In a case that might have served as one of the inspirations for the Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams blockbuster “Super 8,” a group of Japanese kids had repeated run-ins with a small, silver UFO, which they managed to not only photograph, but actually capture for a brief time during the summer of 1972.
There is inexplicably little information to be found -- in the western world anyway -- regarding the strange series of events that began on August 25th, 1972, in the Kera area of Kōchi City, which is the capital of Kōchi Prefecture on the Shikoku island of Japan. On the afternoon in question a 13 year-old student named Michio Seo was on his way home from middle-school when he allegedly caught site of an unbelievable metallic object hovering over a rice field.
The awestruck Seo watched the odd apparatus zip back and forth above the waterlogged paddy. The airborne object resembled a dull, silver hat with a flat bottom and a narrow lip. The curved dome atop the lip was relatively steep and level at the apex. Seo would later compare the objects movements to that of a bat making hairpin turns in pursuit of its insect prey.
Seo’s curiosity swiftly usurped his fear and he began to approach the miniature flying saucer, but before he could get too close the object allegedly shot a blinding beam toward the teen. Seo, not wishing to further provoke the UFO -- or its possible occupants -- quickly fled the scene.
As soon as young Seo got back to Kera he hurriedly rounded up four of his best friends -- Hiroshi Mori, Yasuo Fujimoto, Katsuoka Kojima and a buddy known only as Yuji -- and told them about his incredible encounter. His pals, skeptical, though intrigued, wasted no time in forming a makeshift posse to go out and find this miniature flying dome.
At approximately 7:00 pm. Seo, Mori, Fujimoto, Kojima and Yuji arrived at the rice field. The boys kept a steadfast vigil for the better part of an hour when, to the shock of everyone except Seo, the small object returned. The thrilled teens stared at the strange object that was hovering over the field approximately 60-feet from them. Then, as the sun dipped low over the horizon and dusk began to settle in, the device began to emit a pulsating multicolored light.
One of the young men, no doubt bolstered by the pressure of his peers, began to stalk the erratically floating UFO. As he neared the object it suddenly emitted an earsplitting “pop” and began to shimmer with a bluish hue. This was all the youngsters needed to send them sprinting back toward their homes.
Seo, Mori, Fujimoto, Kojima and Yuji would occasionally visit the field following their sighting and on September 4th -- Just over a week after their initial run-in -- their patience paid off. At about 9:30 pm. the five young men once again came face to face with the silvery object flying nearly 3-feet above the field. The little UFO started glowing and began to zoom toward the boys causing them to scatter and once again retreat with haste.
Once home, the boys reclaimed their courage and vowed to procure a camera and spend every waking moment they could staking out the field in hopes of finally capturing the unusual object on film. Their surveillance began the next evening, but the object did not return. The following night, however, would be a different story.
On September 6th the boys’ vigilance paid off when on their way to the rice paddy they spied the object lying on the ground in the middle of the field before them. The teenagers, now armed with a camera, sagely decided to snap a photo before they approached the downed “craft.”
Once the flashbulb went off the object on the ground began spinning and rapidly rose into the air. The unknown cameraman shot another photo just after its ascension.
This is where accounts get a little murky, but what seems to have happened next is that the object emitted a light that was even brighter than the flashbulb’s burst, before once again plummeting to the ground.
The still spinning object almost seemed to be burrowing into the dirt when it stopped moving.
At this point 14 year-old Hiroshi Mori cautiously moved toward the incapacitated flying saucer. The brave (or foolhardy) boy decided to bend over and lift the object up with his bare hands.
As he did so he claimed that he felt something “moving” inside. A photo of Miro holding the UFO was then taken.
The boys marveled at their peculiar prize before Miro wrapped it in a plastic bag and placed it in his backpack and took it home. Once there the boys warily measured the object and declared it to be nearly 8-inches wide and almost 4-inches in height. The now inert UFO was said to weigh about 3 lbs.
They also discovered a series of concentric curves, thirty-one small holes and three unique designs etched into the base of the object. The gang deemed that the etchings represented waves or clouds, a bird or some sort of “flying object,” and something they interpreted to be a budding flower. There was no visible propulsion system.
Following their inspection, the boys repacked the object in plastic and brought their puzzling find to the home of Yasuo Fujimoto. Fujimoto's father, Mutsuo, was the current director of the Center for Science Education in the city of Kōchi.
The senior Fujimoto gave the object a cursory examination, assuming that the find was of little significance. That would be a decision that he would come to regret. In his own words:
"The frequent nights out of the boys began to worry parents, I told my son if it was true what he said, to bring the object. He did: it was something like an ashtray, cast iron, but too light for this metal. (It) had a top down it was impossible to open and inside were pieces similar to a radio. I did not give more importance, but now I regret not having studied more closely."
Following Mr. Fujimoto’s brief once over, the object was returned to Mori’s backpack, but, much to the chagrin of all involved, it was discovered missing just a day later. This would not be the last time this mysterious object would be seen… or recovered for that matter.
