Underwater Ruins in the Japanese Islands
Sapphire blue waters lick at white sand beaches, beckoning divers to explore their sparkling depths. Below the surface, an underwater wonderland awaits, populated by brilliantly colored tropical fish in every color of the rainbow.
Yet the sea conceals other mysteries in the shape of long-submerged pyramid-like ruins stretching more than 300 miles from Okinawa to the southernmost reaches of the Japanese islands.
A Ruin to Remember
The largest and most well-preserved structure sprawls 240 feet long and 90 feet across off the eastern coast of Yonaguni Jima on the southern end of the islands. Towering 45 feet high from the ocean floor, the pyramid-like monolith is submerged 82 feet below the water’s surface.
Strong currents keep its walls free from accumulation of coral, and no damage is apparent other than a few leaning walls. The ruin resembles other granite sandstone structures of Japan, including burial structures near Noro and Nakagusuku Castle on Okinawa.
Free for All
The ruins are owned by the district of Yonaguni, which allows researchers and recreational divers to visit the site at no charge. The water ranges in temperature from 72 to 86 degrees — depending upon the time of year — and provides crystal-clear visibility.
Hammerhead sharks congregate in the area from January through March, swimming in schools that can exceed 100 individuals. Swift current in the area can be dangerous for divers. Smaller, less distinct ruins are found under as little as 20 feet of water off the shores of the Aguni and Kerama islands lying between Yonaguni and Okinawa.
Road to Ruin
Yonaguni lies far off the beaten track more than 300 miles from Okinawa. You can access the ruins by booking a domestic flight from Okinawa or Ishigaki to Yonaguni. Tours of the Aguni and Kerama islands leave directly from Okinawa.
Modern accommodations and car rentals are available on the island, although you’l need an international driver’s license and should feel comfortable driving on the left side of the road. Family-run accommodations on Yonaguni are modest, but transportation to Ruin Point is traditionally provided by your host.
Ruin Your Vacation
Book an all-inclusive diving vacation to Yonaguni Island in January or February when hammerhead viewing is at its peak. Reef Encounters provides English-speaking guides and packages ranging from 3 to 6 nights with up to 17 dives at the ruins and a selection from 70 other dive sites surrounding Yonaguni.
Tour participants may have an opportunity to dive with Kihachiro Aratake, the sport diver who discovered the ruins in 1987. The company also offers introductory dives around the Aguni and Kerama islands, as well as weekly certification classes for both beginning and advanced divers.
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