This Strange Orb Freaked Out a City in Japan

This Strange Orb Freaked Out a City in Japan

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Picture of strange orb
Picture: Canva
Amidst a series of high-altitude UFOs spotted over Japan and the US, a strange orb washed ashore in Shizuoka. Here's what we know.

Japan is no stranger to unusual and seemingly otherworldly objects, be they flying or floating or stationary.

Even in the 9th-century Tales of the Bamboo Cutter (Taketori Monogatari), the story is set in motion as a woodcutter cuts down a shining stalk of bamboo, revealing the girl who grows up to become Princess Kaguya, a princess of the lunar court.

Meanwhile, UFO fans may have heard of the Edo period utsurobune craft that washed ashore in what’s now Ibaraki Prefecture in the 19th century, and the stories of the strange people who emerged from some of them.

But in a recent development, a mysterious sphere washed ashore in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture. What was this mysterious orange orb? Read on to learn more!

The Orb Arrives

On 21 February, locals first observed the mysterious orange orb on Enshūhama, a coastal area of Hamamatsu City. The orb was around 4 feet in diameter and partly covered in rust. It also had an attached eyelet of the sort where a chain or cable might be hooked.

An area resident reported it to the authorities, upon which the local police cordoned off the scene. The Japan Coast Guard and other organizations soon had officials on the scene. Reporting to the beach together with them was a bomb disposal team, which examined the object via X-ray scan.

Once they determined it was hollow, the police relaxed the restrictions. But by then, the Hamamatsu Orb had caused a stir online far beyond Japan.

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NHK静岡放送局 on Twitter: “【動画】海岸に謎の鉄球?静岡県浜松市の遠州浜海岸に直径1点5メートルほどの金属製の球体が打ち上げられているのが見つかりました警察が調べたところ爆発の危険性はありませんがどのような物かは詳しくわかっていないということです pic.twitter.com/M8qpnfdWWy / Twitter”

【動画】海岸に謎の鉄球?静岡県浜松市の遠州浜海岸に直径1点5メートルほどの金属製の球体が打ち上げられているのが見つかりました警察が調べたところ爆発の危険性はありませんがどのような物かは詳しくわかっていないということです pic.twitter.com/M8qpnfdWWy

NHK Shizuoka Broadcast Station’s tweet on the orb

From extraterrestrial origins to a Dragonball to the egg of a kaiju, speculation about its precise identification ran wild into the supernatural and otherworldly. Current events in Japan and abroad only further fueled these strange speculations.

Latest Amidst High Tensions and a Recent Strange Pattern

The timing of the orb’s arrival likewise furthered the public’s speculation. In recent weeks, the joint US-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has shot down a series of unidentified flying objects over Canadian and US territory. The US military confirmed that one of the objects, a high-altitude balloon with an underslung sensor package and solar array, was from China. The US Air Force shot it down on 4 February off the Carolina coast.

But of the rest, no country has yet claimed ownership of the objects, though they may be Chinese or Russian. Consequently, speculation has abounded regarding the objects’ origin, with some claiming that they were extraterrestrial in origin. The White House’s phrasing in its commentary on the incidents has done little to deny this categorically.

US Navy sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover part of the Chinese high-altitude balloon shot down off the Carolina coast, on Feb. 5, 2023. (US Navy Photo, source)

Starting in 2019, Japan has also had its share of overflights by Chinese balloons. The Ministry of Defense even issued a warning to the Chinese government. This warning came shortly after NORAD’s recent interception of the balloons over Canadian and US airspace, just before the mystery orb’s arrival. 

As a result, although it came from the sea, there was fertile ground in the popular zeitgeist for wild theories about the origins of the Hamamatsu Orb. But the truth of the matter is far more mundane– or rather, maritime.

The Truth About the Orb

So if it wasn’t aliens, and it wasn’t an explosive, then what was the rusty orange orb? Clearly, it came from somewhere.

The answer appears to be simple, given its maritime origin. Consensus says it’s a detached mooring buoy, of which there are many along that stretch of Japan’s coast as well as elsewhere in the world.

According to Professor Yamada Yoshihiko of the Tokai University oceanography department, it is likely a buoy from an open-ocean fish reef that the Kuroshio current carried to Japan. He pointed out that buoys that are long in place usually have a lot of seaweed that collects around them, so it is likely a relatively new buoy, despite the rust.

Steel mooring buoys in Maine, United States, of a shape similar to the orb in Hamamatsu. (source, CC2.0)

Shizuoka Prefecture’s Civil Engineering Bureau described it as a foreign-made buoy, possibly American. Pictures of spherical buoys would only seem to confirm this. But in a time as eventful as this one, the orb is a case in point of how the popular imagination can run wild.

The prefectural authorities brought out heavy equipment on the 23rd to dispose of the object. As of the writing of this article, the mystery orb is no more.

References

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Nyri Bakkalian

Dr. Nyri A. Bakkalian is an author, recovering academic, raconteur, and Your Favorite History Lesbian. Her PhD thesis focused on the Boshin War in the Tohoku region. She is the author of "Grey Dawn: A Tale of Abolition and Union" (Balance of Seven Press, 2020). She hosts Friday Night History on anchor.fm/fridaynighthistory and the secret to her success is Arabic coffee. She misses Sendai daily.

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