Tag: ‘Paranormal’

Human-faced dog

24 Mar 2010

Animals with human-like faces have long been rumored to exist in Japan. In recent decades, countless people have reportedly encountered human-faced dogs (jinmenken) around town and on the highway.

Jinmen-ken, human-faced dog -- Jin-men-ken, human-faced dog --

The modern-day explosion of alleged human-faced dog encounters began in the late 1980s and early 1990s. According to numerous stories, human-faced dogs are most frequently seen at night, usually by people taking out the trash. At first glance, the creature may look like an ordinary stray dog rummaging through the garbage, but closer inspection reveals a face that looks human.

Many stories claim the human-faced dog speaks when confronted. In a weary voice, it most often says, "Leave me alone."

Dog with human face --
Mutant dog with a human face in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1978)

Other human-faced dog encounters allegedly take place on the highway. The creature can reportedly run at speeds of over 100 kilometers per hour (60 mph). It is said that any vehicle passed by a speeding human-faced dog on the highway will have a terrible accident.

Numerous theories claim to explain the origins of the human-faced dog. Some suggest the creatures may be experimental human-animal hybrids that have escaped from a biotech lab. Others claim they are mutants spawned by environmental pollution. And while some people suspect the creatures may be the spirits of people who have died in traffic accidents, others speculate that they are ordinary dogs possessed by the restless ghosts of office workers who have taken their own lives after being laid off (the dogs usually have the face of a middle-aged man).

This video claims to show a human-faced dog filmed outside a housing complex in Kamata, south of Tokyo (the dog's face is said to belong to a missing office worker):

+ Video

Still others believe that human-faced dogs are spiritual beings, and only people with the ability to sense the supernatural can see them. Whatever the explanation, it is probably best to keep away -- it is said that anyone bitten by a human-faced dog will turn into one.

The oldest known stories of human-faced dogs in Japan can be traced at least as far back as the Edo period (1603 to 1868). According to the Gaidan Bunbun Shuyo -- a book by 19th-century historian Ishizuka Hokaishi that chronicles events from 1804 to 1830 -- a human-faced dog was born in the Tado-machi area of Edo (present-day Tokyo) in June 1810. After learning of the strange creature, a carnival sideshow manager acquired it and featured it in his show, where it proved to be a popular attraction.

Jinmenken, human-faced dog -- Jinmen-ken, dog with human face -- Left: Illustration from "Gaidan Bunbun Shuyo" shows people looking at a human-faced dog (1810)

In those days, a superstition claimed that syphilis patients could cure themselves by fornicating with canines. This human-faced dog was rumored to be the offspring of such a union.

[Note: This is the latest in a series of weekly posts on Japanese urban legends.]

Tokyo terror: Severed samurai head in Otemachi

10 Mar 2010

A severed samurai head buried in central Tokyo has struck fear and awe in the hearts of locals for over 1,000 years.

Taira no Masakado's head --
The head that refused to die

The head -- supposedly buried in the Otemachi district -- belongs to Taira no Masakado, a rebellious warrior who led an insurgency against the central government in the 10th century. At the height of his power, Masakado proclaimed himself emperor -- an act that aroused the wrath of the government and ended in his decapitation. The samurai failed to become ruler of Japan, but his severed head has remained a persistent source of trouble for over 1,000 years.

Here is a brief history of the head.

903 - 940 AD: Taira no Masakado was born and raised in eastern Japan. After leading a minor rebellion and assuming control of eight provinces in northern Kanto, Masakado declared himself the new emperor of Japan. The established emperor, based in Kyoto, responded by putting a bounty on his head. Two months later, Masakado was killed in battle. His decapitated head was transported to Kyoto and put on public display as a warning to other would-be rebels.

Taira no Masakado's head --
Masakado's head on display in Kyoto

Strangely, Masakado's head did not decompose. Three months later, it still looked fresh and alive, though the eyes had grown more fierce and the mouth had twisted into a horrifying grimace. One night, the head began to glow, and it lifted into the air and flew off in the direction of Taira no Masakado's hometown.

