UFOs in Japan (1): a beautiful woman and a flying saucer in the Edo era

Did UFOs arrive in Ibaraki prefecture in Japan during the Edo era? We speak to Professor Tanaka Kazuo, who through ancient documents investigates the background of the Utsurobune legend and its possible relationship with UFOs. 1803, Hitachinokuni, in present-day Ibaraki prefecture; A strange disc-shaped vehicle reaches the coast and a beautiful woman appears in strange clothes, carrying a box. Perhaps after all the accounts of the so-called “strange case of the Hitachinokuni Utsurobune”, from the Edo period, which narrate the impossibility of the locals to communicate with the woman and describe the mysterious symbols written inside the ship, no more is found than a simple case of a drifting ship. Tanaka Kazuo, professor emeritus at Gifu University, has spent many years researching the legend of the Utsurobune. What attracted you at the beginning of this story, so far removed from your specialty, electro-optical engineering? A fact-based mystery “It all started with the Aum sect incident in 1995. The sect’s leaders, who had risen to fame for the alleged ability to levitate and the prophecies of its founder, Asahara Shōkō, came from the elite. Japanese scientist. I began to gather all kinds of documents with information about UFOs in the United States, Japanese legends and other topics with the idea of ​​giving lectures at the university in which to consider these types of ‘supernatural phenomena’ from a scientific point of view. And through that process I came to the legend of the Utsurobune ”, says Tanaka. “It is a vehicle described in documents from the Edo era, similar to a flying saucer but much earlier than the first American legends about that type of UFO.” UFOs first appeared in the media on June 24, 1947, when the press informed the public about the so-called Arnold Incident, in which the American businessman Kenneth Arnold allegedly sighted “flying discs.” From that moment on, sightings began to occur all over the globe. Of all of them, the most famous is perhaps the so-called Roswell Case, in which an unidentified object crashed on a ranch near the town of Roswell, in New Mexico. However, the remains of the alleged UFO and the bodies of the aliens, which had supposedly been recovered at the scene of the incident, were not found. There is only the ambiguous testimony of one witness. Similarly, information about UFOs around the world is still a ‘mystery with no real basis’. And yet, researchers consider the legend of the utsurobune a mystery based on facts, given that you can consult various sources of the time that collect it. A concrete landing, recorded by the Kōga ninjas A research book published in English by Tanaka Kazuo. The cover is from Toen shōsetsu (1825) In the Edo era, sightings similar to the one called Utsurobune (which was also called Utsubobune) occurred in many parts of the country. The main object of Tanaka’s investigation is the ancient documents in which he describes with illustrations how in 1803 (although some of the sources give different dates) that incident occurred on the coast of Hitachinokuni: a beautiful woman who appeared up on a stranger vehicle. Among those documents the earliest famed were Toen shōsetsu (The Rabbit Novel, 1825), a record of eccentric rumors drawn from the Toenkai circle of writers and compiled by Kyokutei Bakin, the author of the epic novel Nansō satomi hakkenden (Biographies eight dogs), as well as Ume no chiri (Plum Powder, 1844), by Nagahashi Matajirō. There are other works of interest, such as Ōshuku zakki (Various Records of Ōshuku), Hirokata zuihitsu (Hirokata Trials), or Hyōryūki-shū (Drift Records), a compilation of articles by Japanese authors on foreign ships that reached the refer to Japan or other countries. From Ōshuku zakki (approx. 1815), written by Komai Norimura, vassal of Matsudaira Sadanobu (National Diet Library) From Hirokata zuihitsu (1825), the work of Hirokata Yashiro, samurai and author of noh theater. Hirokata was a member of the Toen Writers Circle (National Archive). At first Tanaka hypothesized that what the texts collected was actually an adaptation of the wreck of a Russian whaling ship, but although no official documents were found that recorded marine accidents To match those details, a great deal of new material was found, and he engaged in exploring the various possible origins of the story. To date, he has found eleven different types of documents that refer to the legend of the Hitachinokuni Utsurobune; two of them invite an especially interesting hypothesis. Both are apparently records from the same year 1803 in which the incident occurred. One of them is the so-called Mito Document, owned by an old document collector who lives in the city of Mito, Ibaraki prefecture. Tanaka noticed that the clothing of the woman in the image resembled the clothing of the goddess Sanreison from Shōfuku, a temple in the city of Kamisu, Ibaraki, dedicated to the cult of sericulture. The so-called Legend of Konjikihime, related to the birth of sericulture, originally existed in Ibaraki Prefecture, and the Buddha statue in