Authorities in Japan are investigating the appearance of dozens of mysterious fishing boats that have drifted ashore along Japan’s northwest coast, many containing decomposing human remains. While the occasional appearance of such ships is unfortunately not uncommon, the number of ships recovered from the Sea of Japan over the past month is unusually high.
On November 20, authorities recovered three boats off of the coast of Ishikawa prefecture, with ten bodies in total found amongst them. On Nov. 22, another boat appeared off of the Yuka coast, this time with only one mostly-intact corpse, accompanied by the partial remains of numerous other individuals. Oftentimes, the corpses have been left exposed for so long that investigators are unable to determine the cause of their deaths. The total number of these boats that have been recovered by Japanese officials since late October currently stands at eleven, with 34 of the vessels having been recovered over the course of the year.
The boats that are recovered are most commonly simple, 33-to-40-foot wooden fishing boats, that are presumed to be from North Korea, as items and equipment found on board have Korean writing on them, including items from the North Korean Army. Many may be ships that ran into mechanical trouble, having ventured far out into the Sea of Japan while their crews searched for better catches. Some disabled boats with their crews still alive are recovered by Japanese authorities, and returned to North Korea.