Iino is a tiny village town of Fukushima city, nestled among forests where residents think their spectacular peak attracts flying saucers. The city is deafeningly quiet due to its low population. Some stores are closed all year, and abandoned roads lead to nothing. The squat structure of the city’s tourism center is covered in a fine layer of dust. Despite being deserted, Iino holds quite interesting beliefs.
Aliens are proudly displayed all across town as statues. Its mascot is a small white alien on a golden flying saucer. Ramen is one of the dishes that Iino is famous for, and it serves that dish in a bowl made from rocks that locals believe attract aliens. Iino has been the source of reports of alien sightings and unexplained aircraft landings since the 1970s. Tsugio Kinoshita, a UFO researcher, says he first observed one of these UFOs in 1972 when he was 25 years old. Kinoshita and his four pals were trekking a mountain in Fukushima prefecture when a saucer-like thing emerged in front of them. “I noticed something in the blue sky, starting and stopping, and then it was gone,” he explained.
Japan launched guidelines to research aerial occurrences in September 2020, spurring Iino’s extraterrestrial believers to open the country’s first-ever UFO lab in June. Kinoshita claims aliens have tried to let him know that they exist. “I believe they just wanted us to know,” he continued. For decades in Iino, alien life legends have circled the pyramid-shaped Mount Senganmori and its surrounding forest. The summit has sparked speculation that it was built by extraterrestrials. Some even claim there is an alien airbase beneath the surface.
These tales began at the same time when Iino, like many other Japanese rural towns, began to struggle with an elderly population and a dwindling birthrate. After the 2011 Tohoku earthquake unleashed deadly tsunamis and the meltdown of nuclear power reactors in Fukushima prefecture, which killed over 18,000 people, inhabitants fled in droves for fear of radiation sickness. “People with children and other family members departed the prefecture.” Those individuals will not return. “Ten years have gone, but they aren’t coming back,” Toshio Kanno, director of Iino’s UFO lab, said.
Since his purported sighting in 1972, Kinoshita has dedicated his life to unraveling the universe’s greatest mysteries and gathering as much information on extraterrestrial life as possible.
“I’m not one to disregard other people’s stories. “First and foremost, I listen to what people have to say; then I draw what I can draw, transcribe what I can transcribe, and last, I build a handmade newspaper,” he explained. Kanno stated, “The first and most important purpose is to acquire footage and images” of the objects. Such data, according to Kanno, could confirm the existence of aliens. Kanno has yet to see an alien aircraft, but he believes he will one day.
The institute takes international reports of extraterrestrial life and then evaluates each claim using its sources to establish its credibility. Kanno claims that the center’s most significant proof of alien life is declassified CIA reports of flying objects not controlled by humans. The organization also features images of such things given by people who think aliens piloted flying saucers.
In one example, observations of flying objects capable of reaching 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds without a visible motor concerned Navy pilots from 2014 to 2015. Although no evidence of alien technology was revealed, US officials could not rule it out. UFO sightings in Japan have a long history. Stories about a hollow saucer-shaped ship landing off the coast of northern Ibaraki Prefecture, including Mount Senganmori, date back to 1803, more than a century before the Iino occurrences.
Iino had constructed the UFO Fureaikan, a museum recording supposed extraterrestrial life, in 1992, long before the town’s alien research center was established in 2020. The city got funds from the Japanese government, which provided grants to underserved areas between 1988 and 1989. The museum’s interior has statues representing different human beliefs about aliens and books and a video about alien lore.
While the museum doesn’t make a lot of money, Kanno says its purpose isn’t just to make money: It’s a place for those who believe in what is invisible to the naked eye.
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