Photo:Melkov on Wikimedia Commons

Yonaguni – The Japanese Atlantis in Okinawa

There are numerous mysteries around the globe, and of course, one of the most famous mysteries is the Myth of Atlantis. According to the works of the Athenian philosopher Plato, it was an island populated with a highly-developed society with a clear superior concept of a state. It eventually fell out of the ancient Gods favor and famously submerged into the Atlantic Ocean. This amazing and curious story has a Japanese counterpart in Okinawa: The Yonaguni Monument.

The Yonaguni Monument (与那国島海底地形), also known as Yonaguni Island Submarine Ruins (与那国島海底遺跡) is a submerged rock formation off the coast of Yonaguni Island, below Arakawaban Cliffs, in the southern most of the Ryukyu Islands. The ruins were discovered in 1987 by a group of scientists while looking for a location to observe and study hammerhead sharks.

Photo by Paul Richter on Wikimedia Commons.

For tourism, the spot is also a popular diving location during winter months, in the sea of Yonaguni. Kihachiro Aratake, director of the Yonaguni-cho Tourism Association, noticed a group of singular seabed formations resembling architectonic structures and the location became of general interest and objects of further academic visits and studies.

Photo by jpatokal on Wikimedia Commons.

The origin of this formation is unknown. Some specialists and scientists believed the site is completely natural. Others claim that the formations are man-made stepped monoliths, while others affirm that it is a natural site modified or a man-made artifact. 

The Yonaguni Monument consists of medium and very fine sand stones and mud stones of the “Lower Miocene Yaeyama Group”, which are believed to have been deposited about 20 million years ago. Most of the formations are connected to the underlying rock mass. There is a main feature, the one known as “The Monument” properly. It consists in a rectangular formation measuring about 150 by 40 meters and 27 meters tall. The top is about 5 meters below the level of the sea. The formation has several peculiar and interesting details. There are 2 closely spaced pillars which rise to within about 2.5 meters of the surface. It also has a 5 meters wide ledge that encircles the base of the formation on 2 sides. There is also a stone column about 7 meters tall, a straight wall 10 meters long, and an isolated boulder resting on a low platform. There is also a low, star-shaped platform, a triangular depression with 2 large holes at its edge and, finally, an L-shaped rock.

Photo by Melkov on Wikimedia Commons.

To support the idea of a natural formation, those who have studied it, have observed that the sand stones that make up the Yonaguni formation are common rocks in the area. The parallels, walls and even marks on the rocks would be easily explained by its proximity to an earthquake-prone region. When earthquakes occur, they tend to fracture the rocks in a regular manner and that would explain the walls, parallel lines and natural scratches on the rocks. Therefore, the drawings, walls, roads and entire formation would be the consequence or result of natural horizontal platforms which fell into a vertical position when rocks below them eroded, creating also channels in the rocks and scratches. An entirely natural formation common in the region.

Photo by Vincent Lou from Shanghai, China on Wikimedia Commons.

There are, however, other ideas and theories supported by groups of scientists who have also studied the formation. According to them, its rocks and materials would be around 10,000 years old, dating it to a period when the monument would have been above water. Therefore, it could have been a natural structure modified or even created by the human hand. This theory would reinforce the speculation that states, due to its location, that Yonaguni would have been part of the mythical lost continent of Mu.

This name refers to a mystical land that would have been submerged by a catastrophe somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. The story resembles the mythical land of Thule and the tragic legend of the Atlantis. According to this theory, the construction would have been modified about 10 millenniums ago. That fact would make this land, together with Stonehenge and the Sanctuary of Göbekli Tepe, one of the oldest architectonic structures known ever. Much-more ancient than the first Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Indian and Chinese edifications.

Which one do you believe? Myth or reality, the truth is that this unique spot in Japanese geography is, without any doubt, an adventure and great opportunity to enjoy a wonderful and unforgettable trip to the heart of the Asian seas.  

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