Nagahashi Matajirou (Artist) [Public domain]

The Edo Period Japanese Folktale Giving UFO Believers Hope

In the early 19th century, a mysterious, unidentified floating object washed up on the shore of the Hitachi region in Japan and was found by a group of local fishermen.

Surprised onlookers compared the shape of it to a rice pot. It was 3 metres high and 5 metres wide, made of wood, and the lower portion was protected from the jagged rocks out at sea with metal plates. There were glass windows on top, and as the fishermen approached they were astounded to see through the window that the inner walls of the vessel were covered in an unknown language, with glyph-like characters. They called it the utsuro-bune, meaning hollow boat.

The utsuro-bune’s sole passenger was a beautiful young woman. She looked completely different to the village’s inhabitants, with pale white skin, red hair and red eyebrows. Her sumptuous clothes were made of unknown materials, but it was clear that they were those of nobility.

Nagahashi Matajirou (Artist) [Public domain]

The mysterious woman spoke an unknown language, and didn’t understand Japanese, but she was friendly and courteous from what they could gather. However, she acted oddly, clutching a wooden box to her chest which she wouldn't allow anyone else to touch. No matter how much they pleaded, she wouldn't reveal the contents.

There was no way to communicate and inquire about her origins, but luckily, an old man from the village had it all worked out. He said that she was probably a foreign princess who was married but caused a scandal by having an affair. Her lover would have been put to death, but the princess, beloved by the people, avoided the death penalty and was banished to meet her fate at sea. The precious box she so carefully guarded, the old man reasoned, likely contained the head of her executed lover.

Kyokutei Bakin (1767–1848) [Public domain]

At any rate, the fishermen decided it was best not to get involved. They put the girl in the boat and pushed it back into the ocean.

The incident was recorded in at least three different historical texts which despite variations, bear enough similarities to lend credence to the otherwise implausible story. Modern day investigations into the mystery have unfortunately produced little results. Perhaps the story was just a local legend that captured enough imaginations to be spread around.

But that hasn’t stopped the story from popping up on various ufologist sites and documentaries in recent years, calling it an ‘Asian UFO tale’ and comparing the strange symbols the fishermen saw written on the utsuro-bune to other symbols recorded in alleged flying saucer sightings such as Roswell.

We’ve been watching the skies all this time, when perhaps we should have been watching the seas…

By - Jess.