Apr 03, 2024 I Brent Swancer

Mystery Beasts of Japan: Bizarre Aliens and Entities Edition

Japan is a land of a rich history of folklore, myth, legend, and tales of mysterious creatures. Yet some of these stories seem to jump out from the realm of pure legend and also seem to imply bizarre alien beings and creatures from beyond the bizarre. Here we will look at a selection of some of the more far-out encounters with beings and entities in Japan that are really hard to fully classify. 

One very weird alien encounter, which also happens to have so-called photographic proof, supposedly occurred in April of 1975, in the city of Kawanoe, on Japan’s Shikoku Island. On the night of March 24th, 1975, a local resident by the name of Giichi Shiota was at a city landfill when he says he saw something very bizarre indeed. There amongst the rubble he spied a luminous figure in some sort of metallic suit hovering around 7 feet off the ground, which he would describe as an “alien cosmonaut.” The being itself was said to be about 6 feet tall, and it then smoothly descended to about a foot off of the ground before floating towards the startled witness, who says he then began to develop a sharp headache that increased with intensity the closer it came. This headache apparently became absolutely agonizing, sending him on his way.

Shiota then became determined to go back to the scene of his strange encounter, this time taking with him three cameras for the purpose of possibly capturing something strange on film. He would visit that landfill night after night for a whole week hoping to catch another glimpse of the otherworldly, and then on March 31 his patience apparently paid off. He would claim that that familiar head splitting headache had descended upon him once again, at which point he knew that he was no longer alone there huddling in the darkness. Looking about him, he could then make out what appeared to be a bluish, cloud-like light hovering around 300 feet away, which he described as an “electrical disturbance,” and as he peered through the gloom at it the humanoid emerged from its center. One again it glided towards him, and this time Shiota claimed that he had taken a series of photographs of the strange entity. As if realizing that it was being photographed, the creature then veered off at great speed and vanished into thin air.

The supposed alien

What did he catch on film? Is this a hoax or is there anything more to it? Interestingly, on February 23, 1975, of that same year two 7-year-old boys named Masato Kawano and Katsuhiro Yamahata, were out roller skating in the early evening hours in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture, when they claim that they saw in the sky a pair of luminous orange lights that flickered and made a strange “ticking sound.” As they looked on in amazement, one of the lights apparently moved off towards the distant mountains, while the other started to descend towards the ground nearby. The boys claimed that they went off to investigate, and saw the strange craft come down to rest in a small vineyard behind an old, abandoned estate. The craft was described as being a domed disc around 15 feet in diameter and 7 feet high, which rested upon three ball-shaped legs. The surface of the strange object was silver-colored and appeared to have characters or letters of some sort etched upon it. The loud ticking sound of the craft was very pronounced as they drew closer, sounding somewhat reminiscent of a Geiger counter. As the two boys pondered what they were seeing, a hatch purportedly opened on the side out of nowhere and a ladder extended towards the ground, after which a strange looking being climbed out.

The creature stood around 4 feet tall and was wearing a reflective silver suit of some sort. The being’s skin was allegedly a dark brown in color, and it was covered with thick wrinkles that were so pronounced as to make most of its facial features indiscernible, save for two pointed ears and prominent and intimidating 2-inch long silver fangs that jutted out from the folds of where its mouth might be. In its hands it held some sort of device whose purpose could not be fathomed, but which looked somewhat like “a rifle.” Another of the creatures could be seen sitting within the craft huddled over some sort of flickering control panel. Whatever it was seemed to have completely ignored the two young boys standing there gawking at it as it proceeded to carefully examine the surrounding terrain. After a few moments of this it suddenly seemed to become aware of the boys, after which it approached them and patted one of them, Yamahata, twice on the shoulder while issuing a sound that sounded like “a tape recorder running backwards.”

