The Unsolved Mystery of ‘Japan’s Atlantis’

by Owen James Burke


Photo: Dr. Robert Schoch/Boston University.

In 1986, a diving instructor on Japan’s Yonaguni Island, the southwestern most of the Ryukyu Island island chain, made an astonishing discovery. A rock formation on the seafloor which he could only liken to Machu Picchu. “I felt a quiver down my spine,” Kihachiro Aratake recalled to explorer, marine biologist and BBC Television host Monty Halls.


Photo: Dr. Robert Schoch/Boston University.

The structure, with steps, crevices and what appears to be an 85-foot-tall pyramid, spans 400,000 square feet–about 10 acres, is the object of nearly 30 years of debate among marine archaeologists.

Marine geologist Masaaki Kimura, a professor at the University of the Ryukyus has spent 20 years, and completed over 100 dives to the site, has distinguished 10 structures off Yonaguni and another 5, similar, off Okinawa. “. . . it’s very difficult to explain away their origin as being purely natural,” he says, “because of the vast amount of evidence of man’s influence on the structures.”

Being that the formation lies within a highly active fault zone, some, like Boston University science professor Dr Robert M. Schoch, who led a 1997 expedition to Yonaguni, believes the structure is almost entirely a natural occurrence, as bedrock is known to break in clean lines along fault zones. Still, he agrees with others that the structure was likely used and altered by man and tool, some say perhaps as early as 2500 BCE.


Above: A formation commonly referred to as ‘The Turtle’ at Yonagumi. Photo: Masahiro Kaji.

Since this peculiar discovery off Yonagumi, many archaeologists have made it their life’s work to decipher the mystery, but it will perhaps go down as one more part of history for the ages.

Read more at, and watch Monty Halls’ special on “Japan’s Lost Atlantis” below. –OJB

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