See The Haunting Remains Of 13 Sunken Cities From Around The World

Published August 2, 2011
Updated April 22, 2024

Yonaguni-Jima, A.K.A. ‘Japan’s Atlantis’

Yonaguni Jima Terraces

Wikimedia CommonsThe terraces of the Yonaguni Monument, seen from the south of the formation.

Beneath the ocean waves off the coast of Yonaguni, the southernmost of Japan’s Ryukyu Islands, rest the remains of a massive ancient structure that stand out against the typical backdrop of the ocean floor. Though at first glance, it looks like a giant mound, upon closer inspection, the stepped tiers of its structure seem to be an intricately carged monument similar to those found in Mesoamerican regions.

Today, this is known as Yonaguni-Jima, though some choose to call it “Japan’s Atlantis.”

According to National Geographic, the ruins were rumored to have been the remains of a 5,000-year-old city, wiped out by storms and rising ocean tides and then lost to history.

In the center of its ruins is a massive pyramid that once rose 82 feet above the ground. It is a seemingly complex structure, with divers saying it contains what look like the remnants of old staircases, hallways, and carved stones — and a great building resembling those built in the Inca civilization on the other side of the world.

But if this truly was once an ancient civilization, nobody knows what it was. Any traces of it have seemingly been lost to time, and even the nature of its existence is up for debate. In fact, some experts, such as the geologist Robert Schoch, argue that Yonaguni-Jima was not a city at all.

“The ‘Yonaguni Monument,’ as I refer to this structure, superficially has the appearance of a platform-like or partial step-pyramid-like structure,” Schoch wrote. “…It is an asymmetrical structure with what appear to be titanic stone steps exposed on its southern face. These steps range from less than half a meter to several meters in height. When viewing photographs of the Yonaguni Monument many people immediately have the impression, due to the regularity of the stone faces of the steps and the sharp angles made by the rock, that this is an artificial structure.”

Schoch visited the structure himself during dives in the late 1990s, and in his experience wrote that he does not believe Yonaguni-Jima was a manmade structure. Rather, he believed that the structure was the result, entirely, of natural erosion.

When it comes to Yonaguni-Jima, it’s hard to say anything for sure. But to many, those perfectly-shaped steps could only be the remains of a sunken pyramid built by a great civilization, buried under the sea thousands of years ago.

Mark Oliver
Mark Oliver is a writer and teacher, and father whose work has appeared on The Onion's StarWipe, Yahoo, and Cracked.
Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
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Oliver, Mark. "See The Haunting Remains Of 13 Sunken Cities From Around The World.", August 2, 2011, Accessed May 18, 2024.