top of page

Masuda no Iwafune - The Rock Ship of Masuda

A mysterious huge rock hidden away in a bamboo grove in Nara, featured on the US show 'Ancient Aliens', as well as in the HIDDEN PATHS companion book 'PARANORMAL KANSAI - Mysteries & Unexplained Stories of West Japan', the origin of Masuda no Iwafune is unknown, HIDDEN PATHS visited the location to take a look. Pictured below, Masuda no Iwafune.

Last year HIDDEN PATHS visited Iwafune Shrine near the borders of Osaka and Kyoto. Link for the blog post of Iwafune Shrine -

A large rock that if legend is true acted as an extra-terrestrial craft for the god Nigihayahi no Mikoto, the grandson of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, when travelling from the Heavens down to terrestrial Earth. The craft, or ship, was said to have then turned into a 12 metre high rock that now sits firmly in place at the shrine. But that is not the only Iwafune - Rock Ship in the Kansai region. Recently, HIDDEN PATHS visited the Masuda no Iwafune, the Rock Ship of Masuda.

There are a number of locations in the Asuka area of Nara that have monoliths with some sort of myth or legend attached to them. But non more than Masuda no Iwafune. Taking a Kintetsu train to Okadera (one stop and connections from the larger station Kashihara), it is then about a ten minute walk to the location of the Rock Ship (do your research before because there aren't many signs giving directions).

Between the station and the Rock Ship there is also a tumulus, kofun, that is worth visiting, and we will cover that location in a further post.

When arriving at the hill where the Rock Ship can be found, its a short hike up steep slippery steps and rough ground, at the bottom a number of branches are propped up by a sign advising visitors to use them as walking sticks.

When you finally reach the bamboo grove where the rock sits it is actually quite breathtaking. Mainly because the rock locks just so out of place (pictured above, first sight of the Masuda no Iwafune). As if it has 'dropped from the sky'! Maybe it did?! The sign board in front of the rock has a description outlining theories behind the rock that it was carved in the 7th century, and could have been a pedestal/base stone in what was once lake/pond Masuda, or an astronomical observatory of some kind (from the Kashihara City Board of Education). Other theorists though put the rock much older than the 7th century and point to it as an extra terrestrial craft in the same manner as the rock ship at Iwafune Shrine, discussed above. Another theory is that it could have been a burial kofun.

On parts of the side structure have been carved a grid-like pattern (pictured above), whereas the top is domed before levelling smooth with two cube shaped compartments chiselled or cut somehow into the stone about a metre deep. Basalt is a difficult material to carve even with today's tools and technology , so it is a wonder as to how this rock was shaped hundreds of years ago. Researchers have used devices and laser scanners but found nothing to offer any clues as to its origin or purpose. The Masuda no Iwafune will remain an unexplained mystery for now, and possibly forever.

Pictured below, straight edges and grid pattern carvings on one end of the rock ship.

Pictured below, standing in front of the Masuda no Iwafune for size comparisons.

Pictured below, showing the front and end of the rock.

Pictured below, some parts of the short hike up can be a little tough.

Pictured below, other parts of the route are a little easier, but beware slippery steps.

Pictured below, a smaller version of the top half of Masuda no Iwafune in a local children's playground.

Access - Take a Kintetsu train from Kyoto Station to Kashihara. It takes at least an hour depending on which train you take (additional ticket price required on top of regular ticket if taking a Tokyu express train). From Kashihara take a local towards Yoshino and get off at Okadera after just one stop from Kashihara.

108 views0 comments


bottom of page