The Lost Continent of Mu – Lemuria – Underwater Ruins in Japan
Three vertical holes run in alignment along the Basin’s straight edge.
Japan’s Underwater Ruins In March 1995, a sport diver unintentionally strayed beyond the standard safety parimeter near the south shore of Okinawa. A battleground for the last land campaign of World War II, the island was about to become the scene of another kind of drama. As he glided through unvisited depths some forty feet beneath the clear blue Pacific, the diver was suddenly confronted by what appeared to be a great stone building heavily encrusted with coral. Approaching closer, he could see that the colossal structure was black and gaunt, a sunken arrangement of monolithic blocks, their original configuration obscured by the organic accretion of time.
Next day, photographs of his find appeared in Japan’s largest newspapers. Already there were whispers of the lost culture of Mu, preserved in legend as the Motherland of Civilization which perished in the sea long before the beginning of recorded time.
The structure looked anciently manmade. Nature, however, sometimes made her own forms appear artificial. Popular and scientific debate concerning its origins argued back and forth. Then, in late summer of the following year, another diver in Okinawa waters was shocked to see a massive arch or gateway of huge stone blocks beautifully fitted together in the manner of prehistoric masonry found among the Inca cities on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, in the Andes Mountains of South America. This time there was no doubt. Thanks to swift currents in the area, coral had been unable to gain any foothold on the structure, leaving it unobscured in the 100-foot visibility of the crystal-clear waters. It was certainly manmade and very old.
It seemed nothing short of miraculous, an unbelievable vision standing in apparently unruined condition on the ocean floor.
But its discovery was only the first of that summer’s undersea revelations. Now fired by the possibility of more sunken structures in the area, teams of expert divers fanned out from the south coast of Okinawa using standard grid-search patterns. Their professional efforts were soon rewarded. Before the onset of autumn, they found five sub surface archaeological sites near three offshore islands. The locations vary at depths from 100 to only 20 feet, but are all stylistically linked, despite the great variety of their architectural details. They comprise paved streets and crossroads, huge altar-like formations, grand staircases leading to broad plazas and processional ways surmounted by pairs of towering features resembling pylons.
The sunken buildings are known to cover the ocean bottom (although not continuously) from the small island of Yonaguni in the southwest to Okinawa and its neighboring islands, Kerama and Aguni, some 311 miles. If, after all, ongoing exploration here does indeed reveal more structures linking Yonaguni with Okinawa, the individual sites may be separate components of a huge city lying at the bottom of the Pacific. The single largest structure so far discovered lies near the eastern shore of Yonaguni at 100 feet down. It is approximately 240 feet long, 90 feet across and 45 feet high.
View of the internal right-angle of the Basin.
All the monuments appear to have been built from a granitic sandstone, although no internal passages or chambers have been found. To a degree, the underwater structures resemble ancient buildings on Okinawa itself, such as Nakagusuku Castle. Its builders and the culture it originally expressed are unknown, although the precinct is still regarded with a superstitious awe by local Okinawans.
Terraces and steps: perspectives of the south face of the main monument, Yonaguni.
Other parallels with Okinawa’s oldest sacred buildings are found near Noro, where burial vaults designed in the same rectilinear style are still venerated as repositories for the islanders’ ancestral dead. Very remarkably, the Okinawan term for these vaults is moai, the same word Polynesians of Easter Island, more than 6,000 miles away, used to describe the famous, large-headed, long-eared statues dedicated to their ancestors!
Possible connections far across the Pacific may be more than philological. Some of the sunken features bear even closer comparison to heiau found in the distant Hawaiian Islands. These are linear temples of long stone ramparts leading to great staircases surmounted by broad plazas, where wooden shrines and carved idols were placed. Many heiau still exist and continue to be venerated by native Hawaiians. In terms of construction, the Okinawan examples comprise enormous, single blocks, while the heiau are made up of far more numerous, smaller stones. They were first built, according to Hawaiian tradition, by the Menehune, a red-haired race of master masons who occupied the islands long before the arrival of the Polynesians. The original inhabitants left, unwilling to intermarry with the newcomers.
