And it's not the first time in recent years this has happened, either.
Ball So Hard
In a post-Chinese balloon world, officials on the other side of the pond were left perplexed when a huge, mysterious orb turned up on a beach in Japan.
First reported by Japan's Asahi News, this strange spherical object appeared to have washed up on a beach in the coastal city of Hamamatsu.
The ball was X-rayed and investigated by a police bomb squad, and after being unable to figure out what the thing is, the lack of explanation has raised even more questions about this weird beachside apparition.
As the BBC and The Guardian later reported, runaway speculation about the mysterious orb has circulated since its discovery, with netizens positing that it's everything from a spy balloon to a Dragon Ball.
One of the most plausible explanations is that the ball, which looks to be made of iron due to its rusty appearance, is a buoy of some sort — and as Vice notes, mooring buoys do indeed often have metal shells.
A mysterious metal ball spotted on a beach in Hamamatsu City this week prompted local police to scramble the bomb squad. A careful examination revealed it is not a threat -- but shed no light on what it actually is. pic.twitter.com/ytClWsP0bw
— NHK WORLD News (@NHKWORLD_News) February 21, 2023
Curiously, the discovery of the Hamamatsu ball comes almost two years ago to the day after another — albeit much shinier — metal sphere was found washed up on a beach in the Bahamas at the end of February 2021. In that case, though, etchings on the object allowed investigators to deduce that the ball was Russian in origin and possibly fallen from a spacecraft.
The Bahamian beach ball wasn't the only one to make headlines in recent years, either. In 2019, an escaped mooring buoy was found at San Diego's Black's Beach after it had initially been spotted a few years prior, and in that case, the metallic orb was welcomed back like an old friend.
"We haven’t seen it in a few years," a regular beachgoer told the San Diego Reader, "so it’s kinda fun to see it now!"
Per these spherical tales, it's clear that the reception of these strange orbs depends entirely on context — and given that the one that turned up in Hamamatsu came on the heels of the balloongate boondoggle, it's no shock that "spycraft" was an initial conclusion.
Here's hoping authorities figure out what this one was!
More on mystery balls: Group of Dudes Fear the Pentagon May Have Shot Down Their Balloon