Over the course of the next two weeks Seo, Mori, Fujimoto, Kojima and Yuji all claimed to have seen the same (or identical) objects in flight on at least six more occasions. Fujimoto himself saw it three times. The gang even managed to capture it a second time, but the object disappeared under mysterious circumstances yet again.
The boys -- trying to predict when the object would next rear its proverbial head -- deduced that the single unifying factor in all of their sightings was the fact that they never seemed to occur on rainy days. This, they surmised, was due to the fact that the object “feared” water. Bearing this in mind they formulated a plan to capture the device.
On September 19, the gang once again returned to the now notorious rice paddy to try and detain the mystifying UFO. This time the boys were armed with a bucket of runoff water and some tattered rags. As luck would have it they found the device sitting motionless on the ground.
The group hurriedly covered the object with rags and poured the water in the bucket over it. They then turned the object over and started to fill the perforations at the base with the remainder of the greenish water. As soon as the liquid entered the device it began emitting a deafening noise that they compared to a cicada-like buzzing. The interior of the object also started to glow.
The youngsters were abruptly struck with the notion that the object might try to retaliate to this perceived attacked and started to back away from the stationary UFO, pelting it with stones. The once flying object remained earthbound and the gang reclaimed their potentially extraterrestrial quarry.
The intrepid youths then took more pictures and attempted to open the device by inserting a wire into one of the holes and manipulating it.
Eventually they hung the device upside down by the wire, Gravity pulled at the top of the dome resulting in a slight separation between the top and bottom sections of the object. The boys could see what they referred to as “complicated electronic equipment” inside the item as well as unidentified a viscous material. Could this have been the liquefied remains of the pilot, who -- much like Oz’s Wicked Witch -- melted on contact with the water?
The boys then attempted (with a dubious sense of scientific integrity, no doubt) to see how strong the exterior shell of the object was by pummeling it with a hammer. They discovered that even the thinnest parts of the light metal remained unblemished no matter how hard they hit it. This seems to be a fairly common trait of materials recovered at alleged UFO crash sites.
At this point the boys decided to try yet another experiment by putting the UFO in the oven to see what kind of temperatures it could withstand, but before they got the chance Kojima’s mother, Aiko Katsuoka, wisely put the kibosh on that. She also refused to allow them to store it in her refrigerator, which the boys believed might prevent the UFO from escaping yet again.
The gang then came to the conclusion that the device was likely some kind of “remotely controlled” surveillance mechanism of unknown origin. It was then that they decided it was time to reveal their cherished mystery mechanism to their classmates the following week, but before putting it away for the night they wrapped in additional rags under the naïve impression that it would prevent the thing from leaking any “atomic radiation.”
The object was then given to Seo and Mori for safekeeping while the rest returned home for dinner and chores. The young watchmen, feeling that the object was secure in the room with them, relaxed for an evening of comic book consumption and the anticipation of the notoriety that would greet them and their cohorts the following Monday at school when they revealed their wondrous contraption.
When the rest of the group returned later that evening to check on their discovery, they were all dismayed to discover that beneath the pile of rags there was nothing to be found. After a fruitless search, the boys reached the inescapable conclusion that their mini-saucer has once again flown the coop, so to speak.
A few hours later Kojima and Mori were playing ball at Mori’s house. Kojima lunged over the fence pursuing the ball and much to his surprise and delight stumbled across the still immobile UFO. Kojima and Mori swiftly absconded back into the house with the recovered saucer.
At his juncture the comrades shrewdly decided that they should mark the silver dome with paint lest it pull another disappearing act. This would be to confirm that they were actually encountering the same UFO over and over again, rather than disparate (though indistinguishable) machines. The boys had lost and found the object so many times by this point they naturally assumed that if it vanished it would again turn up near the rice field or in one of their backyards.
On the evening of September 22nd, the crew gathered together of a bike ride into Kōchi City. It was decided that they would all take turns carrying the device, which they no longer left unattended.
To further prevent its escape Mori determined that the UFO would be sealed in a plastic bag full of water, which they continued to hypothesize, had some sort of restraining effect on the apparatus. As if that weren’t enough, the boys tied a piece of string from the knot on the bag to the wrist of whomever was carrying it to insure that nothing would happen this time.
The knotted bag containing the UFO was then placed in duffle bag and inserted into the bicycle basket of the first carrier, and the gang set off. The bag switched from rider to rider as they tore through the city until it ended up in the basket of its last caretaker, whose name was not revealed.
The gang continued their journey until they neared a local bicycle repair shop. At that moment, the final rider claimed he felt his wrist -- which was attached by string to the bag -- wrench with immense force. He immediately called out to his friends, who skidded to a halt ahead of him.
The boys instantly opened the satchel and untied the string and the knots on the plastic bag, but when they looked inside they found that, even though the knots had not been tampered with, the tiny UFO was nowhere to be found. The boys would never see the object again, much to their disappointment.
This unique case remained largely unknown to the general public until May of 2004, when UFO Comics published an illustrated retelling of the case. This introduced the encounter to a new generation of UFO enthusiasts garnering it somewhat of a cult following in Japan.
