On June 24, the International UFO Laboratory was established in the UFO Interactive Hall in the Iinomachi district of Fukushima Prefecture, in commemoration of World UFO Day. The laboratory is Japan’s first and only research institute devoted to unidentified flying objects (UFOs), and the interactive hall exhibits some 3,000 materials related to UFOs, attracting as many as 30,000 visitors annually. Mikami Takeharu, the editor-in-chief of Mu Monthly, a Japanese occult magazine, became the director of the research institute. It has been reported that UFOs have been witnessed from time to time around Mount Senganmori, a pyramid-shaped hill with a strong magnetic field, near the laboratory.
The number of those who claimed to have witnessed UFOs is relatively low in Japan in comparison with the United States, but there are tales and legendary stories about extraterrestrials and UFOs in Japan. One of the oldest stories is “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” (Taketori Monogatari), also known as “The Shining Princess” (Kaguya-hime) by an unknown author, created in the early stage of the Heian period (794-1185).
According to the story, an old bamboo cutter found a baby girl (Princess Kaguya) inside a shining bamboo stalk. She grows up to be a mysteriously beautiful woman. With unearthly charm, Kaguya attracts all people around her, and quite a few men, including the Emperor, propose to marry her, but she turns down all of them. Kaguya explains that she does not belong to the Earth, and needs to go back to the moon. In the end, a delegation from the moon arrives on the Earth to take Kaguya back home. Soldiers of the Emperor try to guard Kaguya, but she is eventually taken back to the moon.
This story is familiar to almost all Japanese people, because it is read at home and used as reading material at school. Moreover, the story was made into the animated film “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya,” by Studio Ghibli, and a lunar orbit injection maneuver, Kaguya (SELENE), launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was named after the extraterrestrial princess.
Curiously, a number of records from the Edo period (1603-1868) indicate that a beautiful woman arrived in Japan by a round vessel (utsurobune). It is logical to consider that the story must have been inspired by an arrival of a foreign ship, but somehow the shape of the vessel is similar to a classic flying saucer.
Although many Japanese people are skeptical about the existence of UFOs or aliens and most published records are scientifically dubious, it is surprising to note that Horikoshi Jiro, who designed the famous Japanese Zero Fighter, used in the Asia-Pacific War, researched the mechanism of flying saucers from the perspective of aeronautical technology. Notably, Horikoshi drafted an unpublished research paper on flying saucers, and it is inferred that the paper was written after the UFO sighting by Kenneth Arnold on June 24, 1947. UFO sightings around the globe have continuously fascinated many people in Japan, and a Japanese game company, Taito, developed the classic video game, “Space Invaders.”
Since the arrival of UFOs might be a possible threat to the peace and security of Japan, Japanese lawmakers have occasionally discussed the topic at the Diet. For instance, Yamane Ryuji of the Democratic Party of Japan pointed out at the General Affairs Committee of the House of Councillors on March 10, 2005 that many UFOs had reportedly arrived on Earth, and the arrival of numerous UFOs could be problematic in terms of Japan’s defense. In response to a question from Yamane, then Foreign Minister Aso Taro replied that he had never witnessed any UFOs, but said his mother had told him with excitement that she witnessed them.
On December 10, 2007, Yamane asked further questions, especially whether the Japanese government had ever confirmed the existence of UFOs, to the administration of then Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo. Eight days later, the Fukuda government replied to the question with an official view that the Japanese government had never confirmed the existence of UFOs, and that the government had never considered measures against the possible arrivals of UFOs in the territory of Japan. However, some Japanese ministers personally contradicted the government statement. In particular, then Defense Minister Ishiba Shigeru argued that there was no evidence proving that UFOs or extraterrestrials do not exist. Also, former first lady Hatoyama Miyuki claimed that she was abducted by a triangular-shaped UFO.
On April 1, 2015, Antonio Inoki, a former professional wrestler, and a member of the House of Councillors, asked then Defense Minister Nakatani Gen if pilots of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) had ever conducted scrambles, or emergency take-offs, to respond to airspace incursions by UFOs. Nakatani replied, “I don’t know of a case of finding an unidentified flying object believed to have come over from anywhere other than Earth.”
Osaka Seiji, a lawmaker of the House of Representatives who belongs to the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, asked several questions regarding and Japan’s security policy to the Abe administration on February 16, 2018. Specifically, Osaka asked if the language regarding an armed attack situation or a survival threatening situation as stipulated in the Peace and Security Legislation could be applied to possible attacks by UFOs. Osaka moreover asked if Japan should exercise the right to collective self-defense to protect U.S. forces in the event of possible armed attacks by UFOs. Eleven days later, the Abe administration expressed an official statement that the government had never recognized the existence of UFOs and had never formulated necessary measures against the arrival of UFOs.
Recently, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of those who claim to have witnessed UFOs has been on the increase. In response to recordings of U.S. Navy fighter jets regarding UFOs released by the Pentagon in April 2020, then-Defense Minister Kono Taro stated that pilots of the SDF had never encountered UFOs. Still, the Japanese Defense Ministry drafted and announced protocols for the SDF in the event of encountering UFOs on September 14, 2020. In accordance with the protocols, the SDF is obliged to submit an analysis report regarding UFO encounters by recording and investigating any such incidents.
Previously, Kono said that “frankly speaking, I don’t believe in UFOs,” but he decided to formulate the protocols, after he met then U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper in Guam, where they exchanged views on UFOs at the end of August 2020. Significantly, it was reported that both Kono and Esper touched on possible defense cooperation regarding UFOs on the basis of the bilateral military alliance. In essence, Kono instructed the SDF to report possible interactions with or sightings of UFOs, on the grounds that encounters with UFOs could pose a threat to national security of Japan and the United States.
Although Japan formulated protocols for UFO encounters, the procedures are within the current legal framework to deal with airspace incursion by foreign military aircraft. In the event of airspace encroachment by a foreign aircraft, SDF pilots are supposed to conduct scrambles to warn and order the foreign aircraft to leave the territory of Japan. If the foreign aircraft carries out military operations against Japan, the SDF would be ordered to conduct a defense operation against the foreign aircraft. During the defense operation, SDF pilots are allowed to use force to defend Japanese territory. Unfortunately however, the current legal framework and defense capabilities of Japan are not ready for airspace intrusions by UFOs.
Still, both the Japanese Defense Ministry and the Pentagon are expected to jointly continue gathering information on UFOs in order to deal with possible simultaneous arrivals of countless UFOs and a following hypothetical military emergency caused by extraterrestrials.