The head grew weary on the long flight home, and it came to rest in the village of Shibasaki (present-day Otemachi, Tokyo). The villagers picked up the head, cleaned it, and buried it in a mound at Kanda Myojin shrine.

950: Ten years after the head was laid to rest, the burial mound began to glow and shake violently, and the ghost of a bedraggled samurai started to make regular appearances in the neighborhood. The frightened locals offered special prayers that seemed to put the spirit to rest.

1200~: At the beginning of the 13th century, a temple belonging to the powerful Tendai Buddhist sect was built adjacent to Kanda Myojin shrine. This apparently upset the spirit of Masakado, and the people in the area were stricken by plague and natural calamities as a consequence.

1307: Nearly a century later, a priest from an Amida Buddhist sect -- which took a more liberal, accessible approach to Buddhism than the Tendai sect -- built an invocation hall here and tended the shrine of Masakado, thus easing the spirit's anger.

Taira no Masakado --
Over time, Taira no Masakado came to be regarded as a deity in east Japan

1616: Kanda Myojin shrine, which had elevated Masakado to deity status, was moved to a new site to make room for the mansions of the feudal lords stationed in Edo. The burial mound and headstone were left behind in the garden of one of the mansions.

1869: After the fall of the feudal system, the Meiji government constructed their Finance Ministry building next to the burial site. The mound and headstone were left untouched.

1874: The government issued a formal declaration condemning Masakado as having been an "enemy of the emperor." His deity status at Kanda Myojin shrine was revoked.

1923: The Great Kanto Earthquake and the ensuing fires all but destroyed the mound and stone monument. The Finance Ministry building burned to the ground. Before rebuilding, the ministry excavated the grave site in search of the skull, but found nothing. They decided to erect a temporary building on the premises.

1926: Building over the burial site turned out to be a terrible decision. Finance minister Seiji Hayami died suddenly of illness, and 13 other ministry officials met similar fates over the next two years. Many workers became ill or were injured in mysterious accidents on the premises. People believed that Taira no Masakado had cursed the new building.

1928: The ministry removed part of the structure covering the burial site and began holding annual purification rituals. At first there was great enthusiasm for the rituals, but interest faded over the years.

Taira no Masakado's head --
Masakado's head takes to the skies

1940: A fire sparked by lightning burned down the Finance Ministry building and several other government offices in the Otemachi district. The day was remembered as being exactly 1,000 years after the death of Taira no Masakado. The old earthquake-damaged stone monument was rebuilt, and the site was rededicated to the samurai rebel. The Finance Ministry moved, and the land around the burial site became the property of the Tokyo municipal government.

1945: After World War II, US occupation forces seized control of the property and began to clear the land to create a parking lot. Progress was hindered by a series of suspicious accidents. In one accident, a worker died next to the grave when the bulldozer he was driving flipped over. After local officials explained the significance of the burial site to the US forces, they decided to leave part of the parking lot unfinished.

1961: Control of the property was handed back to Japan, and the parking lot was removed. Purification rituals were conducted, and the burial site was once more dedicated to Taira no Masakado. But when new buildings were constructed next to the burial mound, workers again fell ill. A figure with disheveled hair reportedly began to appear in photographs taken in the area. In an attempt to calm the spirit, representatives from local businesses started to pray at the burial site on the 1st and 15th of each month.

Taira no Masakado's tomb --
The final resting place of Masakado's head - Google Street View // Google Maps

1984: In response to public pressure following the broadcast of an NHK television drama based on the life of Taira no Masakado, his deity status at Kanda Myojin shrine was reinstated.

1987: A string of freak accidents and injuries occurred during the filming of Teito Monogatari ("Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis"), a historical fantasy whose villain seeks to destroy Tokyo by awakening Masakado's spirit (watch the movie trailer). To prevent accidents on the set, it is now common practice for TV and movie producers to pay their respects at the burial site before bringing Taira no Masakado to the screen.

In the more than 1,000 years since Masakado's head fell from the sky, Tokyo has grown into the world's largest metropolis and the area around the burial site has become the financial center of Japan. But to this day, local business people remain wary of the power of the head in their midst, and the surrounding companies take great pains to keep Masakado's vengeful spirit in check. Supposedly, no office worker in the vicinity wants to sit with their back toward the burial site, and nobody wants to face it directly.

