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Japanese belief in aliens
Alien life and UFOs, by their very nature, are expected to be found in places that are not planet Earth. When we hear about alien and UFO stories, it seems sightings of extraterrestrial life mainly come from a few prime candidates. Australia, Europe, and China all have featured various famous UFO incidences over time. Of course, the land of UFO sightings is the USA, with over 12,000 reported sightings each year.
Conspicuously absent from alien chatter was Japan. Considering their large populace, it would stand to reason that at least a portion of their population would receive a message from outer space. Yet until recently, I had not heard much about it. Then seemingly out of nowhere, an influx of commentary and information regarding extraterrestrial life and Japan happened upon me.
Sensing a sign, I want to share what I learnt on alien culture in Japanese culture, where aliens may have landed in Japan, and what Japan may plan to do with them. I promise this post will not veer into alien confirmation theories.
The Aliens are in my media
No little green men from Mars have featured in Japanese historical mythmaking. Instead, one particular story stands out from Japanese folklore. It happens to be one of the most famous of Japanese stories.
The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter.
For the unfamiliar, it follows a bamboo cutter who finds a shiny bamboo. He cuts it open. What’s this? A thumb-sized baby! He decides to raise her, and she soon turns into a beautiful princess. Hearing of a beautiful bamboo princess, five noble men seek her hand. Each are asked to do impossible things like getting jewels from dragon necks, Buddha’s bowl, or minding their own business (not an actual task). Shenanigans ensue. As they fail, the Emperor of Japan decides he wants to marry her too. She says no thanks, I’m not from around here (meaning Japan, but also EARTH!) but also strings him along. Time passes, then a full moon pops up. She realises she must return home, which (surprise surprise) is that very same moon! An entourage arrives on Earth in a suspiciously UFO-looking spaceship and takes her away.
This was a longwinded way of saying Japanese media has had a strong and centuries-long history of alien content. Being an internationally famous piece of folklore, the story has been adapted hundreds of times and it has influenced many pieces of Japanese media since then. From Dragon Ball to Sailor Moon, the story of foreign beings visiting Earth has become part of the textual landscape of Japan.
Utsurobune and nobody believed me
What of the UFO-looking spaceship? That must have been Western-influenced right? According to even more scholarly research than this Substack, there were frequent drawn references to Utsurobune starting in the early and mid-1800’s. It appears that preceding even the universal UFO image of a flying saucer, there were already Japanese reports of a very similar looking spacecraft. Researchers often point out that these reports are roughly 150 years prior to the Western concept of a flying saucer.
This wasn’t just a single source in Japan examining the alien occurrences, but over a dozen retellings of a similar tale. Each spoke of a strange ship landing, where inside hid a beautiful young woman who spoke no Japanese. Other images abound.
A conspiracy question might ask why are we not being told about these mysterious alien craft? At the very least, I will provide the official scholarly stance on why Japan has various retellings of this phenomenon.
Aliens are real!
Sorry, I promised that I wouldn’t. The actual standard explanation is that these encounters in Japan during this period had been under the Sakoku policy of full isolation mode. Under this policy, the country was not technologically or socially across many aspects of global affairs. This was true especially in the rural fishing coastal communities which documented these ships. In other words, fishermen probably saw a white person for the first time ever and assumed they were aliens.
But what about the tip top ship shape?
This was before accurate images were recorded, so according to dedicated debunkers, the stories of the “alien ship” didn’t actually resemble UFOs. Instead, they were just more advanced ships, that through each fanciful retelling got more extraterrestrial. When this story reached the illustrators, a round shaped ship had become an easier image to draw.
Compounding on the famous folklore of stories like the bamboo cutter, these myths blended with the shock of seeing foreigners to create an outer worldly being. Sadly, the expectations of a magical foreign lifeform in 1800’s Japan was punctured by the reality of it being basic white people. Once again reality is more disappointing after academic factchecks.
Government and aliens
Putting all that aside for a moment, assuming that Japan has had alien encounters, what would you want the government to do about it? This has been a preoccupation of many who believe international agencies are hiding their existence from us.
In Japan, there has been a surprising openness and transparent response to this question (Some would even say too much!). The question of aliens and their role in Japan is raised shockingly often and treated as any potential threat to sovereignty would be. First formally raised in 2005, various alien encounters in Japan were cited by federal politician Yamane Ryuji.
On the basis they exist, he wanted to know what Japan was doing to deal with it. While this might be treated like a crank question elsewhere, the Foreign Minister responded that he personally hadn’t seen aliens, but his mother had. Not the only time the federal government would discuss this matter.
In 2007, following another line of questioning, the federal government gave a press statement that the government had never confirmed the existence of UFOs, nor have they developed countermeasures against the possible arrivals (returns?) of UFOs in the territory of Japan. That was the official statement.
Within days, various leading officials would contradict the Japanese Prime Minister’s words.
Then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura claimed, “I absolutely believe there are UFOs,” and Minister of Defense Shigeru Ishiba saying, “There is no basis for concluding that UFOs and the life forms that control them do not exist.” Perhaps the closest encounter a leading Japanese official would have was former First Lady Hatoyama Miyuki, who recounted her story of being abducted by a triangular-shaped UFO and transported to Venus.
Even as recent as 2020, there have been official documents released by the Defense Ministry on the protocol for SDF (Self Defense Force) in the event of encountering UFOs. For the alien agnostics amongst us, these back-and-forth statements can get frustrating. It leaves me, and I’m sure many others, with even more questions.
Why would the government have such inconsistent commentary on aliens? Why tell us so much about UFOs and plan for them? Why are so many leading figures so public about their own encounters?
Following in the footsteps of aliens
For people who choose to believe in aliens (or have been convinced by this article) and want to be closer to the action, consider visiting Japan for your trip. While you may not have the chance to speak to the ufologists currently serving in government, there are various monuments and “research facilities” for the curious.
The most aggregated alien cluster is in Fukushima. Home to the International UFO Lab, where in 2023 they released “six videos that show UFOs”. In fact, tourists can visit the Lab’s hometown of Iinomachi for a full UFO experience.
The town is set up like another country (planet?) with UFO themed bus stops and a UFO museum (where the Lab is located). The town itself has had many residents that claim personal alien encounters with many believing that the cone-shaped mountain draws them in. If you have bought in and want a chance to experience the flashing northern lights (no relation to Auroras), the Iino UFO Museum is found midway up that very mountain.
Iino UFO Museum: Otegamimori-1-299 Iinomachi Aoki, Fukushima, 960-1303, Japan
For me, the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life is best left to the experts. Be it Japan’s government or the hardworking folk at the International UFO Lab, I hope they find a definitive answer soon. While the question of direct alien encounters is not yet something I have experienced, by living in Japan it looks like my chances are high!