October 5, 2012

Winged Weirdies in Japan

Accounts of flying cryptids are reported from all over the world, whether they be the giant Thunderbirds of North America, the Ropen of Papua New Guinea, winged humanoids such as the Mothman, or any number of various unknown creatures that fly through our skies or possibly just our imaginations. Japan too has it’s winged weirdies, so here is a round up of some to look out for next time you fancy a trip to the far east.

Winged Humanoid of Kyoto

Winged humanoids have long been a perplexing phenomenon throughout the world, and Japan too, has had its share of encounters. One such case occurred one evening near Kyoto, Japan.

One night in 1952 started off just as any other for Air Force Pvt. Sinclair Taylor when he started his watch duty at Camp Okubo, which is near Kyoto, Japan. However, the evening took a turn for the strange when he heard a strange flapping sound in the darkness. Peering into the night to ascertain what the sound was coming from, Taylor noticed what he at first suspected to be a very large bird flying towards him.

As the creature drew nearer, it soon became apparent that this was no bird. Instead, Taylor saw before him a large, man-like being that was estimated as being 7 feet tall, with a 7 foot wingspan. Whereas this bizarre apparition had been flapping its wings earlier, it began to hover in the air near the startled soldier. Depending on the report you read, there is also sometimes mention of glowing eyes. However, it is difficult to say if this was in Taylor’s original report or an embellishment added later.

The panicked guard began firing his weapon towards it but when he looked at the spot where the being had been hovering, it was gone. Whatever the creature was, it had vanished into the night as suddenly as it had appeared. There was no blood or any evidence that Taylor had hit it with any of the rounds he’d fired.

Taylor was also not the only witness to whatever this thing was. When he reported it to his sergeant, it was revealed that another guard had seen what was apparently the same thing the year before. Although Taylor did not know of this other sighting and had had no contact with the other eyewitness, the descriptions of the creature were remarkably similar.

In addition to these sightings by personnel on the base, there were other strange happenings occasionally reported in the vicinity of Camp Okubo. Residents in the area had reported seeing what they believed to be giant birds, and there were sporadic reports of strange lights in the sky as well.

The sightings all seem to have happened over just a couple of years, and seemed to stop as suddenly as they started.

Giant Crows

A sight that is familiar to anyone who has been to Japan for any length of time is the large populations of crows. They are everywhere, and in recent years their population has exploded. Although they have a powerful place in Japanese folklore and myth, these ubiquitous birds are clever, bold, and even aggressive to the point that they have become a real nuisance in many areas.

Although Japanese crows tend to be quite large to begin with, in some countryside areas, there have been reports of of crows far larger than the normal carrion crow (Corvus corone) and jungle crow (Corvus macrorhynchos) that are found in Japan. Some remote, rural farmers have described being alarmed by crows at least twice as large as usual and with wingspans estimated as 6 feet or more.

One sighting from the 80s was made by a group of kindergarten schoolchildren walking home from school in a rural village. The children were startled when a huge crow landed on the road in front of them. A teacher with the children also saw the crow, and described the bird as being almost as tall as the children, which would make it an enormous bird indeed. The giant bird appraised the group briefly before flying off into the trees.

These super-sized crows are said to be most active at dusk, and are generally reported as being shyer and less bold than usual crows. When they sense a human nearby, they are known to retreat quickly. They also do not seem to be as vocal as more normal sized crows.

Carrion crow

It seems most likely that perhaps larger individuals of regular Japanese crows are being misidentified as something bigger, or perhaps some larger out of place bird or escaped exotic animal is behind the reports. The Steller’s sea eagle is found in Japan and is one of the world’s largest birds, with wingspans up to 8 feet. In Japan, The sea eagle is typically found only in the northernmost island of Hokkaido. However, vagrant sea eagles have been known to venture all the way down the east coast of Japan.

The sea eagle is typically dark brown to black all over the body except for some white markings. With it’s typically dark coloration, could a sea eagle be misidentified by someone not acquainted with them as a very large crow in the dusk hours these giant crows are seen? It would certainly explain the large sizes reported, as well as the behavior that diverges from typical crows, such as shyness and lack of vocalizations.

Steller’s sea eagle

Whatever they are, the giant crows of Japan remain a perplexing avian mystery.

Giant Bats of Okinawa

Okinawa is the southernmost prefecture of Japan, and is composed of hundreds of islands known as the Ryukyu Islands.

The Ryukyu Islands

Bats themselves are nothing new to Okinawa. The islands are home to the Ryukyu flying fox (Pteropus dasymallus), a megabat that is also found in Taiwan and the Philippines. Although the native species is large, islanders have long reported something far larger.

The Ryukyu flying fox typically has a wingspan of 80 to 90 cm (around 3 feet), but bats with wingspans described as being up to 2 meters or more (6.5 feet) have occasionally been reported in more remote areas of Okinawa. Interestingly, there is one report that describes such a giant bat attacking cattle, behavior that is inconsistent with typical flying foxes since they are strictly vegetarians.

What could these giant bats be? While it is certainly possible that sizes are being misjudged, the flying foxes in Okinawa are well known to the locals and would likely be recognized as such. Perhaps we are dealing with out of place vagrant individuals of a larger bat species.

The Ryukyu flying fox has a range that extends to the Philippines, which is also home to some of the largest bat species on Earth. The large flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus), also known as the greater flying fox, can be found here as well as other parts of Southeast Asia. These megabats can achieve wingspans of up to 2 meters (about 7 feet), which is comparable to the sizes reported in Okinawa.

Large Flying Fox

The Philippines is also home to the Giant golden-crowned flying fox (Acerodon jubatus), which is also a very large species, with typical wingspans of 1.5–1.7 m (4 ft 10 in–5 ft 7 in). Considering that the Ryukyu flying fox shares its range with these larger species, it seems possible that there is some overlap in habitats, and perhaps these giant bats have a small population in Okinawa as well.

Giant golden crowned flying fox

It could also be that some vagrant individuals have somehow found there way to the Ryukyu islands from Southeast Asia. Some species of bat are known to wander far and wide, and have wound up far from their native habitat. Could this be the case with the giant bats sighted in Okinawa?

Winged humanoids, giant crows, and giant bats. It seems like the next time you are in Japan, keep at least one eye to the skies. You never know what strangeness you might find there.

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Filed under Avian Mysteries, Cryptotourism, Cryptozoology, Eyewitness Accounts, Folklore, Mystery Man's Menagerie, New Species, Out of Place, Thunderbirds, Winged Weirdies