This weekend we were lucky enough to see not just one, but two Japanese black bears. Praise must be given to the young American lady Caitlin "Hawk Eye" Hansen, who spotted the beasts feeding in dense undergrowth, on the opposite side of a river that we were driving alongside, in the eastern region of Ono.
We were able to observe the bears, which have been recently terrorising the residents of Ono, for about five minutes before they moved under the cover of trees. Although the national press plays down the Ono Bear Crisis (OBC), and has reported that only a handful of bears have been captured and killed, I have exlusive information that suggests otherwise.
An inside source who works closely with the bear patrol unit of Ono City says she is only too familiar with the bear problem. The source, who has asked to remain nameless for fear of reprisal attacks from relatives of the incarcerated bears, had this to say: "About 40 Bears have been captured this year, half of which have been slain, but the authorities try to keep it quiet".
Few Japanese people ever see the bears in the wild as they usually stay away from urban areas. However this year, unusual weather patterns have lead to the bears' normal source of food being depleted, hence they have been forced out of the mountainous regions and closer to the city in search of fodder. The presence of the bears within the city limits has brought terror to the people of Ono and there have been several attacks on humans, resulting in at least one death.
I can now exclusively report that the Japanese eat bear meat; a source close to the bear hunting industry (which is legal during the open season) says it can be bought in mountainous areas, although a member of the bear eating community said that "it smells a bit funny". Bear gall bladder is also a revered medicine for stomach complaints, and is available in most pharmacies, although the price is so high that many people use alternative remedies.
It remains to be seen whether the bears will strike again, but the residents of Ono are hoping for an early winter this year, which will send the bears into hibernation until spring.