Japon: early migration to the archipelago

Researchers to test theory of ancient mariners in a straw boat

Akemi Kanda

Source http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201602100044?

Japon 8A straw boat researchers used in August 2014 in waters Yonagunijima island in Okinawa Prefecture (Provided by the National Museum of Nature and Science)

Researchers trying to figure out early migration to the Japanese archipelago are building a primitive straw boat to test their theory of a sea-borne route.

A team of anthropologists and adventurers will embark on the first phase of a sea voyage this summer between outlying islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

The National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo's Taito Ward announced on Feb. 9 that the team will navigate the 75-kilometer stretch between Yonagunijima island and Iriomotejima island.

With total project costs for this year and the next estimated at around 50 million yen ($435,000), the team began an online fund-raising campaign the same day.

Descendants of modern humans born in Africa 200,000 years ago are believed to have reached the Japanese archipelago 38,000 years ago.

Japon2 3The Asahi Shimbun

There were three possible routes, according to Yosuke Kaifu, a museum researcher with expertise in biological anthropology who heads the team.

One is the Tsushima route to Kyushu from the Korean Peninsula by way of Tsushima island in Nagasaki Prefecture; the second is a northward journey to Okinawa via the Nansei islands between Taiwan and the main island of Kyushu, after reaching Taiwan; and the third route is the Hokkaido route through which humans migrated from the northern part of the Eurasian Continent to Hokkaido via the Sakhalin islands.

Experts believe that the so-called Okinawa route, which covers a vast distance and appears to be far more difficult than the two other routes, was traveled about 30,000 years ago.

The voyage between Yonagunijima and Iriomotejima is expected to take about 25 hours, according to the team.

The expedition team is set to take on the more difficult task of sailing between Taiwan and Yonagunijima. The route is longer than the Yonaguniima to Iriomotejima leg, and more hazardous due to the Japan Current.