The site of the worst bear attack in Japanese history is a spooky place to visit | Panda Anku

You might not want to visit this area alone.

Bears are sighted in Japan every year, and lately they are becoming more common, both on the mainland where the Asiatic black bear lives, and up in Hokkaido, where is home the greater Ussuri brown bearalso known as Ezo Brown Bear.

While both types of bears are dangerous, Hokkaido’s brown bears are particularly frightening — An encounter with a brown bear is more likely to result in injury due to its size and ferocity. In fact, the worst bear attack in Japanese history involved a brown bear, and the story of what happened is like something out of a horror movie, when the bear killed seven people and seriously injured three others in a Hokkaido settlement over a period of five days.

The attack is known as Brown bear incident in Sankebetsualthough it is also known as Tomamae Brown Bear Incident or Rokusensawa Bear Attack since it took place in Rokusensawa, Sankebetsu, Tomamae City, Hokkaido.

When the incident took place over a century ago, between 9th-14th December 1915younger generations may be unaware of the horrific attack that literally stained the city, but locals are determined to keep history alive as a cautionary tale for others.

▼ Why the Sankebetsu Brown Bear Incident Reconstruction Location exists in the area.

Online reviews for the reconstructed site include comments such as: “I couldn’t visit it alone“, “It’s too scary” and “I was too scared to get out of the car“. These comments are not exaggerating, as the city’s official website even warns visitors: “it’s not well lit, even during the day“, “There is no cell phone service in the area“, “Brown bears may appear“, and “Please refrain from visiting at night as this is dangerous“.

▼ Tomamae is still a relatively rural destination.

Our reporter Saya Togashi has always wanted to visit the site Her fear of the bear attack had always held her back. On a recent visit to Hokkaido in early summer, when bear encounters are usually at their lowest, Saya felt she could not pass up this opportunity and also felt inclined to pay homage to those who lost their lives at the hands of the bear so many years ago .

Saya drove during her trip so she had her vehicle to feel safe, but when she drove to the site she couldn’t help but wonder how safe the unoccupied side really was. If no one was around, there would be no one to help her if she ran into a bear. If that happens, how many days would it be before she’s reported missing?

To calm her nerves and keep her mind from racing, Saya stopped at the Tomamae City Folk Museumwhere she could learn more about the history of the city and its people who have long lived with bears.

At the Folklore Museum, Saya learned more about the terrible bear incident that happened at a time when Humans began to settle in the Tomamae wilderness. The life of the settlers was difficult as they manually cleared the land and lived in huts and were constantly on the lookout for bears.

Although the details of the incident differ slightly depending on the source, the overall account is the same – on December 9, 1915, a giant brown bear that had not hibernated attacked one of the apartments, killing two people.

That night, the bear returned, but the townspeople had gathered to guard the settlement and were able to stop the bear from attacking one of the family huts. However, the bear then moved on to another hut, where it mauled and killed five people.

▼ Reenactment in the folklore museum.

After numerous sightings of the bear returning to the settlement to plunder huts and scare residents, a famous bear hunter named Yamamoto Heikichi finally managed to kill the animal on December 14th. This ended the horrifying five-day ordeal, and the incident inspired novels, manga, documentaries, plays, and even a movie called Yellow Fangs, Directed by Sonny Chiba.

Oh, and the bear? It turned out that a 340-kilogram (749-pound) animal that was 2.7 meters (8.9 ft) long.

With thoughts of the giant bear, Saya drove to the place where it all happened, about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from the museum, at the end of a road called “bear road’, which runs from the city center to the mountains.

▼ This road ends at the former settlement.

Despite the area’s terrible history, Signs along Bear Road depict bears in a friendly lightwhich proves that cute pictures of bears can really calm your nerves and help you forget the fact They can be man-eating beasts.

▼ Five kilometers to the “actual location”.

According to the sign above, this particular place, five kilometers from the former settlement where the tragedy happened, is known as “Uchidome Bridge“(“arrow stop bridge“). It got that name as it was where it was one of the hunters managed to shoot the bear for the first time during the incidentwhich ultimately helped stop the bear’s attack on the settlement.

