The Ningen: Myth, Monster or Make Believe?
The ocean’s vast, mysterious depths are full of enigmatic oddities that have never seen the light of day, but while there are few who would deny that the seas are teeming with as yet undiscovered life-forms, most would be reticent to admit that there are any truly gargantuan species waiting to be found in the fathomless deep… Nevertheless, it would seem that the inscrutable Ningen is just such a creature.
The “Ningen” — which translates as “human” in Japanese — was so dubbed by the Pacific fishermen who claimed to have seen the colossal creature in the 1990s. These professional anglers were astounded by the size of this monster and even more shocked by this ostensibly albino beast’s distinctly humanoid form.
Said to be between 60 and 90-feet in length, the Ningen has been described as being a humongous, “blubbery, whale-like creature,” whose smooth, pale form vaguely resembles the head, torso and appendages of a human being.
That having been noted, there are some eyewitnesses who have testified that it has a mermaid-like tail rather than two hind “legs” and others who insist that there are what resemble “hands” complete with five fingers at the ends of its tendril-like arms.
These beasts have supposedly been seen in the Pacific, Antarctic and Atlantic Oceans, and are always described as being extraordinarily large with a whitish complexion. Many observers have also reported that these animals have no distinct facial features save for two, huge eyes and a mouth-like slit. According to most accounts, these creatures are primarily nocturnal and tend to thrive in frigid, arctic waters.
Initial reports of these marine animals were said to have emanated from the tail end of the 20th Century, which is strange considering how many centuries mariners have been traversing the world’s seas with nary a mention of these bizarre and purportedly gigantic beasts, but before we try and figure out what these things actually are, let’s take a look at what little history we have regarding these captivating creatures.
A LEGEND IS BORN:
While the first known reports of theses mammoth monstrosities are apparently untraceable; it is accepted that the Ningen did not gain any real notoriety until a description of these creatures appeared online in a popular Japanese forum known as 2channel. The individual posting claimed to have been working on a “government whale research vessel,” when one of these creatures rose up from the depths.
According to the account, the anonymous crew member — along with fellow researchers — scrambled up onto the deck to catch a glimpse of what they initially thought was a “foreign submarine” floating on the horizon. However, as the research vessel approached the object it became evident that they were not dealing with a machine-tooled structure, but a living, breathing, behemoth. The crew stared in awe at this biological anomaly until it submerged moments later.
There are persistent rumors that suggest that members of this research team managed to snap a series of extraordinary photos of the “thing” during their brief encounter, but these images were allegedly suppressed in order to spare the government funded research team the shame — and financial ruin — of being associated with this unusual event.
It goes without saying that as soon as this account was published online word of this enigma spread across the globe and a genuine pop culture phenomenon was born. In November of 2007, the buzz surrounding these mystery monsters, and the accompanying photographs, was so intense that the editors of Japan’s “Mu” magazine decided to publish an article regarding this perplexing puzzle.
Mu, much like “Fate Magazine,” is a periodical that is dedicated to the dissemination of information regarding all manner of paranormal phenomena and their article about the Ningen proved to be a huge hit. The author of the piece speculated that these as yet unidentified creatures were likely indigenous to the icy waters of the southern oceans. Mu even displayed a Google Maps image of what was evidently a Ningen swimming in the South Atlantic off the coast of Namibia.
Soon after the article was published a mini-deluge of accounts, photos and grainy video footage flooded the web, but most agree that these unverified reports and images constitute little in the way of real evidence. None of this, however, has dissuaded those who believe that Ningen are corporeal life-forms from speculating that the Japanese government is actually taking these sightings very seriously and amassing a huge body of evidence regarding their existence.
A few Ningen proponents also claim that the bulk of the shoddy photographs and half-baked stories that have been publicly released regarding these creatures were created by this anonymous and clandestine organization to cover up the truth and dismiss the whole notion that these things might be real as the ravings of crackpots and hoaxers.
Any student of ufology will realize that this was the same tact used by the U.S. and many other governments to debunk the very real UFO phenomenon during the 20th Century. Skeptics suggest that this method was employed to reduce the ever growing paranoia regarding “flying saucers” during the Cold War, but many others believe that they were doing more than preventing panic; they were (and still are) hiding one of the greatest secrets never told.
Could the Ningen be yet another chapter in the long lineage of governmental cover-ups? Whether or not these titanic beasts are being concealed by the Japanese authorities, one big question remains…
WHAT COULD THEY BE?