Upon being tapped, Yamahata allegedly slumped to the ground and was unable to move, paralyzed by some inscrutable force. This pushed Kawano into action, and he quickly scooped his friend up onto his shoulders and ran from the area as fast as his legs could carry him. When he got home, Yamahata came to, and they supposedly told their parents what had happened, who would grudgingly follow the boys out to the estate outside to see the strange orange light climbing up into the sky for themselves. The light would then emit a burst of blinding light and vanish. Later, school officials would descend upon the area in daylight to examine the site and would allegedly find two sturdy concrete posts that had been pushed over by some powerful force, as well as a ring pattern etched into the ground nearby. Authorities of the Civil Aviation Bureau of Transportation Ministry would later get wind of the story and dismiss the lights as merely from normal aircraft in the area. No word on what they thought the fanged humanoid could have been, or if it had anything to do with what Shiota would witness a month later.

A few years later, in 1978 we have another very outlandish encounter, this time in the area of Sayama City. In October of that year, the city had been going through a spate of intense UFO activity, and on the evening of October 3 things would take a turn for the truly bizarre. On this night, 29-year-old Hideichi Amano was out testing out some HAM radio equipment on a hill overlooking the city. It was a hobby of his, and on this occasion, he was using the radio to talk with other HAM enthusiasts throughout the area. He didn’t stay long, as his young daughter was waiting for him in the car, but as he got ready to leave something remarkable would purportedly happen.

As he prepared to start the vehicle, the entire interior was bathed in a bright light, its source a complete mystery as they had been out there completely alone. Amano looked outside but could see nothing that could account for the light, and when he looked back to his 2-year-old daughter she was in some sort of daze and foaming at the mouth. As he panicked and wondered what to do, an orange beam of light pierced in from out of the night to land upon his stomach, and he felt himself feeling woozy and faint. There was then the sensation of something pressing into the side of his head, and when he turned to look there was allegedly a humanoid entity with a round head, no neck, and glowing blue eyes standing there outside the car with a “pipe-like” instrument pushed up to his head, which was producing “voiceless high-pitched noises” that seemed to penetrate directly into his mind.

The panicked witness desperately tried to start his car, but nothing worked, and he seemed to be without any power at all. Indeed, moving his limbs felt like moving through a thick liquid, giving him the sense that he was partially paralyzed. He started to get the impression that that rapidly fluctuating droning in his head was giving him a message, although he had no idea what it could be. This apparently went on for about 5 minutes, after which that bizarre entity pulled away his instrument and vanished into the night. There was a beat of utter silence, and then the car roared to life, scaring Amano nearly as badly as that creature had. To his great relief, his young daughter now seemed to be OK, acting as if nothing had happened at all.

Amano would frantically contact police to tell them of what had happened, but they didn’t take it seriously at all. Through all of this his head was becoming increasingly painful, overcome with a relentless headache. After several nights of terrible nightmares, he would seek out hypnotic regression, which would turn up some curiosities. Amano related how the creature had given him a future date, time, and location to meet again, and how the entity had given him a bracelet of some sort, claimed to be some sort of communications device. Even more eerily still was his insistence that something had been placed within his head and was influencing his mind, and the whole story was so sensational that it made the rounds on Japanese television for a while before fading into obscurity. What was going on here? Who knows?

These cases for the most part seem to be pretty obscure and forgotten, relegated to the back catalog of alien encounters, despite their spectacular natures. There seems to have been very little follow-up done on them and little further information on them, leaving us to wonder what could be going on here. Were these aliens, interdimensional interlopers of some sort, the ravings of the imagination, or something more? Whatever the case may be, they remain some of the strangest that Japan has to offer.

In 2011, in the days leading up to the deadly earthquake and massive tsunami in Fukushima, Japan, a witness named Marcus Pules claims to have made a sighting of what he describes as the a bizarre winged humanoid in the area. Pules said that he had been in Japan on business in February of 2011, and had decided to stay with a friend who had long lived in Japan teaching English in the rural town of Okuma, in the Fukushima region. One day the two friends went out to look around the town, and in the evening, they went to the seaside, walking along a trail that meandered near the Daiichi Fukushima nuclear power plant, at this point still in normal working condition, with no hint as to the major disaster and specter of doom it was to become. As they walked along, Pules claims that he heard a sudden “Whoosh,” which he at first took to be the sounds of the nearby ocean waves crashing against rocks, but his mind was changed when the sound repeated and then was followed by an ear-piercing shriek the likes of which he had never heard before. His friend heard it as well, as did a couple who had been on the same path out for a romantic evening stroll. Pules would say:

We heard it again (the whooshing noise), followed by a ear pitching screech that shook me down to the bone and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. We looked around for the cause of the noise, when we heard the sound again. The best way I can describe it is a city bus' brakes when they are in need of service, loud and ear splitting. We both continued to look around when my friend’s attention was drawn toward the plant by another nearby couple. A younger couple, out for a walk were staring toward the plant, arms outstretched and the obvious fear in their voices showing itself.