[Note: This is the latest in a series of weekly posts on Japanese urban legends. Check back next week for more.]

‘Ningen’ humanoid sea creatures of the Antarctic

06 Jan 2010

Over the past few years, rumors have circulated in Japan about the existence of gigantic humanoid life-forms inhabiting the icy waters of the Antarctic.

Antarctic ningen humanoid --
Hello, Ningen

Reportedly observed on multiple occasions by crew members of government-operated "whale research" ships, these so-called "Ningen" (lit. "humans") are said to be completely white in color with an estimated length of 20 to 30 meters. Eyewitnesses describe them as having a human-like shape, often with legs, arms, and even five-fingered hands. Sometimes they are described as having fins or a large mermaid-like tail instead of legs. The only visible facial features are the eyes and mouth.

Antarctic ningen humanoid --
Artist's rendition of a Ningen standing upright

According to one account, crew members on deck observed what they initially thought was a foreign submarine in the distance. When they approached, however, it became clear from the irregular shape of the thing that it was not man-made -- it was alive. The creature quickly disappeared under water.

Antarctic ningen humanoid --

For the most part, the existence of the Ningen is considered an urban legend. Much of the information about this rumored creature can be traced back to a series of posts on the 2channel forums, written by a person describing the experience of a friend employed on a government "whale research" vessel. (Read the full Japanese text of the original story that first appeared on a 2channel forum.)

Antarctic ningen humanoid --

The popular thread attracted the attention of many readers from outside the 2channel community, and the November 2007 issue of MU magazine, a Japanese publication devoted to the study of paranormal phenomena, featured an article about the Antarctic humanoids.

The article speculated on the possibility of unidentified creatures inhabiting the southern seas, and it included a Google Maps screenshot showing what looks like a Ningen in the South Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Namibia.

Antarctic ningen humanoid --
Link: Google Maps

To date, no solid evidence has been presented to confirm the existence of the Ningen. The government is believed to have kept detailed records of the sightings, but they have released no information to the public and have reportedly instructed eyewitnesses to remain silent.

Two videos claiming to show Ningen under water have been posted on YouTube.

+ Video

+ Video

Ningen sightings seem to occur most frequently at night, making them all the more difficult to photograph. In still images, the sea cryptids mostly just look like icebergs, though it is said that their smooth, human-like skin can be seen when the photographs are enlarged.

Antarctic ningen humanoid --
Artist's rendition of a mermaid-like Ningen

In any case, no convincing photographs have been made public, either because they do not exist or because, as some argue, the government does not want to invite undue scrutiny and tarnish the scientific reputation of the whale research program.

[Note: This is the first in a new series of weekly posts about urban legends and unexplained phenomena from Japan. Check back next week for another report.]

Pink Tentacle greatest hits – 2009

28 Dec 2009

As we bid farewell to 2009, it's a good time to look back at some of the most popular Pink Tentacle posts of the year. Here are the top ten, in case you missed them the first time around.

Animated stereoview of old Japan --

1. Animated stereoviews of old Japan: Meiji-period stereoview photographs by T. Enami, presented as animated GIFs to create the illusion of three dimensions.

* * * * *

Photo of Odaiba Gundam at night --

2. Nocturnal Gundam: A glimpse of the Odaiba Gundam after dark.

* * * * *

Kappa mummy --

3. Monster mummies of Japan: A look at some of the mummified monsters found at temples and shrines around Japan.

* * * * *

Pregnancy doll from Edo-period Japan --

4. Pregnant dolls from Edo-period Japan: 19th-century dolls designed to teach the anatomy of pregnancy.

* * * * *

Sculpture at World Sand Sculpture Festival, 2009 --

5. World Sand Sculpture Festival: Photos from the 2009 World Sand Sculpture Festival in Tottori, Japan.

* * * * *

Kuniyoshi tanuki print --

6. All-purpose tanuki testicles: Ukiyoe prints by Kuniyoshi depicting the remarkable versatility of oversized tanuki (raccoon dog) testicles.

