150+ whales found beached in Ibaraki, similar to what happened before 2011 Tohoku earthquake


RocketNews 24:

A little over four years ago, a week before the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, 50 melon-headed whales were found beached in Ibaraki Prefecture, only about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the earthquake’s epicenter.

Now the same omen of bad things to come has happened again. On April 9, about 150 melon-headed whales were found beached in Ibaraki Prefecture. As emergency teams race to save the whales, one thought is sitting in the back of their minds: is this foreshadowing another giant earthquake?

On April 9, more than 150 melon-headed whales (a type of dolphin) were found beached across a stretch of four kilometers (2.5 miles) of shoreline in Hokotashi City, Ibaraki Prefecture. Most of the whales were in critical condition, though the Ibaraki coast guard has been busy returning those still alive to the ocean. The ones that were too weak to be returned were euthanized.

The reason behind the mass beaching is still unknown, but it is suspected to be due to underwater tremors. Since melon-headed whales tend to prefer deeper waters, they would be more sensitive to plate/tectonic changes than other undersea mammals.

This has people worrying about another earthquake on the same or even higher level as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. There is a theory that beached whales are often a sign of undersea tremors, and the severity of the incoming earthquake can be estimated by how many whales are beached. The coast guard reported that while every year some amount of whales are found beached on the shoreline, this incident is by far the most that they have ever encountered.

The city where the beaching took place, Hokotashi City, has started to take emergency measures against the predicted earthquake and tsunami. It is unclear whether the surrounding areas are preparing as well, but they should seriously consider it. To all our readers in the area, be safe and stay alert for any warnings!

Utsurobune: The UFO of 19th Century Japan

RocketNews 24:

The image above is one of many illustrations of the Utsurobune no Banjo incident that happened in Japan in the early 19th century. Although there are various accounts of the event, it is believed by many to have been an encounter with extraterrestrials, and not just because the vessel fishermen found in the ocean looks like a flying saucer.

■ The incident

One day late in the winter of 1803, some fishermen located a vessel floating in the Pacific Ocean of the coast of Ibaraki Prefecture. They towed it back to the shore for further investigation.

It’s been described as a round “boat” with some iron plating and glass windows. On the windows were strange geometric shapes that they had never seen before. This craft, which was dubbed an utsurobune or “hollow boat,” measured somewhere between 5 to 10 meters (16.4 to 32.8 feet) across.

Upon opening the craft they found a woman inside. The woman was described as a banjo, a word which meant “barbarian woman” or simply referred to a white woman. Remember, political correctness was still ages away at this point.

However, this woman spoke a language that no one could understand and likewise she couldn’t understand them. She wore clothes like they had never seen and a long white colored hair extension. She also clung to a rather large box that no one was allowed to look inside.

With communication at an impasse the locals all decided the best course of action would be to put her back in the craft and into the ocean where she came from. That’s just what they did and the woman was never heard from again. You have to hand it to old-timey Japanese people. They really knew how to deal with a complex situation efficiently.


■ What was it?

The problem was solved for them at least. For the rest of us it just leaves one big question mark over what exactly happened there. The combination of strange clothes, language, symbols and boat leads many to envision an alien encounter. Added to that, all of the illustrations of the utsurobune certainly seem to resemble a flying saucer (bear in mind they are not drawn to scale).

However, a more likely explanation may have been a hot air balloon’s gondola. Ballooning was just becoming big in Western countries around this time and widely used. This French illustration depicts a hot air balloon from 1808.

Japan, on the other hand, was still a largely closed-off country and not too aware of these developments, especially in small fishing villages. It’s this same closed-off nature that might have made other nations really eager to take a peek inside. So, it might not be far-fetched to assume the utsurobune was just a spy balloon from somewhere like Russia that had crashed into the ocean.

That’s just a theory though, and there are still many mysteries about this incident. For example, stories of similar vessels found in the ocean have been recorded in years before along with other tales of people finding strange women alone in odd places. This year’s Oscar nominee The Tale of The Princess Kaguya is one such fable that was written almost a millennium before.

Unfortunately, with little else to go on, it’s hard to say whether the utsurobune encounter was an international incident, interstellar incident, or just a relatively modern rehashing of an old folktale.

Buddha vs Eva, Ultraman, Gundam and Lady Liberty: How the otherworldly measure up


RocketNews 24:

If you’re a fan of mecha anime, you’ll know all about towering robots and the impressive displays of power they show during large-scale, epic battles. One of the titans of the mecha world, Gundam, is so revered in Japan he’s been recreated to scale and stands looking out over Tokyo Bay, wowing crowds with his strength and height.

Gundam might not be so happy, however, to learn that a picture doing the rounds on the internet is making him look tiny when compared with his peaceful brother from another otherworldly realm. To be fair though, not much can compete with Ushiku Daibutsu, the tallest Buddha statue in the world, who lives just a 90-minute train ride from Narita Station.

Located in Ushiki, Ibaraki Prefecture, Ushiki Daibutsu was completed in 1993 and stands a total of 120 metres (390 ft) tall. Like Lady Liberty, the statue houses an observation floor, where visitors can enjoy amazing views that stretch far off into the distance.

While the famous daibutsu (giant buddhas) of Nara and Kamakura are known for drawing crowds of visitors, the Ushiki Daibutsu makes up for its lack of centuries-old history with sheer height and impressive body parts.

  • Weight: 4,003 tonnes (8.825 million lb)
  • Length of left hand: 18 m (59.06 ft)
  • Length of face: 20 m (65.62 ft)
  • Length of eye: 2.55 m (8.4 ft)
  • Length of mouth: 4.5 m (15 ft)
  • Length of nose: 1.2 m (3.9 ft)
  • Length of Ear: 10 m (32.81 ft)
  • Length of the first finger: 7 m (22.97 ft)


To get a sense of the enormous scale of this statue, the head of this great Buddha could house the entire body of Nara’s daibutsu (seen on the far right of the image above). Thank goodness these are all peace-loving heroes or who knows what kind of mess we’d all be in!

Ushiku Daibutsu Details

Address: 2083 Kunocho, Ushiku, Ibaraki
Phone: 029-889-2931
Hours: Mar–Sep: 9:30 am–5:00 pm (until 5:30 pm Sat, Sun & holidays); Oct–Feb: 9:30 am–4:30 pm
Admission: 800 yen (US$6.80) for adults (Dec–Mar: 700 yen [$5.95]), 400 yen ($3.40) for children