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.
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.
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.
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.
- “Kaigan ni Chokkei Yaku 1.5m ‘Nazo no Kinzokusei no Kyūtai’ Shizuoka-ken Hamamatsu.” NHK, 21 February 2023, accessed 25 February 2023.
- Elaine Lies. “Japan Defence Ministry ‘strongly suspects’ Chinese surveillance balloons have entered Japanese territory.” Reuters, 14 February 2023, accessed 25 February 2023.
- “‘Nazo no Kyūtai’ Sono Shōtai wa? Hamamatsu-shi no Enshūhama kaigan de hakken no hyōchakumono 23nichi ni Shizuoka ken ga jūki de tekkyo shi haiki shobun e.” Yahoo News, 22 February 2023, accessed 25 February 2023.
- “Statement from Gen. Glen VanHerck, Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command.” NORAD Press Release, February 5, 2023. Accessed 25 February 2023.