This chapter has provided background to the wildlife conflict issue in Japan. Wildlife conflict involving forest-dwelling animals such as bears, wild-boar, monkeys and deer is concentrated in forest-margin areas, namely, in upland Japan. Human-wildlife conflict of some nature is likely to have existed in Japan for as long as humans have occupied the archipelago, but it has not become a major social and economic issue until the last decades. Human-wildlife conflict has developed to the serious problem that it is today due to several key factors: the destruction of large areas of upland forest through deforestation and afforestation with plantation forest, and the development of mountain regions with roads, leisure facilities and other construction. In addition, the depopulation of upland communities means that wildlife encroachment is no longer adequately kept in check by these communities, particularly as the ‘buffer zone’ between upland settlements and the ‘forest proper’ becomes neglected.


Environment Agency, 2000: vol. 1, 285; Kellert, 1991: 298. 2

Taguchi, 2000: 72. 3

Maruyama, 2006: 155–6. For instances of wild boar and deer pestilence during the Edo Period, see Walker (2005a: 163–87). See also Walker (2005b: 102–106) for instances of livestock (particularly horse) depredation by wolves from as early as A.D. 967.


While the forest was extensively utilised in pre-modern Japan for construction, boat-building, fuel wood and so on, and was exploited heavily in the Kinai basin, Tōkai, Kantō and Inland Sea regions, much upland forest-land remained largely intact outside of these highly populated areas until the mid-Edo Period (1700s) (Totman, 1989: 9–11; 34–80). 5

Statistics Bureau of Japan, 2006: 19, 255. 6

Bowring & Kornicki, 1993: 13–14. 7

Statistics Bureau of Japan, 2006: 2, 19. 8

Statistics Bureau of Japan, 2006: 38. A city in Japan normally has a population in excess of 30,000 (Bowring & Kornicki, 1993: 28).


Karan & Stapleton, 1997: 23–4. 10

Statistics Bureau of Japan, 2006: 57, 231. 11

Bowring & Kornicki, 1993: 31. 12

Knight, 2003: 20; Itō, 1985: vol. 5, 325. The law’s full name in Japanese is Kasochiiki taisaku kinkyū secchihō .


Bowring & Kornicki, 1993: 30–31. See also Palmer, 1984, for an in-depth study of rural settlements which have experienced the problems associated with rural depopulation.


Knight, 2003: 20–21. 15

Villages are often classified according to three categories: nōson (farming villages), sanson (mountain villages), and gyoson (fishing villages), but these categories have no effect on administrative function. Similiarly, the gun have no administrative function, but are groups of rural municipalities that are used for postal purposes.


Asia-Pacific Perspectives, February 2006: 35. 17

Fukushima Minpō, October 19, 2006. 18

Fukushima Minpō, October 19, 2006. 19

Knight, 2003: 31; see also Maita, 1998: 38. 20

Knight, 2003: 32; Hazumi, 1999: 108. 21

Maita, 1998: 40. Encouragement for private-landowners to convert their land to coniferous forestry took a number of forms, such as subsidies, guidance and advice. Some of the ‘guidance’ was effectively propaganda: one plantation forestry manual published by the government in the 1950s and 1960s stated: ‘broadleaf forest feels bad [kimochi ga warui]’ and ‘broadleaf trees are low-quality’ (Maita, 1998: 40).


Maita, 1998, 40; Hatakeyama, 2005: 66. 23

The Forestry Agency has been a self-funding agency since 1947. Critics suggest that this meant that the foremost consideration has been profits generated from logging, with little regard for environmental impacts or considerations (Natori, 1997: 561). Natori documents an example of how this ‘self-funding’ system affects the natural environment: the logging of the Shiretoko National Park in Hokkaidō. It was well documented that the area was habitat to seriously threatened species such as Blakiston’s fish-owl, the white-tailed eagle and the Pryer’s woodpecker. In spite of nation- wide opposition, the Forestry Agency proceeded with logging in 1987. Because rigorous biological diversity surveys were not conducted, it is unclear how much ecological damage resulted. At the time, the Forestry Agency’s deficit stood at more than 1.5 trillion yen (Japan Lawyer’s Association (1991), as cited in Natori, 1997: 558) and the logging project at Shiretoko was seen as an attempt to reduce this deficit.


