Utsuro-Bune - Japanese Folklore Or UFO Mystery
211 years ago on February 22nd 1803, a strange vessel washed up on the shore of the old Hitachi Province in Eastern Japan. Found within the vessel was a beautiful woman who was taken to a nearby village by some local fishermen. After only a brief time on land, the locals were unable to understand the woman and as culture dictated, they returned her to her vessel and watched it float into the distance. The story would become a fascinating entry into Japanese cultural history and has since baffled and fascinated historians and Ufologist alike.
Interpretations of this story vary wildly depending on who you speak to. Some believe the story to be nothing but an old wive's tale that worked its way into Japanese folklore, while others argue that the vessel may have been of European or Chinese construction, perhaps belonging to a lost explorer - of which there were many during that time. Of course a tale as mysterious as Utsuro-bune would not be complete without a Ufological interpretation, an example of which can be seen in the video above. But is there any grounding to these theories? Ufologists draw attention to the fact that drawings of the fabled vessel look remarkably similar to the common flying saucer shape that is so iconic in the modern day. But is that enough to warrant their classification of Utsuro-bune as a close encounter of the third kind?
Between the 1820's and 1840's, Utsuro-bune popped up in a handful of Japanese texts, each time with a slightly different twist. But there are certain points that each account agrees upon, such as the ship's appearance. The consensus is that the ship was circular in fashion with a solid wooden hull and a series of transparent windows on its domed top. These windows baffled the local fishermen, but they were nothing compared to the strange engravings found on the inside of the vessel. Some Ufologists suggest that these strange images and characters are remarkably similar to markings found at the site of the Rendlesham Forest Incident.
Another curious part of the tale is the strange box that was carried by the vessel's sole passenger. What this box contained is not agreed upon, but the woman was said to be fiercely protective of it and its contents. Historians propose that this box may have contained the head of a loved one, suggesting that the woman had been banished from her homeland for carrying out some form of infidelity. The mystery of the box is another detail that was sprung upon by ufologists, with some suggesting that it contained a powerful gift meant for a Japanese ruler. In truth, no matter which party you listen to, there appears to no factual explanation for this box's prominence within the story. But where mystery is present, speculation rules.
Utsuro-bune is packed full of mystery, but it seems unlikely that there is anything close to enough evidence to warrant suggestions of close encounters. Although early 19th century thinking may not have stretched to questions of alien visitation, Japanese culture of the time was steeped in paranormal folklore with tales of mysterious lights in the air not at all uncommon. The event of a washed up vessel and a woman speaking a strange language is a completely plausible, as is the likelihood that it inherited a few embellishments over the years that have served to make it seem more mysterious. It would seem that, in this case at least, Ufological theories tend to ignore logical explanations in favor of sensational theories based on coincidence and weak links such as the strange drawings on the vessel.
The most likely explanation is one of cultural misunderstanding. In the early 19th century there were a remarkable number of different cultures within a relatively short distance of one another, but in a time when isolated village life still ruled it would not be impossible for the customs of someone from the likes of China to seem completely alien to these residents of Hitachi. Still, I really would love to know what was in that box!