• Graveyard Shift

Creepy Stories, Legends, and Backstory About the Hollow Ship

List RulesVote up the most mysterious legend of the Hollow Ship

Japan is no stranger to eerie tales and hearsay. The country has a rich and at times incredibly creepy mythology (if you don't believe us, look up "Harionago") that can steer the imagination to some pretty crazy places. One of those stories concerns the Hollow Ship, otherwise known as the Utsuro bune. Essentially one of the first modern accounts of a UFO from Japan, the Hollow Ship stories are strange and often baffling. 

On February 22, 1803, a strange round ship resembling a flying saucer mysteriously came to a Japanese shore. A non-Japanese woman who couldn't speak their language came out of the boat, tried to communicate with the locals who discovered her, then cast off again.

Who was this woman? Where did she come from? And why was she in a ship of such a strange design? All good questions... and nobody really has a good answer. But there are many theories and accounts, some of which are downright bizarre. 

  • 1

    The Ship Described Is Unlike Anything We've Heard About

    Photo: Kyokutei Bakin / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    According to some accounts, the ship was metallic. Many thought it was constructed from iron and glass, which is pretty strange for 1803. It was shaped like a "rice cooking pot," had four windows, and was covered in black paint. The windows also apparently had bars that were clogged with tree resin.

    Of course, this account is just trying to describe the boat in terms people could understand. The ship could have been made from very different materials, but there would be no way the people of the time would have known about them.

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  • 2

    The Place Where the Ship Landed Doesn't Exist

    Dr. Tanaka, a Japanese professor, believes the locations where the incident supposedly occurred, Haratono-hama and Haraydori, don't actually exist. There are no records of the locations and they are not found in the first complete mapping of Japan in 1907. That means either the locations were renamed or forgotten, both possibilities Tanaka believes are implausible. It's more likely that they simply never existed in the first place

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  • 3

    The Woman Inside the Ship Looked Very Strange

    So, this woman who was inside the ship has a pretty strange description. She was said to have pale pink skin with red hair and eyebrows. Some say she had white-frosted red hair, as if she had extensions covered in white powder. One thing is for certain: she wasn't from the immediate area of Japan. 

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  • 4

    The Translated Name Doesn't Quite Mean "Hollow Ship"

    Translations are tricky things, and they don't always quite match up perfectly. While it's widely accepted that Utsuro bune translates to "Hollow Ship," that may not completely be the case. While bune definitely means "boat," and by extension "ship," utsuro is a little more open for interpretation. While it could mean "empty" or "hollow," another possibility is that it could also mean "quiver," as in a quiver that holds arrows.

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