Sakafune-ishi is one of the most enigmatic megalithic stones in Japan and the Asuka district. The stone’s purpose of it is completely unknown, the name means “Wine-Ship-Stone” and it also contains a mystery.
‘Sakafune-ishi’ remains are found around the hill located in the west of ‘Asuka-itabuki-no-miya’, where the ancient Imperial Palace of the Emperor Kogyoku once stood in the 7th century. The granite stone size is 5.5m long, 2.3m wide and 1.0m thick, that is situated at the hilltop.
It is thought to have been larger than now because many traces of the chisel in the Middle Ages are found on both sides of it. People in those days were likely to cut the big stone into smaller pieces. Some of these pieces are actually discovered among the stone materials for the wall of nearby Takatori-jo castle built in the 14th century.
The mysterious pattern engraved on the stone means has been studied in vain since the 17th century. The ditches may run or strain liquids, i.e. water or wine or drug, or some floating objects. It might be used to create swords or metallic objects. The shape of the ditches remind of a sacrifice table, the angles of the branch ditches are similar to the ones of the sunsets between equinox’s and solstices. Some saying it also looks like Sephiroth from Kabbalah or alchemy. The continuous hollows on the edges are the remains of wedges to cut into the bricks for the rampart of the Takatori Castle 5 km away.
Masuda Iwafune was constructed later than Sakafune Ishi. Siting west along Masuda Iwafune ‘s ridge line, one could determine when the sun set at exact date of “Spring Doyou Entry”. Some believes that Sakafune Ishi was later re-positioned with its 13 degree offset to also site the sun’s setting on this all important day.
Masuda Iwafune is located near the top of a hill just a few hundred meters west of Okadera Station. The ridge line parallels the two square holes.