Letters to the Editor,
The Daily Yomiuri,
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8055
I am tired of the way “UFO” is popularly misused. A UFO is any object in flight that just happens to be unidentified, which adequately describes most objects not currently touching the ground, I think. It does not mean that they are aliens from other planets, which is how most people use it. 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 or reticent. Japanese are not at all emotionally taciturn, of course, and I know that they love a good scare.
The popularity and durability 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? Still, while personally I do not believe in UFOs or even USPs, I think there are naturally some Really Strange Things in the world (RSTs). It’s a wonderful life.