and tectonic activity.”

And 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.

Neither of the government groups has carried out research or preservation work on the sites, she added, instead leaving any such efforts to professors and other interested individuals.

Ruins Point

Yonaguni Jima is an island that lies near the southern tip of Japan’s Ryukyu archipelago, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) off the eastern coast of Taiwan (see map).

A local diver first noticed the Yonaguni formations in 1986, after which a promontory on the island was unofficially renamed Iseki Hanto, or Ruins Point.

The district of Yonaguni officially owns the formations, and tourists and researchers can freely dive at the site.

Some experts believe that the structures could be all that’s left of Mu, a fabled Pacific civilization rumored to have vanished beneath the waves.

On hearing about the find, Kimura said, his initial impression was that the formations could be natural. But he changed his mind after his first dive.

“I think it’s very difficult to explain away their origin as being purely natural, because of the vast amount of evidence of man’s influence on the structures,” he said.

For example, Kimura said, he has identified quarry marks in the stone, rudimentary characters etched onto carved faces, and rocks sculpted into the likenesses of animals.

“The characters and animal monuments in the water, which I have been able to partially recover in my laboratory, suggest the culture comes from the Asian continent,” he said.

“One example I have described as an underwater sphinx resembles a Chinese or ancient Okinawan king.”

(See pictures of the “Japanese Atlantis” formations.)

Whoever created the city, most of it apparently sank in one of the huge seismic events that this part of the Pacific Rim is famous for, Kimura said.

The world’s largest recorded tsunami struck Yonaguni Jima in April 1771 with an estimated height of more than 131 feet (40 meters), he noted, so such a fate might also have befallen the ancient civilization.

Kimura said he has identified ten structures off Yonaguni and a further five related structures off the main island of Okinawa. In total the ruins cover an area spanning 984 feet by 492 feet (300 meters by 150 meters).

The structures include the ruins of a castle, a triumphal arch, five temples, and at least one large stadium, all of which are connected by roads and water channels and are partly shielded by what could be huge retaining walls.

Kimura believes the ruins date back to at least 5,000 years, based on the dates of stalactites found inside underwater caves that he says sank with the city.

And structures similar to the ruins sitting on the nearby coast have yielded charcoal dated to 1,600 years ago—a possible indication of ancient human inhabitants, Kimura added.

But more direct evidence of human involvement with the site has been harder to come by.

“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.

“We want to determine the makeup of the paint. I would also like to carry out subsurface research.”

Natural Forces

Toru Ouchi, an associate professor of seismology at Kobe University, supports Kimura’s hypothesis.

Ouchi said that he has never seen tectonic activity having such an effect on a landscape either above or below the water.

“I’ve dived there as well and touched the pyramid,” he said. “What Professor Kimura says is not exaggerated at all. It’s easy to tell that those relics were not caused by earthquakes.”

Boston University‘s Schoch, meanwhile, is just as certain that the Yonaguni formations are natural.

He suggests that holes in the rock, which Kimura believes were used to support posts, were merely created by underwater eddies scouring at depressions.

Lines of smaller holes were formed by marine creatures exploiting a seam in the rock, he said.

“The first time I dived there, I knew it was not artificial,” Schoch said. “It’s not as regular as many people claim, and the right angles and symmetry don’t add up in many places.”

He emphasizes that he is not accusing anyone of deliberately falsifying evidence.

But many of the photos tend to give a perfect view of the site, making the lines look as regular as possible, he said.

Schoch also says he has seen what Kimura believes to be renderings of animals and human faces at the site.

“Professor Kimura says he has seen some kind of writing or images, but they are just scratches on a rock that are natural,” he said.

“He interprets them as being manmade, but I don’t know where he’s coming from.”

But Kimura is undeterred by critics, adding that the new governor of Okinawa Prefecture and officials from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization have recently expressed interest in verifying the site.

“The best way to get a definitive answer about their origins is to keep going back and collecting more evidence,” he continued.

“If I’d not had a chance to see these structures for myself, I might be skeptical as well.”

Julian Ryall in Tokyo

for National Geographic News


Read more on related topic:

Yonaguni Monument — natural wonder, or man-made mystery?

