Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
After recently watching another “shinrei shashin” (‘ghost picture’) show on television that included video images of purported UFOs and other supernatural or occult phenomenon I tired of listening to how “UFO” is popularly misused. A UFO is any object in flight that just happens to be unidentified. That adequately describes most objects not currently touching the ground, I think. It does not mean that it is an alien, which is what most people presume. Perhaps the widespread belief in Japan of UFOs as extraterrestrials is due not so much to gullibility or silliness as to a cultural inclination to confuse fantasy with reality, plus a deep emotionalism concealed by the Japanese reputation for being emotionally taciturn. I mean, Japanese love a good scare. Japanese are not at all emotionally taciturn, of course, and I know that people hunger to believe in something to the extent of believing in anything at all.
The popularity of such beliefs was perhaps best demonstrated in December 2007 by no less of a public figure than Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura who publicly admitted to a personal belief in UFOs, but suffered no great ridicule for it. I thought, Of course, who doesn’t believe in UFOs? The real question is, What do you believe about them? It is a classic confusion similar to the God inquiry. Usually when a person asks, Do you believe in God? what they really mean is, What do you believe about God?
Why don’t we substitute Unexplained Supernatural Phenomenon, or USP, for UFO, to describe what people fancifully think are extraterrestrial visitors? While personally I do not believe in UFOs, ghosts, or USPs, I think there are some Really Strange Things in the world. I am thrilled, scared and entertained by these RSTs. It’s a wonderful life.