August 3, 2006

Issie: A Japanese Lake Monster

Yutaka Kawaji and Hideo Kawaji may share the same surname, but they also share the same phenomenal experience. You see, they are both witnesses to the Japanese lake cryptid know as Issie, said to inhabit the depths of Lake Ikeda in Japan.

What is remarkable is that they both saw the creature when they were elementary school students and also later in life. In fact, Yutaka Kawaji actually witnessed the creature on three occasions and two of the sightings occurred in the same year. In the spring of 1978 Yutaka saw the creature from a garden. Details of this sighting are very sketchy and we know little else than that he saw an unknown creature in the lake.

It is the sighting on September 3, 1978 that is the best known sighting in the history of the Lake Ikeda enigma. This sighting was not witnessed by just a handful of people but by 20 people, virtually all related to Yutaka Kawaji.

Kawaji’s children Hiroto, Mutsumi and Tomoko were playing by the lakeshore when they noticed two humps belonging to a large black creature gilding through the waters of the lake which is set in the caldera of an extinct volcano. These were big humps measuring five metres (16.26 feet long) and standing some 60 centimetres (two feet) out of the water. The children alerted the adults in the party to the presence of the creature and before anyone had time to breathe, Yukata Kawaji leapt aboard a motorboat and pursued the creature as it crossed the lake at a fair clip.

Kawaji was unable to catch up with the creature but during a sighting that lasted three to four minutes, he was able to see the humps twice for about 20 seconds. Conditions on the lake were mirror smooth with no wind or waves to speak of. The witnesses agreed that the only activity on the lake came from the immediate area where the cryptid had made it appearance.

Yutaka Kawaji was so enthralled by his sighting that he purchased a camera with a 135 millimetre lens in the hope that some day he would be able to photograph the creature. Kawaji has never seen the creature again, but as chance would have it, the mystery denizen of Lake Ikeda was photographed on December 16, that year and that honour would fall to Toshiaki Matsuhara. Matsuhara was interested in the folklore and legends of the lake, and this included the legend of Issie.

It was one thirty in the afternoon that day when Matsuhara saw a whirlpool suddenly appear in the middle of the lake. For five minutes he watched it through a 50X telescope as it moved northward for five minutes before it disappeared.

While scanning the lake in the aftermath of his initial sighting Matsuhara’s attention was drawn to an object moving in the lake which was somewhat veiled by waves surrounding it. He quickly took a series of photographs and in one of them what appear to be two humps with spinal ridges can be seen.

By this time the tourism department of the nearby city of Ibusuki had offered a reward of 100,000 Yen ($670) to anyone who could produce a photo of  Issie. Matsuhara submitted his photo for their consideration and the tourism department officials were impressed enough to award Matsuhara the prize money. When the photos were published, they struck a chord in the recollection of Yutaka Kawaji who promptly contacted the tourism department to say the Matsuhara had photographed the creature he had seen three months earlier and that it was also in the exact same location off a local landmark known as the Couple’s Rock.

Incredibly Matsuhara is alleged to have photographed the creature on four more occasions, but few have seen these photos and they have not been submitted for serious scrutiny.

Lake Ikeda is a remarkable place as it receives its water from rain and subsurface water sources. There no rivers or streams that flow into the lake. This is quite problematic in that it begs the question: How did a creature the size of Issie get into the lake? The only possible way it did so is to have entered through a subsurface opening, but the question is: from where?

The Lake is situated on the Satsuma Peninsula that is bordered on one side by the Sea of Japan and on the other by the Gulf of Kagoshima. It is quite a distance from the sea and because the lake is also above sea level, it is highly unlikely that it came from the ocean. At some stage in its history large Malaysian eels were introduced to the lake and these fish are farmed commercially on the lakeshore. I thought they might make a good candidate for Issie sightings , but I discovered that the largest eel ever seen in the lake – incidentally in the same area where Matsuhara and Kawaji had their sightings – was just 1.7 metres at most.

This is far too small to be even one of the five meter humps. Even the large snapping turtle that has been photographed in the lake is far too small to account for the large creature that many insists is Issie.

In 1991 a videotape of Issie was made and shown on the Nippon TV special World’s Mysterious Phenomena (Arlene Gaal and I were on the same show discussing Ogopogo).

It is clear that this is a living creature, but it is very difficult to calculate its length and whether it might not be eels swimming in a line. Then again it could be Issie, but as far as I am concerned, the jury is still out on whether it is the denizen of Lake Ikeda.

If you ever go to Lkae Ikeda you can see the statue of Issie and utilize the Issie observation platform. I hope that some one, someday, gets photographic proof of Issie that is somewhat clearer than Matsuhara’s series of anomalous humps and splashes in the water.

John Kirk About John Kirk
One of the founders of the BCSCC, John Kirk has enjoyed a varied and exciting career path. Both a print and broadcast journalist, John Kirk has in recent years been at the forefront of much of the BCSCC’s expeditions, investigations and publishing. John has been particularly interested in the phenomenon of unknown aquatic cryptids around the world and is the author of In the Domain of the Lake Monsters (Key Porter Books, 1998). In addition to his interest in freshwater cryptids, John has been keenly interested in investigating the possible existence of sasquatch and other bipedal hominids of the world, and in particular, the Yeren of China. John is also chairman of the Crypto Safari organization, which specializes in sending teams of investigators to remote parts of the world to search for animals as yet unidentified by science. John travelled with a Crypto Safari team to Cameroon and northern Republic of Congo to interview witnesses among the Baka pygmies and Bantu bushmen who have sighted a large unknown animal that bears more than a superficial resemblance to a dinosaur. Since 1996, John Kirk has been editor and publisher of the BCSCC Quarterly which is the flagship publication of the BCSCC. In demand at conferences, seminars, lectures and on television and radio programs, John has spoken all over North America and has appeared in programs on NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, TLC, Discovery, CBC, CTV and the BBC. In his personal life John spends much time studying the histories of Scottish Clans and is himself the president of the Clan Kirk Society. John is also an avid soccer enthusiast and player.

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Filed under Cryptid Universe, Cryptotourism, Cryptozoology, Eyewitness Accounts, Lake Monsters, Loch Ness Monster, Public Forum, Sea Serpents