Yonaguni: Japan’s Atlantis

Yonaguni Japan Travel Guide

City of Yonaguni Japan

The small island of Yonaguni is one of the most popular diving destinations in all of Japan. Not many people are familiar with this island because it is located quite a distance away from the main islands of Japan. However, it is a hidden treasure in its own right. Recent years and modern technology significantly increased the tourism in the island and more and more people from different parts of the world are encouraged to enjoy a nice dive in its tropical beaches.

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Yonaguni Japan Map

The Yonaguni Island is an archipelago located in the southernmost region of Japan. The Yonaguni island is a part of a small archipelago known as the Yaeyama Islands. The Yaeyama Islands is a part of a larger collection of archipelagos known as the Ryukyu Islands. It falls under the Okinawa prefecture of the Kyushu Region. It is probably one of the points of Japan which are farthest from the mainlands. To travel to this place, a person will need to ride a plane from the mainland’s airports.

This particular island is located in the southernmost region of the Japanese properties. It is nearer the mainland of Taiwan than the main islands of Japan. It is a part of what is known to be the Yaeyama Islands, which is a group of scattered small islands sandwiched by the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean and located nearest Taiwan. This group of islands is a part of a larger collection of Islands known as the Ryukyu Islands which is consisted of several larger groups of islands. This includes the Ishigaki Islands of Okinawa.

 The Yonaguni island is a small piece of land with only a total land area of about 28.88 square kilometers and it is densely populated with more than 1700 inhabitants.

Yonaguni Japan Weather

Since it is located in the southernmost region of Japan, it is nearest the equator. This makes the temperature in the Yonaguni Island to be rainforest tropical. This means that the temperatures are higher than normal and they rarely experience snow. The average daily temperatures would be 16.4 deg C during the winter season and 26.2 deg C during the summer season. The air is also very humid because of its island condition and they experience moderate to heavy rainfall a number of times in a year.

By Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA-Johnson Space Center. "The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth." (NASA Photo ID : ISS039-E-12291) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A lot of Japanese locals enjoy visiting Yonaguni for its pristine beaches and deliciously warm weather that will make anyone feel like it is always summer. However, the temperature could dip as well during the winter season but not enough to create snowfall. The view of the coast looks wonderful with the summer sun sparkling in the water.

Yonaguni Japan History

Since the known Japanese Islands of Ryukyu is located a significant distance away from Japan, there had been a number of disputes regarding its sovereignty. This is especially true for the Yaeyama Islands because it is only 108 km from Taiwan and more than a thousand kilometers from Japan – a fact and truth the Chinese had continuously questioned.

During the ancient times, there are historical records that point evidence to the fact that the Yaeyama island belonged to the Ryukyu Kingdom of China. In the 1400s, it was a state of the Ming dynasty until in the 1800s, it became a vassal state of the Japanese Empire. It is said that it was in 1590 when the Japanese empire invaded Ryukyu as a stepping stone to invading Korea.

It became under the sovereignty of the Japanese until the Second World War when the US granted the island's independence from Japan’s sovereignty. The Americans occupied the island until the early 1970s until it was returned to Japan.

Up until today, China remains aggressive in fighting for the sovereignty of the islands to the pointed that Islands like Senkaku, Diaoyu, and Tiaoyutai (of the Yaeyama group of Islands) are uninhabited despite being under the control of the Japanese. This is out of fear that the Chinese will invade the islands and cause harm to its inhabitants.

Yonaguni Japan’s Underwater Ruins: The Mystery

Yonaguni Japan the Underwater Monument

One of the most interesting tourist destinations in Yonaguni is the Yonaguni sunken formations. A lot of people say that these are stone monuments which may be manmade. On the other hand, there are still disputes up until today as to whether or not the Yonaguni monument is a natural formation or it is manmade.

This was discovered in 1986 when divers in the area noticed some rectangular chunks of varied elevations. It immediately became national news and even attracted researchers from different parts of the world. Some people say that these are natural formations and it is common to see rectangular changed variations in the ground. This is especially true when the area in question experiences strike-slip type of earthquakes. Through the decades, there had been continuous disputes about the truth behind the Yonaguni Underwater Site.

Yonaguni Structure in Japan

It is believed that the find was like Atlantis of Japan – the ruins are the remnants of the Pacific Civilization of Mu that lived in the islands thousands of years ago. There are historical records that the area has experienced a lot of earthquakes in the past thousand years, this could be one of the reasons for the continuing increase in the elevation of water. There is even a record that the Yonaguni Island experienced a strong tsunami I 1771 whose height is roughly 40 meters. With the extent of the tsunami, it is possible that a majority of the city sank. Soon, the inhabitants left their land for somewhere else.

