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Testing of bamboo boat for 30,000-year-old Taiwan-Okinawa journey to begin in June

A model for the bamboo raft planned to be used in the Taiwan-Yonaguni Island journey is seen at a news conference by the National Museum of Nature and Science on March 2, 2017. (Mainichi)

Researchers will test a bamboo raft -- that uses 30,000-year-old technology -- in June this year as a preparatory step toward recreating a sea journey that is thought to have been made by the ancestors of the Japanese, the National Museum of Nature and Science announced on March 2.

    The researchers ultimately plan to embark on a 100-plus kilometer journey between Taiwan and Okinawa's Yonaguni Island in 2019 on a raft made of Taiwanese bamboo -- in a similar way to 30,000 years ago.

    The museum and other organizations began the project in 2016 to verify the origin of the Japanese people by testing whether it's possible to travel to the Japanese archipelago from Taiwan, which was part of mainland Asia, by boat. Earlier this year, Taiwan's National Museum of Prehistory also came on board.

    After receiving advice from some elderly Taiwanese people with detailed knowledge of working with bamboo, researchers will first investigate if it would have been possible to build a bamboo raft that could sail out to the open sea, using techniques available 30,000 years ago. The team has already built a prototype and is currently surveying the route. They will start constructing an improved version of the boat later this month.

    In 2016, the team planned to complete the 75-kilometer route between Yonaguni and Iriomote islands in a boat made of southern cattail plants, but they were met with strong tides on the day of the experiment, and the boat was mainly towed by motorboat instead.

    Yosuke Kaifu, the project representative and the head of the National Museum of Nature and Science Human Evolution Division commented, "We will also test a dugout canoe (made from hollowing out a single tree), and investigate what kind of boat will be best as we move toward the real experiment in 2019."

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