Brown bear or Higuma Source: wikipedia
Brown bear or Higuma Source: wikipedia

As a human, we are not scared of too many animals. But we are still aware of some animals which can be quite dangerous and we need to be careful with.


One of the last animals we want to meet in wild is a bear.

Are there bears in Japan?

Asian black bear or Tsukinowaguma Source: wikipedia
Asian black bear or Tsukinowaguma Source: wikipedia

Japan is known as a safe country. Yes, it is a safe place "relatively" comparing with many other countries. But as Japanese, Onegai Kaeru team is not fully sure if this is that safe. Low crime rate? Yes, but there are many crimes in Japan.


From the other perspective, Japan has many dangerous animals which can kill us. Esp. in mountains there  are many animals you need to watch out for. We have poisonous snakes (in mountains in many areas of Japan and beside that, in the sea in Okinawa!), big wasps, wild hogs...


Some Onegai Kaeru users asked us if there are bears in Japan? The answer is YES!

Type of bear you may see in Japan

So what type of bear do you possibly see in Japan?


There are two types of bear in Japan.


"Brown bear or Higuma" in Hokkaido can be big as 2.5-3m. 55% of the Hokkaido land is said to accommodate these bears. There are many cases where the bears attacked and killed people in Hokkaido. One of the most famous is this Sankebetsu bear attack incident in 1915 where a big bear as heavy as 340kg and as big as 2.7m killed 7 locals. 


3m bear...wow. If you want to see a lot brown bears in cage, there is a bear park (Kuma bokujo) in Noboribetsu, Hokkaido.


"Asian Black bears or Tsukinowa-guma " live on the main island (Honshu) and Shikoku island which are usually as big as 1.2-1.8m. 45% of the Honshu island has bears. There are also cases of attacks. Even in Tokyo, if you go deep in mountains such as Okutama area, you may meet the bears.

More bears seen

Since 2000 we see more bears. It is because due to the climate change the foods for bears is more scarce. Bears usually eat the nuts (and fishes in Hokkaido) not too much animals. But bears can eat meats too when hungry and no other food.  Bears know there are food near humans.


Some people even feed the bears which is quite bad because these bears get curious about humans and then want to approach humans to get more food. This increases the chance of bear encounter in general.

What to do if you ENCOUNTER bear

What should you do when you meet a beer on your way. Old story: we were told to pretend dead. But this does not seem so right.


Or...we put a bear repellent bell (kumayoke no suzu). When hiking in Japan, you see many people with some bells. These are for bears. This is quite popular in Japan yet this may NOT work that well because we heard some cases the person with the repellent bell was attacked and killed by a bear. In one case in Akita, 2017 one woman who got into a mountain to get bamboo shoots was killed by a bear. She had SEVERAL bear repellent bells.

This may mean the bell sort of informs a bear about a "potential food" or the bear can get curious about the sound and may come to see what it is?? Some expert says the bears are not afraid of the bell sound any longer.


You can also have a bear repellent spray ( we wonder how close we have to be to give the shot to the bear in practice!).


What we heard from some local people who saw bears in mountains in Japan. Here are the rules when you see them ( NO guarantee though!! ).


1) do not make noise (do not try to scare the bear as it may attack when it is in panic)

2) do not turn your back to the bear 

3) do not turn your eyes away from the bear

4) while looking into the bear eyes, you go backward slowly ( you do not run)

5) Be in a group of people (a bear attacks when you are alone/you look vulnerable) and

6) [ before you meet the bear] while you walking you turn a radio or talk loud to inform the bear so that it does not come even near and

7) ( after you are clear of danger ) inform the local about the case and let others know about it


THIS IS JUST WHAT WE HEARD.  NOTE that this tactic may NOT work!! Luckily we have not met any bear in wild  and did not need to try to see if works yet!! We hope we will not need to ever...

CONTACT the local government or police

Safest way

There are several ways to avoid bears but in the end bears are wild animals and we can not understand them fully. None of our countermeasures could work.


The safest way to avoid the bear is not to go into the mountains with the risk of bear encounter.


Before/during you go for hiking, you check with the local city office about the bear by tel. or mail.  And also you always talk to some locals (personnel in a cafe, restaurant, gift shop, hotel or so) about the bear (or any other kind of) dangers in the mountains. This is what we do always.


Onegai Kaeru wants you to enjoy Japan trip.


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Source: Wikipedia, WWF Japan


Disclaimer: Even though we try to make the info as updated and accurate but the accuracy of the information herein is not guaranteed by us. If you have any uncertainty, please contact the information source.


Write a comment

Comments: 12
  • #1

    Patrick (Thursday, 27 June 2019 16:24)

    Point 1 and 3 are wrong.

    You should make noise but don't look them directly in the eye.

  • #2

    onegai kaeru team (Thursday, 27 June 2019 16:58)

    Hi Patrick,

    Thank you for the comments!

    Have you met bears?

    K team

  • #3

    Joe (Wednesday, 17 July 2019 00:06)

    Patrick died by bear last year :(

  • #4

    Pazuma (Friday, 06 March 2020 04:55)

    I will move to Hokkaido for work soon from Tokyo. So i think its good to have a dog for protecting against bears.
    Hope my family and me will never meet some bears.

  • #5

    pHqghUme (Wednesday, 01 April 2020 22:04)


  • #6

    pHqghUme (Thursday, 02 April 2020 04:28)


  • #7

    pHqghUme (Thursday, 02 April 2020 04:35)


  • #8

    pHqghUme (Thursday, 02 April 2020 04:35)


  • #9

    pHqghUme (Thursday, 02 April 2020 04:35)


  • #10

    pHqghUme (Thursday, 02 April 2020 04:36)


  • #11

    pHqghUme (Thursday, 02 April 2020 04:36)


  • #12

    pHqghUme (Thursday, 02 April 2020 04:37)