Underwater Pyramid of Japan Jan 22, 2009 (Unsolved Mysteries of the World website)

Yonaguni monument: The lost kingdom of Mu

Yaeyama Cultural Museum on Taketomi “Kaida writing was used throughout the Yaeyama islands but most notibly on Yonaguni and Taketomi. The script consists of pictographs, numerals, and measure words and was primarily used to record tax payments and personal transactions between the residents of the islands”

Tajima AGenetic origins of the Ainu inferred from combined DNA analyses of maternal and paternal lineagesJ Hum Genet. 2004;49(4):187-93. Epub 2004 Mar 2.

Matsukusa H. et al., A genetic analysis of the Sakishima islanders reveals no relationship with Taiwan aborigines but shared ancestry with Ainu and main-island JapaneseAm J Phys Anthropol. 2010 Jun;142(2):211-23.Excerpt from the abstract:  Our phylogenetic analysis of maternal (mtDNA) and paternal (Y chromosome) lineages shows that the Sakishima islanders are more closely related to people from the Japanese archipelago than to Taiwan aborigines. Miyako islanders and the Hokkaido Ainu have the first and second highest frequencies (respectively) of the Y-chromosomal Alu-insertion polymorphism, which is a presumable Jomon marker. Genetic diversity statistics show no evidence of demographic reduction or of extreme isolation in each island’s population. Thus, we conclude that 1) Neolithic expansion from Taiwan did not contribute to the gene pool of modern Sakishima islanders, 2) male-lineage of the Ryukyu islanders likely shares a common ancestor with the Hokkaido Ainu who are presumably direct descendants of the Jomon people, and 3) frequent reciprocal gene flow among islands has masked the trace of common ancestry in the Ryukyu island chain.

11 responses to “The Mystery at YONAGUNI: Is there a 10,000 year old pyramid and city underwater at Yonaguni?

  1. This is a gold mine for information and a look back in history, so why is it that the Japan goverment as not built a dyke around it and begun taking the water out of the site to further the knowledge????

  2. Agreed with Will , It could be very useful

  3. You will find that this city is 15.000 years old in the end. Trust me you will see……Not Japanees, A very different culture you will find…J

    • It is certainly not far-fetched, given that we now know that the earliest of the megalithic cultures go back to 12,000 B.C. Gobekli Tepe for example, which has such advanced stone carving techniques and workmanship that tells us the prototype culture must have been even earlier. We also know that most of the genetic haplogroups of the Japanese lineages are calculated to have originated between 20,000-40,000 years ago and archaeology shows the earliest arrivals to be around the 30,000 – 40,000 years BP range. They may not be “Japanese” in the sense that the identity of belonging to the Japanese state must at least coincide with the first states of Japan – i.e. probably the Kofun period (anyway everyone outside of Africa comes from “somewhere”. There has been some incised writing found around the site, it looked a lot like the Vinca script to me, but this is only my guesswork. I should like to see a lot more archaeological work done on the site as well… but these are very bad times for archaeology given the economic slump, the lack of funding and the thousands of excavation sites yet to be explored in Japan. The Diet parliamentary members have recently been questioning whether it is really necessary to excavate or to preserve SO MANY heritage sites in Japan … you’ll get the drift.

  4. They found malay weapon called keris inside yonaguni pyramid

      • I think you are referring to the news article excerpted below. The kris, or keris find by the way, was not found on the Yonaguni undersea monument(which is supposedly from prehistoric times since it would have been inhabited pre-inundation of the coastline), but on land on the Enkakuji Temple grounds and near the 15th c. Shurijo Castle. It is therefore a likely medieval trade item, unconnected to the prehistoric undersea monument.

        Surprising find at Okinawa temple The Star Online, Thursday, June 26, 2003

        An ancient blade of a keris found recently at the royal Enkakuji Temple grounds near the 15th century Shurijo Castle might unravel the ties the Malay world had with these southwestern islands of Japan.

        As the war-ravaged Enkakuji Temple was being restored, construction workers stumbled upon a protruding porcelain pot handle at a spot where offerings were made to the gods.