Japan Overseas Forestry Consultant Association (OFCA) (1996), cited in Knight, 2003: 45; Statistics Bureau of Japan, 2006: 258. At the same time, the Forestry Agency was sinking deeper and deeper into debt—by 1988 it had a cumulative deficit of 500 billion yen and a long term debt of 1.9 trillion (McCormack, 1996: 86).


In recent decades, there has been a sharp decline in the number of people working in the forestry industry in Japan. In 1960, there were 400,000 forest labourers in Japan (JOFCA (1996), cited in Knight, 2003: 34), but the number of full–time forestry workers has declined steadily since then: to 135,000 in 1970, 77,000 in 1990 and fewer than 45,000 in 2000 (Statistics Bureau of Japan, 1990: 176; Statistics Bureau of Japan, 2006: 253).


These neglected forests are sometimes referred to disparagingly as moyashiyama or ‘bean-sprout forest’ (Knight, 2003: 35).


Most of the fields abandoned in upland areas under the ‘depopulation law’ were either left to regenerate naturally or were planted in coniferous species, so this applies to the 1970s also (Palmer, E., personal communication, February 12, 2006). 28 Knight, 2003: 35. 29 Knight, 2003: 35. 30 Knight, 3003: 36. 31

Hatakeyama, 2005: 106. As illustrated by this example, because habitat destruction/conservation, development, social welfare and economic aid are so inextricably intertwined, it is not possible to view nature conservation issues purely from a utilitarian ‘common sense’ perspective––they can be highly emotional, with stakeholders who feel, and arguably are, economically and socially vulnerable. This is equally applicable in most, if not all societies. However, in Japan’s case, development projects have an established history of being used, quite openly, and not always

successfully, as a panacea for economic ills. 32

Ōi, 2004: 214. 33

Statistics Bureau of Japan, 2006: 252. 34 Hatakeyama, 2005: 92. 35 McCormack, 1996: 86. 36 Hatakeyama, 2005: 93. 37

For a fuller discussion of this law, see Knight, 2004: 88–9. 38

Yoshida, 2001: 25; McCormack, 1996: 87–88. 39

Chapter Five: The Asiatic black bear of Japan—its biology, ecology, distribution and status

5.1 Introduction

This chapter will provide an outline of the population status and distribution of the Asiatic black bear both in Japan and worldwide, provide an overview of the bear’s biology and ecology, and discuss the main factors impacting its survival in Japan. It will further provide an overview of two major aspects of contemporary human-bear interaction in Japan: human-bear conflict and bears held in captivity. 5.2 Worldwide distribution and status of Asiatic black bears

The Asiatic black bear of Japan (Ursus thibetanus (japonicus)); sometimes known as Selenarctos thibetanus (japonicus), is a subspecies of the continental species Ursus thibetanus. It is thought to have crossed from the Eurasian continent sometime before the Pleistocene period (approximately 1.8 million to 10,000 years ago), when a land-bridge connected Japan to the Eurasian continent. The species’ distribution is now divided into two separate regions: in the east, it is found in Korea, China, Mongolia and parts of the Russian Federation. Further west it inhabits a region stretching from Iran in the west to Taiwan in the east and Malaysia in the south (see Figure 5). It is generally thought to prefer forested hills and mountains and the tropical moist forest below alpine elevations.1

The population status of the Asiatic black bear is uncertain throughout much of its range outside the dense forests in Laos and Burma and in the eastern Soviet Union.2 Due to the high nutritional

Figure 5: World distribution of Asiatic Black Bears (Ursus thibetanus) (Source: The International Association for Bear Research and Management )

requirements necessary to feed a large body, it requires substantial areas of habitat. In studies conducted in Tangjiahe, China, it has been estimated that an adult male needs at least 37 km² to sustain itself. Therefore, forests can only support bears at low densities, estimated at one bear per seven to eight km².3 (Ranges for bears in Japan are discussed below.) The main threat to the bear’s survival worldwide is habitat loss and degradation, but ongoing trade in bear parts, particularly in East Asia, is also a significant threat. The trade in bear parts affects this bear species more than others because it is the favoured species for traditional medicine and cuisine in East Asia and it is the most readily exploitable species in China, Japan, and Korea, where medicinal use of bear parts is prevalent.4 According to Servheen (1989), a bear biologist active in the conservation of bears world- wide, without controls on trade and harvesting rates, and urgent protection of habitat, the species is likely to become extinct throughout most of its current range in the near future.5

In document The bear as barometer: the Japanese response to human bear conflict (Page 56-59)