Pules then looked out towards the power plant looming in the distance and thought he could make out a large, shadowy figure silhouetted by the plant’s lights and the moonlight, which appeared to be sitting perched atop one of the buildings. As he stared at it trying to figure out who or what it could be, the figure suddenly unfurled what looked like a massive set of black wings and took to the sky, where it circled the plant several times. Pules described the frightening events that followed thus:

The creature then took flight and circled the plant at least 4-5 times, some circuits he took at a fast pace, some he seemed to slow down, all the while he kept his attention on the row of square shaped buildings that I later found out housed the reactors. The creature then came toward us, flying at least 25-30 feet off the ground. The younger couple who had noticed the creature first were now screaming and cowering, the man shielding the woman while shielding his head with a jacket. My friend and I looked in awe as this creature flew over us. That’s when I noticed the two large red eyes; they seemed to glow from within and with a blood red hue. They were unblinking in the 3-4 seconds we saw them, we knew they were looking straight at us, we knew this creature knew we could see it and it made no attempt to disguise itself. The sick, intense and overwhelming feeling of dread came over us. A feeling that we shouldn’t be there was to say the least, overwhelming.

Then the bizarre flying humanoid creature suddenly flew off towards town as the friend fumbled with his cell phone trying to take pictures of it, until it eventually faded away into the distance to leave the witnesses in a state of terrified confusion. Pules and his friend quickly vacated the area, and as soon as they got home the two panicked men talked about what they had seen, trying to come to grips with what it had been and settling on the explanation that it must have been a large bird or optical illusion caused by the lights of the plant, although they both knew deep down that this was not the case. Because of the dark conditions at the time, none of the pictures the friend had tried to take turned out well. In the following days they tried not to bring it up, and Pules would try to put the strange encounter out of his mind.

It was not until after he had returned to the States that he would be reminded of the creature once again, when the same friend woke him in the middle of the night in March, frantically talking about the huge earthquake that had just struck the area where he lived, practically leveling the town he was in. Pules turned on the TV and over the next few days was bombarded with images of the devastation that the earthquake and resultant tsunami had dealt out, including the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which happened to be the very same plant where they had seen the frightening winged humanoid. Pules would muse on the relationship between the disaster and what he had seen, saying:

Was it pure coincidence or was it the mythical Moth-Man doing his strange work of predicting disasters? I may never know and may go to the grave wondering that, but one thing is certain for sure, I don’t think that neither of us is going to forget this event, no matter how long we live.

Mothman and mysterious winged figures are not the only types of strange humanoids to have been encountered in Japan, and indeed there are more than a few of these accounts. One fairly recent account comes from November of 2015, from just outside of the beautiful and historical city of Kyoto. On November 30, 36-year-old Toriki Watanabe was in the process of driving from Tokyo to Kyoto to attend his brother’s wedding and decided to stop at a roadside shop situated in a rural, forested area. After getting some stuff at the shop, Watanabe then reportedly stepped outside to have a quiet cigarette. As he was smoking and taking in the view of the nearby forest, he claims that he spotted the figure of what appeared at first to be a man some 200 feet away and partially concealed by brush.

Watanabe says he called out to the shadowy figure but got no response. It was then that the thing began walking away and he could see that it did not move or walk like a human being. As it came out of the trees and brush that had been obscuring it, Watanabe was puzzled to see that it was a slouched over, humanoid being without clothing and standing around 6 feet in height, with a sinewy yet muscular frame, gray skin, and a “faint yellow or white light coming from behind it just around its lower back.” Although it is unclear just what Watanabe could have possibly seen, he himself seems to believe that he witnessed a mischievous creature from Japanese folklore called the shirime, which were said to be particularly active around Kyoto.