Okinawa’s drowned structures find possible counterparts at the eastern limits of the Pacific Ocean, along Peruvian coasts. The most striking similarities occur at ancient Pachacamac, a sprawling religious city a few miles south of the modern capital at Lima. Although functioning into Inca times, as late as the sixteenth century, it pre-dated the Incas by at least 1,500 years and was the seat of South America’s foremost oracle.
Pilgrims visited Pachacamac from all over the Tiawantisuyu, the Inca Empire, until it was sacked and desecrated by the Spaniards under Francisco Pizarro’s high-spirited brother, Hernando, with 22 heavily armed conquistadors. Enough of the sun-dried, mud-brick city remains, with its sweeping staircases and broad plazas, to suggest parallels with the sunken buildings around Okinawa.
Two other pre-Inca sites in the north, just outside Trujillo, likewise share some leading elements in common with the overseas, undersea structures. The so-called Temple of the Sun is a terraced pyramid built 2,000 years ago by a people known as the Moche. More than 100 feet high and 684 feet long, the irregularly stepped platform of unfired adobe bricks was formerly the colossal centerpiece of a city sheltering 30,000 inhabitants. Its resemblance to the structure found at Yonaguni is remarkable.
On the other side of the Pacific, the first emperor of Japan was remembered as Jimmu, whose immediate descendant was Kamu, among the legendary founders of Japanese society. Another ancestral emperor was Temmu, who was said to have committed to memory the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters) and the Nihongi (Chronicles of Japan).
In northern Japan runs a river deemed sacred because it carried the first semi-divine beings into the country; it is called the Mu River. In Japanese, the word mu means, that which does not exist or no longer exists, just as it does in Korean. Does it harken back to a land that no longer exists? In ancient Rome, the Lemuria was a ritual conduced by the head of each household to properly appease the spirits of the deceased, who returned annually. Lemuria was also the Roman name for a huge island kingdom they believed once lay in the Far Eastern Sea, sometimes imagined to have been the Indian Ocean. It vanished to become the abode of troubled souls. The Lemurian ceremony was instituted by Romulus in expiation for the murder of Remus. Here, too, we encounter mu in relation to the founding of a civilization, since the brothers were accepted as the progenitors of Rome. In Latin, their names are pronounced with the accent on the second syllable: RoMUlus and ReMUs. In the early nineteenth century, when English biologists were in the process of mammal classification, they applied the ancient term, lemur, to describe primitive tree primates first found in Madagascar, because the creatures possessed large, glaring eyes, just like the ghostly lemures described in Roman myth.
When lemurs were discovered outside Africa, in such widely separated locations as south India and Malaya, scientists theorized that a continent in the Indian Ocean may have once connected all these lands before it sank beneath the waves.
The right eye of the Face with diver for scale.
Oceanographers have since established that no such continent ever existed. But collectors of oral traditions throughout the island peoples of the Pacific were perplexed by recurring themes of a vanished motherland from which ancestral culture-bearers arrived to re-plant society’s seeds. On Kaua’i, the Hawaiians told of the Mu (also known as the Menehune mentioned earlier) who arrived in the dim past from a floating island.
The most important ancestral chant known to the Hawaiians was the Kumulipo, which recounts a terrific flood that destroyed the world long ago. Its concluding lines evoke some natural catastrophe in the deep past: Born the roaring, advancing and receding of waves, the rumbling sound, the earthquake. The sea rages, rises over the beach, rises to the inhabited places, rises gradually up over the land. Ended is the line of the first chief of the dim past dwelling in cold uplands. Dead is the current sweeping in from the navel of the earth. That was a warrior wave. Many who came vanished, lost in the passing night. The survivor who escaped the warrior wave was Kuamu. Despite an abundance of folk traditions spanning the Pacific, all describing a sunken homeland, the first accurate, sonar-generated maps of the ocean bottom revealed nothing resembling a lost continent.
Archaeological enigmas supporting the myths still exist at such remote locations as tiny Malden Island, where a road of paved stones leads directly into and under the sea. The uninhabited island is also home to forty platform-pyramids. A provocative architectural theme linking South America to Japan through Polynesia and suggesting a lost intermediary culture is the sacred gate.
Turtle figure carved into the top of the eastern side of the main monument.