In the Iwase Bunko Depository library there lies a document called Hyouryuukishuu which is translated as ‘Tales of Castaways’. This document dates back to at least 1803 and what it contains has rocked the UFO community.

The document records stories from Japanese fishermen who told tales of becoming lost at sea and finding themselves in strange, new lands. One story is different.

The story takes place on February 22 in the spring of 1803, near the village of Harashagahama, something strange was washed up onto the shore. the strange craft measuring 3m tall and 5m wide was made from red sandalwood and metal. It also had openings made of glass or crystal.

This created a stir in the village and people rushed down to see the unusual object. This object became known as Utsuro Bune (“Hollow ship”).

Inside the craft, the people saw strange writing in a language and style unknown to any of them. But it was something else that stunned them.

In the craft sat a delicate young lady. She had a pale face with red eyebrows and hair. The people estimated her age to be around 18 – 20 years old.

When she spoke, she spoke in a unfamiliar language and in her arms she held a timber box about 60cm in length. To the people, it appeared as though the box was very special to the young woman and she did not allow people to touch it.

Around this time a number of drawings were made depicting the craft and the woman. These are described in the UFO community as some of the earliest known drawings of UFO’s.

There were two books published early on regarding this incident. One book is Toen Shousetsu, published in 1825 and the other book is Ume no Chiri, published in 1844. Both books predate ‘modern’ UFO sightings.

Stories in the books are considered to be based on old tabloid-like newspapers called kawara-ban and on local folklore. Although the credibility of these books have been questioned, yet it has been verified that these books were written prior to the modern UFO era.

In the Toen Shousetsu story, an old villager is said to have made this speech:

“This woman may be a daughter of a king in a foreign country and might have been married in her home country. However, she loved another man after marriage and her lover was put to death.

Since she was a princess previously, she could get sympathy and avoid the death penalty. She had been forced to be put in this boat and was left to the sea to be trusted to fate. If this conjecture is correct, her lover’s severed head is inside the square box.

In the past, a similar boat with a woman inside drifted ashore in a beach not far from here. In that incident, a severed head placed on a kind of chopping board was found inside the boat. Judging from this kind of secondhand information, the contents of the box may be similar. This may explain why the box is so important to her and she is always holding it in her hands.

We may be ordered to use much money to investigate this woman and boat. Since there is a precedent for casting this kind of boat back out to sea, we had better put her inside the boat and send it away.

From a humanitarian viewpoint, this treatment is too cruel for her. However, this treatment would be her destiny.”

When one further investigates this story, we find another account which predates these two books.

In 1925, the famous folklorist, Yanagida Kunio (1875-1962) wrote a paper entitled “The Story of Utsubo-fune”.

In one instance he writes about eh origin of a Kawano family in Iyo district:

“A long rime ago, a fisherman named Wakitaro living on Gogono Island was working on the sea. He found a Urszebo-fune on the sea and he towed it to his home.

He found a girl whose age was about twelve or thirteen inside this boat. She told him that she was a daughter of a king in China. Since she was involved in a scandal in her homeland, she was forced out to sea in this boat.

The fisherman named her Wake-hime and brought her up. She later became a princess of a king in Iyo district and gave birth to Ochimiko, who was the beginning of Kawano family.”

Also in this paper, he mentions another interesting piece of folklore which was handed down as a song in Kyushu Island. Some of the lyrics are roughly translated as:

“. . . a daughter of a noble man;
. . . she was sent into the sea in an Utsuro-fune because of her scandal;
… the boat was made of red sandalwood, ebony, and Chinese wood;
…the glass (window) was shielded with chan;
…it was possible to distinguish between day and night through the glass (window);
…the food in the boat was delicious cake…”

Other than the accounts in these various books, no records of the mysterious incident have been found in official documents in Japan.

So what we are left with is more questions than answers. Could the UFO shaped craft just be an embellishment of a boat taken from folklore? Could the original folklore just be based on a real UFO experience, or could it be easily explained as a shipwrecked woman?

What is unfortunate is that this story is being used as definitive proof of possible ancient aliens, where there are a lot of questions surrounding nearly every aspect of the story.

There is a fascinating article published in July, 2000 by Kazuo Tanaka which expands on this research. This article comes highly recommended: Did a Close Encounter of the Third Kind Occur on a Japanese Beach in 1803?

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