Strange encounters with humanoids are surprisingly plentiful in Japan, and indeed the country has one of the older such encounters on record. The time was the Edo period (1603-1867), during which the country had remained almost completely cut off and isolated from the rest of the world. On February 22, 1803, during the Tokagawa Shogunate, some fishermen off the northern shore of Japan came across a rather peculiar find. Out over the waves could be seen an odd-looking boat of some sort that seemed to be drifting aimlessly towards shore. Curious, the fishermen steered their own boat towards the unknown craft as people began to gather on shore to see what was going on.

The fishermen were able to approach the strange "boat" and tow it to shore, where it would prove to be even more bizarre than anyone could have imagined. The 3 by 5 meter round, spherical vessel appeared to have an upper portion composed of what looked like bamboo wood that was smooth and covered with a layer of red paint or lacquer, while the lower part was made of what seemed to be a series of interlocking brass and iron plates. On the top of the strange boat were glass or crystal portals that were intersected by sturdy metal bars, apparently either to keep something out or keep something in. All things considered, this was a vessel of a design unlike anything anyone had ever seen, and the weirdness was only just beginning.

Peering into the windows, it could be seen that the interior was adorned with some sort of alien text or hieroglyphs which resembled symbols and shapes and was completely indecipherable to those present. Also, within the boat were bottles of water, some carpeting, and what looked like meat and cake of some kind. As baffling as these all were, even more so was the occupant that could be seen ensconced within. There surrounded by these otherworldly geometric symbols and other items was a beautiful young woman of about 18 to 20 years of age, who had an unusual pink cast to her skin, red eyebrows, and long, snow white tendrils of hair that seemed to be extensions grafted onto her real hair, which was a striking red in color. The stranger was clothed in garments of a foreign design and made of unknown fabrics, and in her hands she clutched a small, square box to her chest in an almost protective manner. The boat was opened and the woman did not seem to be aggressive, although she would let no one near the box she held. Her language was unintelligible, making communication impossible. After a time, it was said that the woman courteously excused herself, climbed back into her bizarre vessel, which was being called the Utsuro-Bune, and went out to sea once more to disappear into the mists of time and historical oddity.

It is hard to figure out what we could be dealing with here, or whether it is all just fantastical myth, but it remains a rather intriguing case that we may never fully understand. Was this a foreigner from some faraway, unknown country? A visitor from some other time or dimension? An alien? Who knows? Another case of decidedly surreal humanoid beings seems to be rather firmly planted within the UFO phenomena. During the 1970s, the country of Malaysia experienced a series of encounters with minuscule humanoid creatures that never exceeded more than 6 inches in height, and which certainly have to be among the odder accounts of these phenomena out there.

Japanese folklore has long been inhabited by goblins, specters, boogiemen, and all manner of fantastical creatures from the edges of human imagination. While many of these bizarre beings are understood to be firmly planted in the realm of myth, occasionally there is one that stretches at the curtain between the real and the unreal. In such cases, the line between pure folklore and reality becomes blurred, making it difficult to completely ascertain where one ends and the other begins. In some cases, we can have a creature which on the face of it may seem to be obviously a purely mythical construct, yet still remain persistently sighted and documented to the point that it seems worthy of investigating further. The human-faced dogs of Japan are one such case.

The jinmenken, roughly translated as “the human faced dog,” is typically said to be about the size of a medium sized dog, often with matted or dirty looking hair. From a distance, an observer may mistake one for just an ordinary mangy stray dog, yet on closer inspection see that these dogs possess a human face. The eyes are often deep set and sad, and the tail is most commonly between the legs in an apparent gesture of passiveness or cowardice. An even more shocking revelation than the human face is their purported ability to speak. Typically, a jinkenmen will implore those who come across it to leave it alone, but on rare occasions will hold simple conversations. Jinkenmen are persistent in Japanese folklore, yet there seems to be more to them than that. Throughout the Edo Era, from 1603 to 1868, these human-faced dogs were often encountered and sighted by locals, to the point that they were occasionally featured in the news publications of the time.