Due to the buzz, in 2007 -- a full 35 years after the events in question -- Shinichiro Namiki, the director of the Japan Space Phenomena Society (JSPS,) reopened the investigation. The head of the JSPS Osaka chapter, Kazuo Hayashi, was sent to speak with the remaining witnesses and confirmed that they all maintained the veracity of their original accounts.
During the course of his investigation, Hayashi encountered another tiny UFO tale that occurred in the same prefecture as the Kera event just 4 years later. On the evening of June 6th, 1976, a 9-year-old girl named Sachiko Oyama, from the village of Agawa (now known as Niyodogawa-cho,) went outside to find her pet cat when she noticed a small, yellow luminous object floating in the eastern sky.
Oyama walked into the middle of the street to afford herself a better view. It was then that she saw the unusual object descend in a nearby wooded grove. Overcome by curiosity, the young girl followed the UFO to the edge of the tree line. It was then that the object allegedly hit a tree and proceeded to silently land on the pavement near her feet at which point it emitted a “hissing” sound.
Oyama would layer describe the object has resembling a silver (though some accounts say “black") hat that was about 7-inches in diameter; a familiar description to say the least. The courageous girl bent over and touched the object, which she claimed was covered with a “slimy substance” that stuck to her finger.
Like the boys who encountered the virtually identical object in Kera, Oyama suddenly found herself overwhelmed by fear. She turned and began to run for the safety of her home, but when she glanced over her shoulder she noticed that the downed device had started to glow yellow once again. Oyama watched in disbelief as the UFO rose, spun counter-clockwise three times, then shot skyward and out of view.
Hayashi also confirmed that the then 40 year-old Oyama still stood by her story in 2007. It was then that Hayashi put forth the hypothesis that these flying objects were actually inter-dimensional vehicles that had temporarily lost their way after slipping into our realm.
Hayashi seemed satisfies with his theory, but what should we make of these mysterious objects that seemingly toyed with these Japanese kids back in 1972 and 1976? Were they UFOs in the classic sense of a interstellar or inter-dimensional vehicles? It goes without saying that by 1970s (or current) technological standards an object as decidedly non-aerodynamic as this could not have been capable of such precise or speedy maneuvers as were attributed to it.
Also, unlike the micro-terrestrial invasion of Malaysia in the 1970s, there seems to be little indication of any humanoid or alien influence on these devices other than that fact that it was apparently “intelligently controlled” while in flight. Nevertheless, I think we have to look elsewhere for a solution.
How about the boys’ deduction that it was a remote controlled device of unknown extraction? This theory, I must admit, seems to make more sense than that of it being some sort of spacecraft.
In fact, when I first heard about this case, my initial reaction was to assume that this was nothing more than a prank played on naïve teens by “some guy” with a remote control flying saucer, but upon closer inspection of the photographs it does not take an aeronautical engineer to realize that without a rotor or some other driving force -- which this gadget seems to be distinctly lacking -- there is no way it would ever get off the ground.
There has even been the wild speculation that the device might have been a conscious being akin to those cutesy sentient saucers in the Steven Spielberg produced 1987 opus “*Batteries Not Included.” While even I am skeptical about this premise, let’s look at the “evidence” that may possibly support this conjecture.
Firstly, assuming that the reports are authentic, this device flew with apparent precision even though there was apparently no recognizable propulsion device within the UFO. Secondly, the UFO appeared to be capable of evasive maneuvers and even displayed a desire to defend itself by utilizing brilliant lights and loud noises. Thirdly, like any living being, this “machine” resisted every attempt made to incarcerate it by the teens. None of the above is proof that the thing’s actions were an example of intelligent life, but the thought is intriguing.
Perhaps we’re dealing with a non-terrestrial surveillance device here. Some unknown technology sent from another world or time or dimension or even the ocean’s depths to observe the human race. Who’s to say that the unusual markings on the base of the UFO are not intended to be a message for humanity much like the one we etched into the gold plated disc on Voyager 1 for other citizens of the galaxy to discover.
Of course, there’s one, obvious explanation -- that it was all just a hoax. There are some rumors that have circulated suggesting that the Kera UFO was actually a toilet training chamber pot craftily installed with radio components and pieces from a watering can, but if that were the case it not only reflects poorly on the judgment of Kōchi’s director of the Center for Science Education, Mutsuo Fujimoto, but also represents one of the most elaborate hoaxes ever perpetrated (and maintained for the better part of 4 decades) by a group of bored teens.
Casting further doubt on the hoax theory is the 2007 investigation by the JSPS, which confirmed that there was no indication of a prank. And, let’s be frank, if Kera and Agawa phenomena were merely the whimsical follies of bored teenagers and one little girl, one would have to assume that the perpetrators would almost certainly have grown weary of the ruse as they climbed from adolescence into middle age.
The fact remains that this series of all too close encounters may well represent one of the most intriguing, albeit least well known, events in history of ufology… or one of the most outlandish hoaxes ever.