I recently visited Akita Prefecture and toured several sites where bears had been spotted.

To my surprise, many areas were far more urban than I’d imagined—it’s no longer the case that bears only prowl in areas close to mountains.

One such urban place is Kita-Akita, a city of about 28,000 people in northern Akita Prefecture. Stepping out of the train station, I walked through the shopping arcade and onto the bus street.

There, last autumn, Keiji Minatoya, 67, who runs a confectionery shop, encountered a bear in his garage.

That dreadful morning, he heard a scream—it sounded close. Rushing outside, he learned that a woman had been attacked by a bear.

“A bear?” He recalled being unable to absorb what had been said at first.

It seems that the beast had been hiding in Minatoya’s garage unnoticed. When he opened the shutter, he saw a shape about 1.5 meters long. It knocked him over in an instant.

“So, this is how I die,” he thought.

Claw marks remain on his face and back to this day.

In the last fiscal year alone, there were 70 victims of bear attacks reported in Akita Prefecture, including Minatoya.

It was said that a lack of food in the mountains drove bears into urban residential areas, but even after their favorite wild vegetables and new shoots appeared in the spring, the bear sightings did not cease.

There have been more than 400 bear reports across the prefecture and bear alerts have been issued.

"I changed the road I take a walk on in the morning," one local resident said.

“When I get out of my car after coming home, I worry about a bear emerging from the darkness,” another told me. The residents echoed the anxieties rippling through the community.

I wonder if it might be an exaggeration to say that locals always feel uneasy walking alone outdoors, with the threat of bears lurking in their minds.

Near a high school, in a newly developed residential area ... Even I found myself stopping every time the bushes beside the road rustled. I thought I was unlikely to encounter a bear, but it was still unsettling.

Humans and wild animals.

Are there not some ingenious ideas to prevent these unfortunate encounters from spreading further?

—The Asahi Shimbun, June 16

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

QOSHE - VOX POPULI: Bear threat looms across Akita Prefecture, even in cities - The Asahi Shimbun
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VOX POPULI: Bear threat looms across Akita Prefecture, even in cities

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17.06.2024

I recently visited Akita Prefecture and toured several sites where bears had been spotted.

To my surprise, many areas were far more urban than I’d imagined—it’s no longer the case that bears only prowl in areas close to mountains.

One such urban place is Kita-Akita, a city of about 28,000 people in northern Akita Prefecture. Stepping out of the train station, I walked through the shopping arcade and onto the bus street.

There, last autumn, Keiji Minatoya, 67, who runs a confectionery shop, encountered a bear in his garage.

That dreadful morning, he heard a scream—it sounded close. Rushing outside, he learned that a........

© The Asahi Shimbun


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