26 June 1957. A small Japanese fishing trawler from the port of Hakodate rolls over dark swells on the North Pacific, treading Russian waters to the south-east of the Kamchatka Peninsula. A cold wind slices in from the north-east, whipping salt spray across the deck. Under the slate predawn sky, oilskin-clad fishermen winch a driftnet up from the sea, its nylon web taut with the weight of salmon.
A bright flash of yellow a hundred yards away catches the eye of a leathered fisherman. He turns to squint into the distance. He sees it again. It’s an improbable speck riding low in the water, a tiny boat of some sort, no bigger than a car, looking almost like a drifting shipping crate. A stumpy mast juts from its boxy cabin, flying a traditional Japanese carp flag that’s torn and blackened by exhaust.
As the vessel crests each wave, the fisherman sees something even stranger: it has wheels.
Now a hatch flips open on the boat’s roof and, as the fisherman watches, a man pulls himself out. He appears solid and powerful. He has a full grey beard and a large knife clenched in his teeth.
He is naked.Continue Reading