        The ensuing archaeological dig unearthed nine other items, including the wavy blade of a keris, foreign to this part of the world …

        Historians believe the keris could be from either Malacca or Java as Okinawa and the its surrounding islands under the old Kingdom of Ryukyus had diplomatic and trade ties with ancient cities and ports in Asia, including Malacca, before it became a part of Japan in 1879.

        The blade measuring 22.1cm from the tip to hilt was found without the handle and sheath, as the wooden parts had been destroyed.

        According to the Okinawa Prefecture Archaeological Centre officials the blade was found buried along with other items, including a clay plate with carvings of a dragon shaped boat, a glazed pot, a gold-plated door hinge and a metal door skirting.

        The castle restoration work started in 1989 and the Shurijo Park was opened to public in 1992 while restoration work at the temple is still ongoing.

        Prof Dr Kurayoshi Takara a historian from the University of The Ryukyus said the discovery had not been publicised much and is unknown to people outside Okinawa and Japan.

        He believes the discovery of the blade of a keris would spark international interest among historians and archaeologists to determine its origin.

        [?] personally believe it could have been from Malacca because the Ryukyus Kingdom had started trading with Malacca in the 15th century, said Prof Takara, who has been to Malaysia and Malacca to carry out research on the ancient ties the Kingdom of Ryukyus had with Southeast Asian kingdoms.

        From historical records, Prof Takara said, the Ryukyus had started trading with Siam (Thailand), between 1425 and 1570, Malacca (1463-1511), Patani (Southern Thailand) (1490-1543) and several other areas in Indonesia (Palembang, Java and Sumatra) and Cambodia.

        Records also indicate Ryukyuan junks went to Malacca every year for 49 years and carried out trade with local merchants, Arabs and Indians.

        they would bring gold, silver, copper, tin, and Chinese ceramic from mainland Japan and China and trade them for ivory and wine, he said, adding that there were also correspondence between the rulers of Malacca and Ryuyukus.

        Malacca was also known for its high quality wine (believed to be nipah wine), but later years Ryukyuans started buying it from Thailand when Malacca stopped making it.

        Okinawa now has its own rice wine known as awamori and there are about 40 factories producing them.

        Prof Takara said the Japan-Asean Exchange Year 2003 is the best opportunity to get students in Asean countries and Japan to carry out research work in understanding the different cultures and history.

        He said the printing on fabric, locally known as bingata, is similar to batik printing in Malaysia and Indonesia, but no records had been discovered to show bingata originated from Southeast Asia.

        A visit to a rice wine factory located at the foothill of the Shurijo Park revealed that drinking awamori has become an Okinawa tradition.

        A awamori factory owner Takeshi Sakumoto said the consumption of the beverage had become part of local culture, with people buying and storing away a bottle or jug of awamori every time a child was born and drink it when the child reached adulthood at 21.

  5. Has anyone ever considered the remote possibility that many Native American tribes perhaps fled from Yonaguni to the Americas as it sunk in a deluge. The ancient Maya, South American Brazilian tribes, Chilean Aracaunian tribes and many other tribal nations referenced their origins as having fled a region of islands that became submerged due to volcanic activity and tsunamis.

    It also has been noted that many, many Indigenous Americans have been identified as having Jomon/Ainu DNA.

    So, is the Yonaguni region the mythological homeland that many Indigenous Americans refer to?

  6. These “ruins” are seen as an Atlantis to some. But to others who look at the geological formations, it is just another geological anomaly. If you look at the surrounding geology of the land it matches to the angular formation that is submerged. The rocks of this group are also criss-crossed by numerous sets of parallel, vertically oriented joints in the rock. These joints are natural, parallel fractures by which the rectangular formations seen in the monument likely formed. Yonaguni lies in an earthquake-prone region; such earthquakes tend to fracture the rocks in a regular manner. Geology is a cool thing, thus anything that looks man made may not be. Take Giant’s Causeway for example, the hexagon stone structures may look like they were carved by man but a intense volcanic activity created the honeycomb columns. Thus there is an explanation for this “monument” looking formation which is in fact just geological processes at work.

  7. Robert Benton Whitford

    Are there any doors or passages that provide access inside the structures?

  8. Peter Britton

    Is there any ancient maps showing underwater structure in Japan when above the sea? Like the one showing cost line of Arctica before the ice covered it? Please try & find a answer Thank you.

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