Select a primary language to get the most out of our Journal pages:
English 日本語 Español Português

We have made a lot of improvements to our Journal section pages. Please send your feedback to!

Chris You Were Late! - Part 4

>> Read Part 3

The orthodox scientific view is that all Native Americans, Abenaqui to Zoque, descend from the Mongoloid people who, about 16,500 years ago, crossed from Siberia to Alaska through Beringia land bridge that later became the Bering Strait. In time, they became the Clovis people and, like all other human groups, at certain points of progress they developed their own cultural nuances. Any similarities with cultures of the Old World are developmental coincidences—convergences. Anything else is pure speculation. Got it?

At Texas Christian University—whose slogan is Learning to Change the World—Modern Languages teacher, Dr. H. Mike Xu, had been studying the Olmec script.1 He concluded that most of its 146 characters resembled Chinese ideograms from the Shang Dynasty (17-1100 BC).2 Other similarities between Olmec and Chinese—rituals; motifs; tools; body language—also surprised him. After going several times to China to consult Chinese scientists, he sat down and wrote about his findings. Academic orthodoxy became furious, and Xu was sacked. He went to court and won reinstatement, but had to sit at his campus office, thumbs dwindling, forbidden to ever teach again. Fortunately, Central Oklahoma University gained him.

An article in a business newspaper in Henan, China (9-3-2009) stated that Professor Gao Kai of Zhengzhou University’s Institute of History, judged the Olmec/Shang connection as sensible evidence.3 Based on realistic findings such as DNA characteristics of current Native Americans, other distinguished Chinese scientists have also concurred.

There are those who oppose the trans-Pacific theory, claiming that under primitive navigational conditions, the trip was impossible; and that there is no history about Japanese wrecks in the Pacific that might support the idea. Perhaps from Jomon to Azuchi-Momoyama nobody cared to keep records of wreckages. During the Edo period, silence about unauthorized ventures was, literally, the very best option to survive, upon returning to Japan after a wreck.

In 1872, the New York Times featured the earliest article about a Japanese junk rescued near Point Conception, California, in 1815. Better documented is Jatsutaro’s report on the fishing ship Eiji Maru. Together with Maekawa Bunzo, and Sakae Junzo, Jatsutaro left Hyogo, in October 1841. Victim of a storm, the boat wandered around the Pacific until March, 1842. A Spanish vessel found the wreck and brought the trio to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Later, they returned to Japan, and were welcomed by the Shogunate!4

In 1876, former Japanese Consul in San Francisco, Charles W. Brooks presented to the California Academy of Sciences a report on sixty wrecks, all Japanese vessels, some of which made it to the American coast. It included the story of Joseph Heco, the first Japanese to obtain American citizenship.5

In his captivating book FLOTSAMETRICS and the Floating World, Curtis Ebbesmeyer cites the Hawaiian story about a 1260 AD Japanese wreck, carried by the Pacific currents, first close to America, and then taken to Hawaii. Ebbesmeyer details the results of the Kuroshio and other currents; describes the modern tracking system OSCURS, Ocean Surface Current Simulator; and recounts the successful tests of its capability to track inanimate objects, canoes, for example…and even flotsam tennis shoes.6

In 1962, sportsman Kenichi Horie, starting at Nishinomiya, Hyogo, took a 19-foot sailboat, the Mermaid, to San Francisco in just 94 days. His narrative, KODOKU (Solitude)7 became a 1963 very popular film. In 2002, Horie reprised the adventure with a boat made from recycled materials, Mermaid III. Between transpacific trips, he circumnavigated the globe; and sailed from San Francisco, from Ecuador, and recently from Hawaii back to Japan.

In 1980, a team of six Japanese scientists sailed from Shimoda, in a double canoe built to an ancient design, Yaseigo 3; and using currents and winds arrived in San Francisco fifty-one days later. They had sailed 4,374 miles. They proceeded to Acapulco, Mexico, Ecuador, and finally to Chile, where they landed in December 1980, having traveled over 10,000 miles.8

In 1991, a 46-year old French boatman, Gerard D’Aboville, rowed a 26-foot boat from Choshi to Ilwaco,Washington. The trip took 134 days.9

Jon Turk, scientist and author of "In the Wake of the Jomon." Photo courtesy of Jon Turk.

The most off-the-wall adventure, however, belongs to Jon Turk, who, in June 1999, sailed a trimaran-rig from Hokkaido to Siberia, for the first leg of his trip to America. He returned in May 2000 to complete the crossing, using a kayak. He too wanted to prove that Jomon mariners could have made similar trips.10

Right close to us, at San Miguel, the westernmost of the Channel Islands, Dr. Jon Erlandson of the University of Oregon and his research companions have been meticulously mining at sites such as Daisy Cave and others. They have recovered a treasure of fishing hooks, hunting knives, woven sea grass basketry, textiles, and shell jewelry; some pieces 11,000 years old.11 Dr. Erlandson, author/editor of at least nine books, is now Director of Oregon’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History in Eugene. His vast research in California, Oregon, Alaska and Iceland strongly supports the coastal migration theory.