the Shōfuku temple also displays the same motif. It is a legend in which a princess who traveled in a cocoon-shaped boat, made of logs, from India, drifts to Hitachinokuni and, before ascending to heaven, gives the secrets of sericulture to a couple of the place, as thanks for taking care of her. There are several differences in the women’s clothing depicted in the eleven documents found so far, and the only description that denotes a clear connection to the Konjikihime legend is the Myth Document. Tanaka believes that the people of Shōfuku may have used the story to promote the temple, when the Utsurobune story emerged in Kashimanada. From the Myth Document (private collection). Another important record is the Banke Document, held by Kawakami Jin’ichi, a ninjutsu (ninja martial arts) researcher and martial artist inheriting the Kōga style of ninjutsu. In other documents, the territory dominated by Ogasawara, Ecchū no Kami, is cited as the landing site, and names of impossible to identify places are mentioned, such as Harayadori beach, but the same document also names Hitachihara-sharihama beach, the name of a real and known place. The name of the place registered in Inōzu, a documented map created by Inō Tadataka in 1801, corresponds to the current Hasaki Sharihama beach, in the city of Kamisu, Ibaraki prefecture. “The other documents contain contradictions; Ogasawara Ecchū no Kami territory is not in the Kashimanada area to begin with. However, in the Banke Document, instead of the name Ogasawara, the current name appears. When I asked Professor Kawakami, he replied that perhaps this was because the Banke clan was collecting this information for the mandatory periodic trip to Edo of the feudal lord of Owari, which the Banke (ninja of Kōga) served. If true, the document does not contain any falsehood; rather, it could be said that it is even more effective as a source. ” A disc-shaped ship and mysterious symbols On one occasion the folklorist Yanagita Kunio concluded that the Utsurobune legend was without foundation. “But the story of the strange Hitachinokuni ship is clearly different from the other stories that have been broadcast across Japan,” says Tanaka. “First, identify the year 1803 as the date of the event. It is also strange that all the documents describe and represent in concrete images the shape of the vehicle’s disc. It gives the feeling of being based on a real event. However, since it was a time of isolation, if a foreign ship wrecked or a foreign person landed on the shore, officials should investigate it and would have left documents about it. In 1824, for example, a British landing occurred in Ōtsuhama (in the city of Kita-Ibaraki) which contributed to the following year decreeing the expulsion of all foreign ships. That is why there may have been a sighting off the Kashimanada coast, for a short time. It is possible that this is related to the ancient legend of the Utsurobune ”. Just as women’s clothing varies by document, the shape and size of the disc-shaped vehicle also differ. For example, according to Hyōryūki-shū, the vehicle measured one jō and one shaku in height (about 3.3 meters), and three ken in width (about 5.4 meters); the chassis was made of iron and rosewood, and had glass windows. “I don’t know if that text is an official document or not. Two volumes have survived in total, but except for the Utsurobune story the rest are all real incidents. At least we must consider that the person who recorded the legend considered that the ship really existed, “says Tanaka. The mysteries surrounding the Utsurobune do not end there. Perhaps the most important thing is to consider what meaning the mysterious characters written on the walls of the ship have. “There is a theory that there is a certain similarity to the frames called ranji (decorative letters that were traced around an image) that appeared in the ukiyo-e of the Edo era, so there is the possibility that it is only of a decoration. Of course it is not totally impossible that someday we will find proof that these are letters used by aliens, ”laughs Tanaka. “There may be new discoveries about hidden documents related to the Utsurobune in the future. Therein lies the charm of this legend: all kinds of hypotheses can be established. More than 140 years before the UFO legend was born as we know it now, in Japan there was already a legend that stimulates the imagination in this way, and makes us feel even more strongly the richness of Japanese history and culture ” . From Hyōryūki-shū (unknown author). A vehicle arrives at Harashagahama, in Hitachinokuni. From inside comes a beautiful young woman, in beautiful clothes, between 18 and 20 years old, with a pale complexion and red eyebrows and hair. People do not understand their local language, nor do they know what country it is from. He carefully holds a white wooden box and does not try to get anyone’s attention. In the text it is said that the ship carried strange inscriptions. The header image is a section of this same image (Bunko Iwase Library, Nishio City, Aichi Prefecture) (Article translated into Spanish from the Japanese original.)