Some evidence that suggests that the area is man made is the fact that many of the “formations” are shaped like marine animals. This may be a clear indication that there is human intervention in these structures. There are also stair-like formations in the area and there are some places where there are holes – a clue on how some of the rocks are fitted together.

By Vincent Lou from Shanghai, China (DSC02821) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The entire place features a whole Citadel looking formation complete with remnants and ruins of what looked like walls which are about five to ten meters tall. According to a professor of the University of the Ryukyus, Masaaki Kimura, he believes that there is other evidence that shows a human civilization in the area. They have discovered charcoal which dates back to more than a thousand years old.

The Pyramids of Yonaguni

What intrigues archaeologists and scientists the most is the fact that there is a wonder on how large-scaled pyramids are found in the bottom of the ocean. If these are natural formations, then it would be too eerie to find a perfectly shaped step-pyramid. Any scientist would be able to tell that these are relics instead of natural stone formations.

Now, it is just a matter of tracing back through history and finding written evidence that a civilization as intelligent as this was located in the Yonaguni Island. Mu was the lost continent that was conceptualized by a 19th-century traveler named Augustus Le Plongeon. He said that there are a number of ancient civilizations which had very similar characteristics, cultures, and beliefs. He claims that these people who started these civilizations are migrants from the same continent he calls Mu.

On the other hand, there are a number of theories that point to the fact that there is no factual basis on the conceptualization of Mu and the reality behind it has been continuously debated through the centuries. This is on top of the fact that he cannot even point where Mu could have been located. Since the largest empty space in the Earth is in between the Pacific Ocean, he believes that this was Mu used to be.

It is only under the suggestion of Professor Kimura that claims that the so-called ruins at the bottom of the ocean near Yonaguni match the description of Le Plongeon. It was only through the professor’s beliefs that people start exploring the possibility that the continent of Mu did exist.

The Island Life of Yonaguni: Yonaguni Site Japan

Yonaguni Japan Diving

These islands off Okinawa are popular winter destinations for a number of foreign and local travelers. This is due to the fact that it does not snow in this region. For those who wish to enjoy a warmer climate for the Christmas and New Year Holidays, this is the best place to go.

Yonaguni is particularly famous for diving during the winter season. This is due to the fact that there are widespread migrations of marine species that travel from cooler waters to warmer waters. This is the time when a great population of hammerhead sharks travels southward from the cold water temperatures of the north. With the Ryukyu Islands being home to multiple coral reefs and fish habitats, it is a common route for feeding hammerheads.

Other than the hammerhead sharks migrating during the winter, a lot of people enjoy diving in Yonaguni because of the impressive rock formations and artificial monuments located underneath the water.

Yonaguni Rock Formation Japan: The Tachigami Rock

The Tachigami rock directly translates to the Standing God Rock. Because of its outstanding size and shape, a lot of people believe that these kinds of rock formations have been made by gods. This is also why it is usually considered as a sacred object. The Yonaguni Rock formation is one that is most outstanding. It is located a certain distance from the mouth of the bay. It has an elongated shape which makes it look like a literal standing rock.

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According to scientists, these kinds of rocks may have been formed from larger formations and have been shaped and sized by the waves through time. The standing rock formation is an evidence of the power of nature and time – a wondrous piece of art which took thousands of years to form.

Nama Hama Beach

The Nama Hama beach is one of the most popular beaches in the Yonaguni Island. This I because of the beautiful white sand and the clear blue water. There are rock formations and cliffs surrounding the beach which completes the scenic view. On top of this, the water is calm and the currents are not that strong.

What is special about this place is that there is a lighthouse quite near Nama Hama beach and it is a popular tourist destination. People can ride boats to visit other beaches, they can go snorkeling or diving. There are even options of riding a horse through the water.

Kubura Bari

This place is one of the high peaks in Yonaguni Island.  A lot of travelers frequent this spot to watch the sunrise and the sunset. It is said that this is the last place in Japan that would be seeing a sunset, which is why sunset viewing in this place is quite popular. On top of that, they also enjoy going to this spot for some whale watching during their yearly migration. There is a legend going around the island that an infamous gorge took the lives of many.

During the Ryukyu Dynasty, there was a rule that pregnant women must leap the gorge as a way of proving that only the strongest mothers survive. With the gorge’s size and depth, it is sure that not many of those who attempt will survive. On the other hand, it is claimed to be only a folklore or a legend.

Urano Tombs

This place is a traditional cemetery or grave site, the graves here date back to as early as the 1400s when the island was still under the Ryukyu Kingdom Rule. What makes the tombs special is the fact that they all face the same direction – towards the ocean.


This place is the highest point on the island and it is believed that viewers who go to the top will get to see Taiwan from a distance. A lot of people enjoy hiking up to this point to enjoy the sunset and the sunrise. It also gives an impressive view of the town below.