* * * * *

Anatomy of Kuro-kamikiri --

7. Anatomy of Japanese folk monsters: Cutaway diagrams from Shigeru Mizuki's Yōkai Daizukai, an illustrated guide to yōkai anatomy.

* * * * *

Ultrasonic bath --

8. Ultrasonic bath: Video and photos of a futuristic human washing machine unveiled at the 1970 World Expo in Osaka.

* * * * *

La Machine in Yokohama --

9. Giant robot spider in Yokohama: Photos and video of the first La Machine sightings in Yokohama.

* * * * *

TOSY robot at iREX 2009 --

10. iREX 2009: Photos from the 2009 International Robot Exhibition held in Tokyo in November.

Have a Happy New Year! See you again in 2010.

19th-century mermaid illustrations

11 Dec 2009

Reports of mermaid encounters were not uncommon in 19th-century Japan, and a number of illustrated documents from that period -- including a few by notable natural historians -- depict some fantastic specimens rarely seen in today's world.

* * * * *

19th century mermaid drawing --
Mermaid illustration obtained by Blomhoff, late Edo period (artist unknown)

This mermaid illustration from the National Museum of Ethnology (Leiden, Netherlands) was obtained by Dutch trader Jan Cock Blomhoff, who served as director of the Dejima trading post in Nagasaki from 1817 to 1824. The drawing appears to show a different mermaid than Blomhoff's famous mummified specimen, which is also owned by the museum.

* * * * *

Vintage mermaid sketch --

Noted natural historian Baien Mouri (1798-1851), a prolific illustrator known for his colorful depictions of plants and animals, included two sketches of a mermaid in his 1835 book Baien Gyofu ("Baien Book of Fish").

Vintage mermaid sketch --

No apparent effort was made to distinguish the mermaid drawings from the dozens of other illustrations of known sea animals that appear in the book.

* * * * *

Vintage mermaid sketch --

This 1805 illustration (artist unknown) from the Waseda University Theater Museum shows a mermaid that was reportedly captured in Toyama Bay. According to the accompanying text, the creature measured 10.6 meters (35 ft) long.

* * * * *

Keisuke Ito (1803–1901) -- a.k.a. the father of modern Japanese botany -- was a noted botanist, medical practitioner, and prolific natural history illustrator. He included several mermaid illustrations in his books, which consisted mostly of drawings of known animals.

Vintage mermaid sketch --

Ito's illustrated Kinka Juufu ("Book of Beasts") included a drawing of a mermaid swimming alongside an Australian sea lion (Zalophus lobatus).

* * * * *

Vintage mermaid sketch --

Kinka Gyofu ("Book of Fish"), another illustrated work by Ito, included a depiction of scaly mermaids measuring about 67 centimeters (26 in) long.

Vintage mermaid sketch --

Ito also included this pair of mermaid illustrations in Kinka Gyofu with no apparent effort to distinguish them from the hundreds of other known fish and sea animals pictured in the book.

Vintage mermaid sketch --

It is unclear whether these illustrations were based on actual observations. Were they the product of an overactive imagination? Were they deliberate fabrications? Or did mermaids once inhabit the waters of Japan?

Anatomy of Japanese folk monsters

14 Oct 2009

Yōkai Daizukai, an illustrated guide to yōkai authored by manga artist Shigeru Mizuki, features a collection of cutaway diagrams showing the anatomy of 85 traditional monsters from Japanese folklore (which also appear in Mizuki's GeGeGe no Kitarō anime/manga). Here are a few illustrations from the book.

Kurokamikiri anatomical illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Daizukai --
Kuro-kamikiri [+]

The Kuro-kamikiri ("black hair cutter") is a large, black-haired creature that sneaks up on women in the street at night and surreptitiously cuts off their hair. Anatomical features include a brain wired for stealth and trickery, razor-sharp claws, a long, coiling tongue covered in tiny hair-grabbing spines, and a sac for storing sleeping powder used to knock out victims. The digestive system includes an organ that produces a hair-dissolving fluid, as well as an organ with finger-like projections that thump the sides of the intestines to aid digestion.

