| Fiction over fact|
|How it didn't happen|
| The woo is out there|
|Aliens did it...|
|... and ran away|
|—Ufologist Teymur Kasamanli, on the Yonaguni Monument|
The Yonaguni Monument is a rock formation off the southeast coast of the Japanese island of Yonaguni (approximately 110 km east of Taiwan), part of the Ryukyu Islands chain. The rock formation was discovered in 1987 by scuba divers of the island's local tourist board, who then informed Professor Masaaki Kimura of the University of the Ryukyus' marine geology department of their discovery. Kimura is one of the university's most respected marine geologists, who unfortunately also has a penchant for pseudoarchaeology which he displayed in his studies of the site.
In Japanese, the formation is either known as the "Yonaguni Island Submarine Landform" (与那国島海底地形 Yonaguni-jima Kaitei Chikei) or the "Yonaguni Island Submarine Ruins" (与那国島海底遺跡 Yonaguni-jima Kaitei Iseki), depending on whether or not you're talking to a proper scientist or a crank, respectively.
After the rock formations were discovered by tourist group divers looking for good places to dive with hammerhead sharks, the information was relayed to Masaaki Kimura, a marine geologist at the University of the Ryukyus. Dr. Kimura deduced that the formations must be an example of megalithic architecture that is completely unknown to the rest of the Ryukyu Islands chain. Neither the Japanese government's Agency for Cultural Affairs nor the local Okinawa Prefectural government recognize Yonaguni's structures as important cultural artifacts nor do they fund or carry out research or preservation work at the site.
More sane scientists such as geologists Robert Schoch of Boston University and Patrick D. Nunn of the University of the South Pacific and archaeologists John Anthony West and Richard J. Pearson have all variously come to the conclusion that the stone formations off the coast of Yonaguni are natural formations. Schoch identified similar structures on the northern coast of Yonaguni and noted that the carvings Kimura claims to have identified are natural erosion. In particular, he noted:
“”[The sandstones that make up the Yonaguni formation] contain numerous well-defined, parallel bedding planes along which the layers easily separate. The rocks of this group are also criss-crossed by numerous sets of parallel and vertical (relative to the horizontal bedding planes of the rocks) joints and fractures. Yonaguni lies in an earthquake-prone region; such earthquakes tend to fracture the rocks in a regular manner."
Nunn noted that the natural cliffs above the monument were identical to the formations under the sea surface. Pearson noted that the amount of work allegedly put into the site if it was man-made would also be completely out of the range of technical or physical capability of the small community that lived on Yonaguni Island in either of Kimura's age estimates at 10 thousand or 3 thousand years BP. Schoch and West understood that the so-called "walls" identified by Kimura are simply the result of sandstone strata being shifted about due to seismic activity in the region.
The claims of artificially-made stone structures extend throughout the world. A similar formation had previously been discovered in 1968 off of North Bimini in the Bahamas. Here, a series of large stones were thought to have been set down as some sort of wall or pier that has been named "Bimini Road". Geologists identified the formation as being made of a type of naturally forming limestone/sandstone called beachrock which fractures in a way that appears to be large paving stones. That hasn't stopped pseudoarchaeologists from believing it's proof of Atlantis since.
Ancient aliens/Atlantis/Mu crankery
|—ufologist Teymur Kasamanli|
Kimura's research on the formation and his insistence on its man made origins have led to his hypotheses being promoted by the usual suspects. Kimura believes he can identify a pyramid, castles, roads, monuments and a stadium. Kimura has also surmised that the site may be a remnant of the mythical lost continent of Mu.
The Yonaguni Monument has been featured in a number of notoriously cranky "documentary shows", including in the History Channel series Ancient Aliens (in an episode called "Japan's Atlantis") and History's Mysteries (in an episode called "Japan's Mysterious Pyramids"), both of which allude powerfully to connections to mythical continents such as Atlantis and Mu, alongside the expected ancient astronaut ufology. The crank community sees the location as the prime location to conduct ufology and/or Atlantis "research", and indeed as proof of visitation.
Believers in paranormal or extraterrestrial origins for the site, such as noted crank pseudoarcheologist Graham Hancock, argue that while many of the features seen at Yonaguni are also seen in natural sandstone formations throughout the world, the concentration of so many peculiar formations in such a small area is highly unlikely. They also point to the relative absence of loose blocks on the flat areas of the formation, which would be expected if they were formed solely by natural erosion and fracturing. Robert Schoch has noted that the rocks are swept with strong currents.
- "Deep Secrets". New Scientist. Vol. 204, Issue 2736. 28 November, 2009. P. 41.
- "Yonaguni Enigmatic Underwater Monuments" (Robert M. Schoch, 1999)
- Ryall, Julian. "Japan's Ancient Underwater "Pyramid" Mystifies Scholars." National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 19 Sept. 2009
- [http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/09/photogalleries/japan-pictures/ "National Geographic News Photo Gallery: Asian "Atlantis" Shows Strange Structure"
- Nunn, Patrick D. (2009). Vanished Islands and Hidden Continents of the Pacific. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-8248-3219-3.
- New Scientist: "Yonaguni, Japan", Issue 2736 (2009-11-25) (archived version - archived on 2009-11-28, accessed on 2012-10-14)
- "Diving for Lemuria" by John Anthony West (1998)
- Masaaki Kimura's "Mu tairiku wa Ryukyu ni atta (The Continent of Mu was in Ryukyu)", published by Tokuma Shoten, Tokyo, 1991 (in japanese)
- History Channel: Japan's Mysterious Pyramids (originally aired on 2000-12-11)