Yonaguni is the westernmost inhabited island of Japan and part of the Yaeyama Islands, just 67 miles off the coast of Taiwan.
The sea waters around it are densely inhabited by hammerhead sharks and, over the years, have become a popular diving location
It was during a deep dive in 1986, in search of a good spot to observe the sharks, that the director of the Yonaguni-Cho Tourism Association, Kihachiro Aratake, found something strange.
In the seabed, he saw formations that strongly resemble architectural structures.
Since then, multiple geologists from Japan and around the world have gone on expeditions to the monument and studied it.
Was it created by the forces of the earth and the ocean? Or is it a relic of an ancient city?
Scientists still argue.
Theory I: Ancient city
The very first scientist who investigated the Yonaguni monument after its discovery was Masaaki Kimura. His conclusion was that the structure is man-made.
The human touch
There are many elements in the Yonaguni monument that make it very difficult and counter-intuitive to not see the human touch in its creation.
The monument itself consists of several colossal structures, all within the space of 45,000 sq meters.
One of these structures is a pyramid, with a clearly defined staircase and terraces.
There is a formation that resembles ruins of a palatial building that could have been a castle. Other formations include what appear to be remnants of temples, a stadium, and a triumphal arch.
Most notably, all of these formations are connected — by what looks very much like roads and water channels.
There appear to be sculpted images resembling animals, as well as quarry marks — often described as “drawings” — on the stones.
The biggest and most fascinating structures are the gigantic stepped terraces. It is difficult to ignore their sharp edges, clear cut corners, and perfect right angles.
Supporters of the theory that the structure is a natural phenomenon insist that such sandstone formations are very common and natural.
However, there is no precedent anywhere else on Earth where such structures are formed in such high concentration and such close proximity to each other.
Formations that occur naturally tend to have loose blocks in their flat areas. There are no loose blocks in the Yonaguni monument.
So if this theory is correct, what civilization could the Yonaguni monument be a remnant of?
Initially, Masaaki Kimura estimated the age of the monolith to be around 10,000 years. If the estimation is correct, then the monument will share a singular characteristic with other phenomena: the cave known as the Great Blue Hole in Belize, the Bering Land Bridge between Siberia and Alaska, and Doggerland connecting the British Islands with Europe.
10,000 years ago they were all land masses above sea level. That point in history was at the very tail-end of the last Ice Age when the freezing temperatures had shrunk oceans. Soon, however, the ice melted and engulfed them all.
According to Kimura’s initial calculation, the same happened to the Yonaguni monument. It was a structure built above water and, with the end of the Ice Age, it was completely submerged.
This estimation added fuel to the theory of the lost continent Mu — another name for the mythical lost civilization of Atlantis.
The lost Yamatai
Kimura later provided an alternate estimation for the age of the Yonaguni monument. He dated it to 2,000–3,000 years ago and suggested that it was built above water but severe tectonic activity — Japan’s relentless earthquakes — submerged it underwater.
This gave birth to a second theory: that the monument is a remnant of Yamatai.
Yamatai-koku was an ancient country that existed during 300 BC and is well documented in Japanese and Chinese texts.
However, its exact location is still debated by historians.
Kimura’s latest findings, if accurate, could be pointing at Yamatai.
Or, he could be completely wrong. Most geologists, in fact, believe he’s wrong.
Theory II: Natural formation
The supporters of the natural formation theory are quick to point out two things:
- Sandstone formations with clear geometrical shapes are common.
- The Yonaguni monument exists in an area with extremely high seismological activity.
The combination of these two factors explains, many geologists believe, the high concentration of such geometrically symmetrical shapes within such a small space.
They also dismiss the “drawings” as scratches that naturally occur in rocks underwater.
And the roads are, they say, channels that also naturally occur in rocks underwater.
Finally, what undeniably looks like walls, geologists explain as “natural horizontal platforms” that fall into a vertical position when the rock below them erodes.
It’s difficult to look at images of the Yonaguni monument and not picture some kind of intention behind, not feel a certain presence.
Until scientists reach a consensus we will not know for sure what secrets the Yonaguni monument holds.
But even if the majority of geologists prove to be right and this incredible structure was formed just by the movement of the sea and the tectonic plates, we are left with an interesting lesson.
Maybe the way human beings have built their civilizations for thousands of years has been in an unconscious harmony with the billion-year-old movement of the Earth and the oceans.