Simultaneously in June 2021, there was movement on the UFO front in Japan, with the establishment
of the International UFO Lab in Iino, a former town that is now part of the city of Fukushima.
The news caught the eye of Japan’s business community when it was reported in the Nikkei
newspaper. But Iino’s association with UFOs predated the Lab. In 1992, after a large
number of sightings in the area, an exhibition facility for UFOs was established as part
of an attempt to revitalize the flagging regional town. It soon became hallowed ground
for UFO fans.
Another Japanese town has also attempted UFO-led revitalization. Hakui, in Ishikawa
Prefecture, boasts a space museum called Cosmo Isle Hakui, which opened in 1996 and features
many spacecraft and rockets that have actually been used in outer space. The driving
force behind the facility was Josen Takano, a TV producer and broadcast writer who returned
to his hometown of Hakui at the age of 30 and set up the revitalization project while
serving temporarily as a public servant. He is currently an adviser to the facility and
a Buddhist priest with the Nichiren sect.
“At the time, I was in charge of a seminar on ancient documents at the local public
hall, and I learned about references in Heian Period (794-1185) documents to a mysterious
object known as sōhachibon [from a kind of Buddhist cymbal] that had been seen flying
in the sky in the Hakui region. I had previously produced a TV program on UFOs, so it
occurred to me that this mysterious object would nowadays be described as a UFO. And
that’s how the revitalization program was born,” Takano explained. He wasted no time
putting the plan into action. In 1990, Gerald Carr, the captain of NASA’s Skylab 4, was
invited to hold an international symposium on space and UFOs sponsored by Hakui, and
it attracted 50,000 people over nine days. The event’s success spurred plans to build
a full-fledged museum in the city. With Takano believing it essential that real spacecraft
be included, he soon headed off to NASA to negotiate the loan and purchase of exhibits.