In addition to the sightings, jinkenmen were at times allegedly exhibited at misemono, which were a type of Japanese carnival sideshow popular during the Edo Era. These sideshows were somewhat of a cabinet of curiosities, typically featuring menageries of exotic animals, mounted displays or mummified remains of bizarre creatures or monsters, gaffes, mystical artifacts, and all manner of the strange and bizarre.

Taxidermy specimens of jinkenmen were often seen on display at such shows and on occasion even live specimens were shown. In such shows, the jinkenmen would be paraded about for all to see and became quite popular attractions. It is not clear whether these were actual jinkenmen or regular dogs somehow altered to look like such through illusion and trickery, yet the fact remains that there are numerous accounts of these exhibitions, and they were certainly observed by many people. It was not only commoners that marveled at these creatures in such sideshows either. One publication of the time included the testimony of a visiting zoologist, who remarked upon laying his eyes upon one such specimen (translated from the Japanese):

There cowering and whimpering in the corner of the display booth I saw the hunched over form of what I first took to be a typical shiba inu, although of a somewhat more pungent odor. Then the thing looked up with sad eyes and I could see clearly that it was the face of a human being, albeit with the empty, soulless gaze of an animal. I immediately assumed trickery upon seeing such an aberration, yet if one had forged such a horrific sight then they had done so with such ingenuity and craftsmanship that I was unable to ascertain it as such. If this was some sort of macabre taxidermy of a living thing, then it was done without any visible indication of such. I could see no apparent stitches or artificial connection between human face and dog. I was eager to be on my way from such a ghastly abomination and the thing’s gaze left me with a deep unease long after I had left.

It is interesting to note the feeling of unease the zoologist experienced. Premonitions of dread or feelings of deep despair are common occurrences in those who see jinkenmen. Reports of jinkenmen hypnotizing onlookers or inducing urges to get away are also not uncommon in accounts. Additionally, jinkenmen are often considered to be portents of doom or disaster.

Sightings of jinkenmen are not merely confined to the rural Japan of the Edo Era. Eyewitness accounts of jinkenmen sightings persist right up to the modern day. There are many reports of eyewitnesses describing coming across what they first take to be dog, only to have it turn around to display its human face. Other reports showcase the jinkenmen’s apparent great speed as they are described as running playfully alongside cars on darkened roads, sometimes screaming or whooping as they do so. These sightings occur mostly at night in rural areas, yet this is not always the case.

During the 1980s, a human faced dog was often sighted rummaging through garbage in the back alleys of Tokyo’s Shibuya District, which is a well-developed, bustling urban shopping area. Other sightings have been reported from other urban areas behind crowded restaurants, in alleyways, or in the darkened parking lots of apartment buildings.

What do we make of these reports? As detached from reality as the notion of human-faced dogs may seem, theories abound as to what could be behind the sightings and stories. These theories range from the somewhat plausible to the downright absurd. Among the more far out ideas are that the Jinmenken are the spirits of traffic accident victims or dogs possessed by evil spirits. Others say that they are the result of secret biological experiments performed in labs. It has even been suggested that these human-faced dogs are the Chupacabras in Japan.

Perhaps a more realistic candidate for the stories of human-faced dogs in Japan may be found in Japanese macaques. These primates are found all over Japan and in many ways, they could resemble a dog under less than favorable sighting conditions, such as at night when most sightings occur. They have faces that could be seen as somewhat human-like and make a wide range of vocalizations which could possibly be misconstrued as speech by a frightened onlooker. Japanese macaques are also not confined to wilderness areas. In many locales, these monkeys are extremely bold in venturing into suburban or even urban areas where they roam about and raid garbage bins, one hallmark of many Jinmenken sightings. Could someone not familiar with seeing macaques mistake one for a human-faced dog under the right conditions?

Real or imagined, whatever the jinkemen are, indeed whatever any of the entities we have looked at here are, they seem to be something that has crawled out from the confines of mere myth and folklore. Is there something to these stories? Perhaps somewhere out there is some explanation or at the very least something close to an answer for these enigmatic creatures. Until then, if you are ever in Japan, make sure you keep an eye to the dark alleys and wildernesses. You never know what may be peering back at you from the shadows.

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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