Makuragaeshi anatomical illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Daizukai --
Makura-gaeshi [+]

The Makura-gaeshi ("pillow-mover") is a soul-stealing prankster known for moving pillows around while people sleep. The creature is invisible to adults and can only be seen by children. Anatomical features include an organ for storing souls stolen from children, another for converting the souls to energy and supplying it to the rest of the body, and a pouch containing magical sand that puts people to sleep when it gets in the eyes. In addition, the monster has two brains -- one for devising pranks, and one for creating rainbow-colored light that it emits through its eyes.

Dorotabo anatomical illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Daizukai --
Doro-ta-bō [+]

The Doro-ta-bō ("muddy rice field man"), a monster found in muddy rice fields, is said to be the restless spirit of a hard-working farmer whose lazy son sold his land after he died. The monster is often heard yelling, "Give me back my rice field!" Anatomical features include a gelatinous lower body that merges into the earth, a 'mud sac' that draws nourishment from the soil, lungs that allow the creature to breathe when buried, and an organ that converts the Doro-ta-bō's resentment into energy that heats up his muddy spit. One eyeball remains hidden under the skin until the monster encounters the owner of the rice field, at which time the eye emerges and emits a strange, disorienting light.

Hyosube anatomical illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Daizukai --
Hyōsube [+]

The Hyōsube, a child-sized river monster (a relative of the kappa) from Kyushu that lives in underwater caves, ventures onto land at night to eat rice plants. The monster has a relatively small brain, a nervous system specialized in detecting the presence of humans, thick rubbery skin, sharp claws, two small stomachs (one for rice grains and one for fish), a large sac for storing surplus food, and two large oxygen sacs for emergency use. A pair of rotating bone coils produce an illness-inducing bacteria that the monster sprinkles on unsuspecting humans.

Yanagi-babaa anatomical illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Daizukai --
Yanagi-baba [+]

Yanagi-baba ("willow witch") is the spirit of 1,000-year-old willow tree. Anatomical features include long, green hair resembling leafy willow branches, wrinkled bark-like skin, a stomach that supplies nourishment directly to the tree roots, a sac for storing tree sap, and a cane cut from the wood of the old tree. Although Yanagi-baba is relatively harmless, she is known to harass passersby by snatching umbrellas into her hair, blowing fog out through her nose, and spitting tree sap.

Mannendake anatomical illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Daizukai --
Mannen-dake [+]

The Mannen-dake ("10,000-year bamboo") is a bamboo-like monster that feeds on the souls of lost travelers camping in the woods. Anatomical features include a series of tubes that produce air that causes travelers to lose their way, syringe-like fingers the monster inserts into victims to suck out their souls, and a sac that holds the stolen souls.

Fukurosage anatomical illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Daizukai --
Fukuro-sage [+]

The Fukuro-sage -- a type of tanuki (raccoon dog) found in Nagano prefecture and Shikoku -- has the ability to shapeshift into a sake bottle, which is typically seen rolling down sloping streets. The bottle may pose a danger to people who try to follow it downhill, as it may lead them off a cliff or into a ditch. The Fukuro-sage usually wears a large potato leaf or fern leaf on its head and carries a bag made from human skin. The bag contains a bottle of poison sake. Anatomical features include a stomach that turns food into sake, a sac for storing poison that it mixes into drinks, and a pouch that holds sake lees. The Fukuro-sage's urine has a powerful smell that can disorient humans and render insects and small animals unconscious.

Ka-sha anatomical illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Daizukai --
Kasha [+]

Kasha, a messenger of hell, is a fiery monster known for causing typhoons at funerals. Anatomical features include powerful lungs for generating typhoon-force winds that can lift coffins and carry the deceased away, as well as a nose for sniffing out funerals, a tongue that can detect wind direction, and a pouch containing ice from hell. To create rain, the Kasha spits chunks of this ice through its curtain of perpetual fire.

Bishagatsuku anatomical illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Daizukai --
Bisha-ga-tsuku [+]

The Bisha-ga-tsuku is a soul-stealing creature encountered on dark snowy nights in northern Japan. The monster -- which maintains a body temperature of -150 degrees Celsius -- is constantly hidden behind a fog of condensation, but its presence can be detected by the characteristic wet, slushy sound ("bisha-bisha") it makes. Anatomical features include feelers that inhale human souls and cold air, a sac for storing the sounds of beating human hearts, and a brain that emits a fear-inducing aura. The Bisha-ga-tsuku reproduces by combining the stolen human souls with the cold air it inhales.