A lot of other surprising findings seem to predate the supposed Beringia crossings as the only way to populate America. Here’s a most dramatic case. On July 28, 1966, human remains between 8,500–9,500 years old were found in the vicinity of Kennewick, Washington. The Coroner’s Office asked archaeologist, forensic anthropologist and paleoecologist Dr. James C. Chatters to examine the find. He formed a team of eighteen nationally and internationally recognized scientists from Washington, California-at-Davis and at Riverside Universities, and similar sources, to conduct rigorous studies. Kennewick was found to be a male between 40-55 years old, whom Anthropologist Joseph Powell (University of New Mexico) identified as “ethnically close to the Ainu.” Professor of Anthropology, C. Loring Brace (University of Michigan) concluded that “Kennewick is, likely, related to the Ainu’s ancestors, the Jomon.”12

An ensuing politico-legal brouhaha sent the remains to anthropological limbo. The Burke Museum, U. Washington, curates the bones; but having been found in land under the US Army Corps of Engineers jurisdiction, they belong to the Corps. The Department of Interior National Parks’ site on the issue (2010), has the government’s side of the fracas.13

Trying to outshine Turk, Korie and Yaseigo, Japanese Jomon revivalists have been planning a trek to the state of Washington in dugout canoes; while Ainu activists would like the repatriate Kennewick-san’s remains to Hokkaido.

Photos courtesy of Jon Turk.

Can the more exact sciences further support the trans-Pacific crossings’ thesis?

In an obscure tribal area in Paraguay, Dr. Adauto Araujo and his team at Brazil’s Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública, studied the relation between human hosts and hookworms (1993). In ancient human excreta they found parasites unique to Asia, unable to have survived the frigid temperatures of Siberia and Arctic America during the Beringia crossings; they had to have come to South America inside trans-Pacific travelers’ guts.

Professor of Medicine David H. Gremillion, Nippon Medical School, stated in a September 2008 paper, that the Human T-cell Lymphotropic virus (HTLV1) similar to HIV, an ancient part of the human condition, is prevalent among 10% of the Kyushu and Ryuku populations.14 It was originally assumed that African slaves had introduced it to the Caribbean. But studies on a South American mummy (2000), and on remains found in British Columbia and the Caribbean, show the presence of the virus thousands of years before the slave trade; and identify it as closer to those prevalent in ancient Japan.15

I’ve offered a rather distilled version of the thinking and activities that support the Pre-Columbian trans-Pacific trips to America’s western shores. Some of the references cited may be at the Los Angeles Public Library; however, all my research materials will be at our East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center’s library to serve you and to share with the children. The Columbus cliché is pleading for a long nap!

*My deepest gratitude goes, especially, to Dr. Meggers, Smithsonian Institute; anthropologist Celia Heil; Charlotte Rees; Jon Turk, and all the other scientists who shared their invaluable findings with me; and very particularly to Ms. Yoko Nishimura, Discover Nikkei, for her patience and assistance.


1. Olmec: the first Mesoamerican culture (1200-400 BC) located in the tropical areas of South Central Mexico.

2. Xu H. Mike. (1996) Origin of the Olmec Civilization, University of Central Oklahoma Press

3. Mrs. Charlotte Harris Reese graciously provided a copy of the Chinese article (2008) that Dr. Hwa-Wei Lee, retired Chief of the Asian Division of the Library of Congress, sent her.

4. (1970) Kaigai Ibun. Los Angeles: Dawson; a very rare book.

5. Webber, Bert & Margie, (1999) Wrecked Japanese Junks. Medford, OR: Webber Research Group.

6. (2009) New York: Smithsonian Books.

7. (1965?) Sydney, AU: Collins

8. (an online resource still operative in 2/2010)

9. D’Aboville,Gerard; (1993) ALONE. New York: Arcade.

10. Turk, John: (2003) In the Wake of the Jomon. New York: McGraw/Hill; and personal correspondence with the author.

11. See: The Japan Times: Thursday, Aug. 16, 2007. Also, PBS’ Scientific American Program Frontiers Program #1406, Coming into America.

12. See the following online sources, still operative in 2/2010: Chatters, James C. KENNEWICK MAN; at Northern Clans, Northern Traces; Smithsonian Institution.

Also: with Dennis Stanford, head of the Archaeology Division and Director of the Paleo-Indian Program at the National Museum of Natural History.

13. See also Kennewick Man On Trial at the online site of the University of Washington’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. (2010)

14. Transmitted by sexual contact and from mother to child through lactation.

15. Gremillion, David H. Pre-Siberian Human Migration to the Americas. Possible validation by HTLV-1 mutation analysis; an online article posted by its author in the online Archeolog (Stanford U.) Sept. 25, 2008.

© 2010 Edward Moreno

anthropology archaeology