Photo/IllutrationA dugout will be used to re-enact a trip 30,000 years ago from Taiwan to Yonagunijima island in Okinawa Prefecture. (Provided by “Holistic re-enactment project of the voyage 30,000 years ago”)

Using a dugout canoe and relying on nature for guidance, researchers will paddle from Taiwan to Okinawa Prefecture in an attempt to retrace the possible route that brought humans to Japan 30,000 years ago.

The trip, organized by the National Museum of Nature and Science, will start on the eastern coast of Taiwan and end on Yonagunijima island, Okinawa Prefecture.

The voyage in the 7.5-meter-long dugout will take place between June 25 and July 13. The five paddlers, both men and women, are expected to need more than 30 hours to cover the distance of about 200 kilometers.

The purpose of the “Holistic re-enactment project of the voyage 30,000 years ago” is to solve the mystery of how the first islanders to Japan crossed the Kuroshio, one of the world’s largest ocean currents.

“We will choose the most reasonable model for events that happened 30,000 years ago and try this experimental voyage,” Yosuke Kaifu, 50, a project representative and chief of the museum’s division of human evolution, said at a briefing session in Tokyo on June 18. “We will come to know how our ancestors tried to cross the sea.”

There are three main theories on where humans first arrived in what is now Japan from the Asian mainland: Hokkaido, Tsushima island between the Korean Peninsula and Kyushu, and the islands of Okinawa Prefecture.

The project team focused on possible travel on the Okinawa route during the Old Stone Age.

The team assumed the settlers immigrated en masse on boats built from materials collected at their departure place.

The team tried to travel on a reed-bundle raft in 2016 and a bamboo raft in 2017 and 2018 between Yonagunijima and Iriomotejima island. But those attempts all failed.

A similar dugout canoe unearthed in Japan dated back to or after the Jomon Pottery Culture Period (c. 14500 B.C.-1000 B.C.)

The researchers replicated the old dugout with tools, such as stone axes, that may have been used 30,000 years ago.

Based on their tests of the vessel, they said they believe they can paddle across the Kuroshio current that flows at a speed equivalent to a human walking.

To re-enact what the original paddlers likely went through, the researchers will leave behind their watches, compasses, GPS equipment and other modern tools for the trip.

One potential problem for the researchers could be locating low-lying Yonagunijima from the dugout at sea.

“We will fully use ancient seamanship, such as the sun, the stars and the types of birds to decide on the direction of the boat,” said Masahiro Uchida, 63, a director of the paddlers.

Costs for the experimental project are covered by about 60 million yen ($550,000) collected through crowdfunding and financial assistance from sponsors.