Kijimuna anatomical illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Daizukai --
Kijimunaa [+]

The Kijimunaa is a playful forest sprite inhabiting the tops of Okinawan banyan trees. Anatomical features include eye sockets equipped with ball bearings that enable the eyeballs to spin freely, strong teeth for devouring crabs and ripping out the eyeballs of fish (a favorite snack), a coat of fur made from tree fibers, and a nervous system adapted for carrying out pranks. The Kijimunaa's brain contains vivid memories of being captured by an octopus -- the only thing it fears and hates.

[Source: Shigeru Mizuki's Yōkai Daizukai, 2004]

+ See also: Kaiju anatomical drawings

Upstairs at Kitaro’s: Mini monster peepshow

24 Sep 2009

Several yōkai (Japanese folk monsters) inhabit the upstairs closet at the Kitarō Chaya teahouse in Chōfu (Tōkyō). Visible through peepholes in the door, these traditional monsters -- which are based on old folktales from across Japan -- appear in the popular GeGeGe no Kitarō manga/anime by Shigeru Mizuki, a long-time resident of Chōfu. (Click the [+] to enlarge each image.)

Monster in closet, upstairs at Kitaro Chaya teahouse --
Otoroshi [+]

The Otoroshi, a hairy creature depicted in Edo-period books and picture scrolls, perches atop the gates to shrines and temples, waiting to snatch up impious and ill-intentioned people passing below. [More]

Monster in closet, upstairs at Kitaro Chaya teahouse --
Abura-sumashi [+]

The Abura-sumashi (lit. "Oil Presser"), a folk monster from Kumamoto prefecture known for harassing mountain travelers, is believed to be the reincarnated spirit of an oil thief. Long ago, oil was essential for lighting and heating homes, and the divine punishment for people guilty of stealing this valuable commodity -- particularly from temples and shrines -- was reincarnation as a yōkai. [More]

Monster in closet, upstairs at Kitaro Chaya teahouse --
Kappa [+]

The Kappa, probably the most well-known yōkai in Japan, is a mischievous and often dangerous river imp. [More]

Monster in closet, upstairs at Kitaro Chaya teahouse --
Tsuchigumo [+]

The Tsuchigumo is a large blood-sucking spider sometimes found under the floorboards of old houses. Details about this creature vary from tale to tale, and some theories suggest the monster's origins can be traced back to the exaggerated and embellished stories of encounters with mountain-dwelling people of ancient Japan, who were also referred to as "tsuchigumo" (lit. "ground spiders"). [More]

Monster in closet, upstairs at Kitaro Chaya teahouse --
Kurage no Hinotama [+]

The Kurage no Hinotama is a jellyfish-shaped fireball (will-o-wisp) found near the sea. An account from the mid-18th century tells of a samurai who encountered one such ghostly flame on a warm breezy night at Zenshoji temple in Ishikawa prefecture. The man tried to slash the floating apparition with his sword, but to no avail. Unscathed by the attack, the fireball discharged a sticky red sap-like substance onto the man's face. [More]

Monster in closet, upstairs at Kitaro Chaya teahouse --
Peepholes in the closet doors upstairs

* * * * *

In addition to the small collection of yōkai art upstairs, the Kitarō Chaya includes a gift shop and a tiny cafe that serves GeGeGe no Kitarō-themed drinks and snacks. The teahouse is located just outside the main entrance to Jindaiji temple, which is a 20-minute bus ride from Chōfu station (bus #34, north side of station, 200 yen).

Ghost paintings by Kyosai

20 Aug 2009

Here to haunt the waning days of summer are three chilling ghost paintings by Meiji-period artist Kawanabe Kyōsai (1831-1889).