No amount of cute signage can help calm your fears once you reach the end of the road, because this really is bear country.

▼ Where no one can hear you scream.

In all her time on Bear Road, Saya hadn’t seen a single car or human being, and now the drive became even more lonely as a dirt gravel road meandered through a wooded area blocking the sun’s light.

The sound of the treetops rustling in the wind was the only thing that kept Saya company She made her way to the spot where the tragedy happened. Well, she certainly hoped that was the only thing keeping her company, as this was the best environment for a brown bear.

Saya drove straight to the scene of the accident and after looking left and right for a few moments to look for movement, she carefully unbuckled her seat belt and considered whether or not to get out of the car. From where she had parked she could see the cabin as it would have looked in 1915 and from behind the cabin a huge looking bear was staring at her.

Saya stared at the bear and waited for it to come to life, but luckily it didn’t. After reminding herself that it’s summer, when real bear sightings are least likely, Saya carefully opened her car door, listening for every movement and pulled her bear bell out of the glove compartment. Bear bells are recommended in these areas for safety reasons, so she clipped them to her bag and made sure it jingled loudly as she walked toward the cabin to help scare away any bears that might be around.

▼ If there were bears that big around, Saya would probably need more than one bell to save them.

Replicating the bear in this hut was incredibly effective as it worked express a thousand thoughts and feelings that no words ever could. Being close to such a giant was terrifying, even in this recreated state, allowing Saya to get a real sense of the fear and panic that the people who lived here would have felt, especially in the dark of the night without solid walls to protect them.

▼ It’s hard to imagine that there are still bears that big in the wilds of Hokkaido today.

Bears that don’t hibernate are known to be incredibly dangerous – and hungry – and this animal was no exception. The bear was almost as big as the hut itself, so there would be no escaping it in a surprise attack.

Entering the shack brought the settlers’ experience into incredible focus for Saya. This was more of a hut than a hut, and she couldn’t believe how people once had to make do with simple huts like this during the cold, harsh, snowy Hokkaido winters.

▼ The sight of these items made Saya grateful for her modern comforts at home.

Understandably, after the bear attack, all settlers left and the area became uninhabited, at least by humans. Bears are still present in the area today and in greater numbers than before, since the annual bear hunt that previously took place in Hokkaido until 1990 has been discontinued.

▼ Today, a sign at the site tells the story of the bear attack and there is another sign next to it showing the short hiking trail that people in the area can walk.

Adventurous explorers can even explore a place called Hibernation Hole, although that was definitely a step too far for our reporter. After passing stone monuments marking the site of the incident, Saya decided it was best to avoid the wooded areas.

▼ Stone bears were another powerful reminder of the need to remain vigilant when visiting the site.

Although the area was quiet and beautiful, the bear attack site had a heavy atmosphere and The sight of the bear and the hut gave Saya shivers that she hadn’t expected. However, the fact that the site is still being cared for and protected for future generations to experience and learn from reflects the relationship between wildlife and local people today.

On the one hand, the bear is feared as an unpredictable enemy, on the other hand, it is a beautiful looking animal that brings tourists to the city.

The bear appears on street signs like the one above and in souvenir shops, where it’s sold as a cute stuffed animal and on a variety of merchandise as a sort of mascot for the town. Tomamae has a complicated relationship with its brown bears, particularly in relation to its residents, who are direct descendants of those who survived the horrific attack, but overall, They have chosen to live as peacefully as possible with the bears in their midst.

▼ Living with brown bears is commonplace for many people in Hokkaido, especially up in Shiraoi where an even more gigantic replica exists.

Luckily, during Saya’s visit to Hokkaido, her only encounters with bears were of the replica species. However, with bear sightings still on the rise across Japan, remembering the history of the Sankebetsu brown bear incident and staying vigilant in rural areas has never been more important remain as first-hand accounts show that bears are always unpredictable and have been known to attack even people in their 80s.

side information

Sankebetsu Brown Bear Incident Reconstruction Location / 三毛別ヒグマ事件復元地
Address: Hokkaido-ken, Tomamae-gun, Tomamae, Sankei
Closed from early May to late October each year, see website for details

Photos ©SoraNews24
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