Odds are overwhelming that the relatively new legend of the Ningen is an outright fabrication, but, for the sake of argument, let’s allow for the possibility that these may be genuine creatures. Bearing that in mind, one of the more popular theories regarding the identity of these varmints is that they might be an unclassified species of…
I suppose that it is not entirely beyond the realm of possibility to surmise that an odd species of huge, ray-like fish might be naturally camouflaged to blend in with the floating icebergs and other frozen debris that infest its frigid home, but it’s difficult to believe that a beast so bulky could remain unidentified, much less unseen, until the precipice of the 21st Century.
Nevertheless, some scientists have speculated that human beings have managed to chronicle a mere 20% of all the species living in the world’s oceans. Considering this fact, the chances that large, unknown marine creatures could escape detection — especially if they primarily exist below the ice — improves dramatically.
But if it turns out that we’re not dealing with giant fish, then maybe it’s something distinctly more supernatural, such as…
From the turtle-shelled primate known as the Kappa to the pachyderm-like Baku, Japanese folklore is chock full of amazing creatures that fall under the heading of Yōkai. The Yōkai are a class of mystical creatures, many of which bear animal-like features.
Perhaps this predominately Japanese phenomenon is not so much a cryptozoological mystery as it is a paranormal one. It’s worth considering the fact that every report I’ve come across regarding Ningen are Japanese in origin. This might suggest that Ningen are some sort of supernatural Yōkai-like entity that is — for reasons beyond my comprehension — choosing to show itself exclusively to the seafarers of Japan. Who knows? Arguably, stranger things have happened.
Okay, let’s abandon the paranormal for a moment and head over to the hyper-technological, so we can ponder the theory that these allegedly living organisms might actually be some form of bio-mechanical…
USOs (Unidentified Submersible Objects) are the aquatic equivalent to UFOs. Said to be able to soar through the air and plunge below the ocean’s depths with equal ease, these strange “vehicles” have been reported entering and leaving the seas by none other than Christopher Columbus, and sightings continue to this day.
While most people presume that USOs are a highly technological mode of transportation that either hails from another world or was constructed by a marine dwelling species more advanced than our own, there are some who have considered the possibility that these objects might actually be alive. It seems improbable, but perhaps the oddly shaped Ningen are what people mistakenly assume are the underwater craft referred to as USOs or, stranger yet, maybe Ningen — who seem to be so stiffly “swimming” in the videos purporting to show them — are, in reality, living machines.
But assuming they aren’t advanced bio-mechanical beings, then maybe we should consider the possibility that they are simply…
When one thinks about all the disparate forms of life on this planet, then the potential for vast differences in life throughout the universe suddenly seems virtually limitless. Aliens are apt come in more shapes and sizes than we can possibly imagine and if we are trying to picture what kind of life forms might choose to visit or relocate to this glorious, blue orb we call home, then we must at least entertain the notion that these species are, in all likelihood, aquatic in nature.
As strange as this hypothesis may sound at first, we must realize that our species’ biological bias toward terrestrial living puts us in the vast minority of creatures living on the Earth. It just makes sense that anything from the deep cosmos that is attracted to our planet is probably looking for water… and our world has plenty of it.
This may be a stretch, but it is conceivable that the reason nobody claimed to see Ningen until the 1990s is because they never existed on Earth before then. Perhaps these Ningen — either by their own design or through an inadvertent UFO crash — represent a “foreign” species that has accidentally or intentionally “invaded” our eco-system. I’ll grant the premise is thin, but concept is nonetheless intriguing.
I’ll be the first to admit that tales of the Ningen have all the vaguely untraceable earmarks of a seafarer’s “fishing tale” combined with the urban myth making abilities of internet pranksters. Add to this mixture a few clever Photoshop artisans and we have the makings of a grand ol’ oceanic legend in the vein of the Flying Dutchman or the carnivorous kraken.
It bears mentioning, however, that — after generations of folklore regarding creatures such as the kraken were vociferously maligned by the academics of the day — modern scientists were finally able to confirm the existence of colossal, whale battling squid in the briny deep. So while most, if not all, of the purported photos of the Ningen are probably fakes and the stories backing them up are just as likely fables, this does not completely rule out the possibility that the genesis of this legend might be a genuine biological entity.
Be they real, prank or the subject of a vast, global conspiracy, Ningen continue to be an intriguing enigma, and until a carcass washes ashore on some isolated beach or is found frozen in an arctic glacier, that’s likely how they will likely remain.