Ghost painting by Kyosai --
Ghost painting by Kyosai, 1868-1870 [+]

Ghost painting by Kyosai --
Ghost painting by Kyosai, 1870 [+]

Ghost painting by Kyosai --
Ghost painting by Kyosai, 1883 [+]

- 19th-century ghost scrolls at Zenshoan temple
- Sketches of hell by Kyosai

The case of the captured mini-UFO (1972)

30 Jul 2009

Japan has had its fair share of UFO sightings over the years, but few encounters have been as peculiar as the one involving the mini-UFO captured in Kochi prefecture in 1972.

Mini-UFO, Kochi prefecture, Japan, 1972 --
Photograph of mini-UFO captured in Japan, 1972

The strange encounter took place in the Kera area of Kochi City. On the afternoon of August 25, 1972, a 13-year-old junior high student named Michio Seo sighted a strange object flying above a rice field while walking home from school. From a distance he watched the small, mysterious object zigzag quickly around the field like a bat chasing insects.

Later that day, Michio told his friends about the curious flying object. "UFO" had yet to become a household word in Japan in 1972, but the boys were intrigued nonetheless. At around 7:00 PM, four of them set out for the rice field in search of the object.

About an hour later, they spotted the object flying over the rice field, lighting up the night with a pulsating silver light. When one of the boys tried to approach to object, it suddenly made a loud "pop" sound and started to glow blue. Frightened, they turned and fled without looking back.

Over a week later, at 9:30 PM on September 4, several of the boys once again saw the bright object in the rice field. And two days after that, on September 6, the boys and a few of their friends found the object on the ground in the field. It appeared to have crash-landed.

One of boys -- a 14-year-old named Hiroshi Mori (14) -- picked the object up with his hands and carried it home.

The silver, hat-shaped object weighed 1.3 kilograms (3 lbs) and measured roughly 7 centimeters (3 in) tall and 15 centimeters (6 in) in diameter. The bottom surface was perforated with an array of tiny holes and imprinted with designs depicting what appeared to be a bird, some waves, and another flying object. Something rattled around inside the object when shaken.

That night, Hiroshi wrapped the curious object in a plastic bag and placed it inside his backpack. Later, however, the object mysteriously vanished without a trace.

Mini-UFO, Kochi prefecture, Japan, 1972 --

Before long, the boys encountered the object again. They once again captured it, but it soon vanished. This happened about five or six times over the next two weeks.

On one occasion, the boys decided to pour water into the holes on the bottom. The object emitted a loud cicada-like buzzing sound and glowed brightly inside. Later, when they ran some wire through the holes and dangled the object upside-down, the top and bottom sections of the object became slightly separated. Through the opening, they could see what appeared to be electronic components.

On the night of September 22, Hiroshi was riding his bicycle with the object in the basket when it suddenly disappeared. They never saw it again.

In 2007, 35 years after the incident, the Japan Space Phenomena Society (JSPS) conducted a new investigation into the case. According to Kazuo Hayashi, head of the JSPS Osaka chapter, all of the witnesses still stand by their original story.

The mini-UFO of 1972 was not the last that would be encountered in Kochi prefecture. Nearly four years later, on the night of June 6, 1976, a 9-year-old girl named Sachiko Oyama in the village of Agawa (now called Niyodogawa-cho) stepped outside to look for her family cat. She noticed a bright yellow luminous object in the eastern sky.

When she went to the street for a better view, the object suddenly descended into the surrounding woods, struck a nearby tree, and landed at her feet. It made no sound when it hit the pavement.

The silver, hat-shaped object appeared to be about 15 centimeters (7 in) in diameter. Curious, Sachiko touched it with her index finger. The object was constructed of solid material, but it was covered in a slimy substance that stuck to her finger.

She suddenly felt afraid started to run home. Over her shoulder, she saw the object start to glow yellow, spin counter-clockwise three times, and shoot quickly back into the sky.

What could explain these mysterious mini-UFO sightings? Perhaps there is a rational explanation -- or maybe they were hoaxes. It's also possible the encounters were the products of overactive imaginations. Or perhaps, as suggested by JSPS head Kazuo Hayashi, these flying objects temporarily lost their way after slipping into our realm from another dimension.

[Source: Namiki, Shin-ichiro. Nippon No Kaiki Hyaku. Magazineland, 2007.]