Japan is a country full of rich culture and incredible wildlife. With rich forests and lots of rivers, Japan is a perfect place for animals to live and thrive whilst the bustling cities operate in tandem with these living creatures.
Of course, when exploring a country everyone is itching to know what nature is about and what could potentially threaten our health.
Bears are on the top of a lot of these lists, but are they in Japan? How many are there? What are your chances of seeing some? These questions plague our minds, and often we are unable to get the answers we need.
Well, no more! Follow our guide to find out more and what to do should you discover one of these animals (see also ‘Are There Pandas In Japan?‘).
What Animals Are Native To Japan?
There are thousands of different species of animal in Japan (see also ‘Are There Tigers In Japan?‘), but not all of them are native to the country.
Because Japan is a collective group of islands on the eastern side of Asia, it’s hard for animals to get to, unless introduced by human beings. With regards to whether these animals are dangerous or not, is a different story (see also, ‘What is the National Animal of Japan?‘).
Because Japan is surrounded by water, there are lots of forms of marine life, living alongside the land-dwelling animals with their feet firmly on the ground. Steller sea lions are one of the most common marine creatures you might find when in Japan (see also, ‘Where is the Sea of Japan?‘).
You can expect to find this giant on the coasts, close to the water. They are the sole member of the Eumetopias genus and along with pinnipeds, are only smaller in size than walruses and elephant seals.
Green pheasants, also known as Japanese green pheasants, are omnivorous birds that are native to the islands of Japan and are considered as a subspecies of the common pheasant seen in countries all over the world.
Omnivorous is when a creature is a mix of herbivorous and carnivorous, with these pheasants being known to eat worms and insects, as well as grains and plants. In Japanese culture, these birds are recognized as the national bird of Japan.
Along with these, there is also the co-existence of the sika deer. Also known as the spotted deer, or the Japanese deer, this species of animal was previously found in parts of northern Vietnam and the Russian Far East.
This deer is now uncommon outside of the Asian islands, where the species is described as overabundant. Belonging to the Cervus genus, the sika deer is easy to see with its white spots and fur that ranges from black to mahogany in color.
However, there is one species of animal in Japan that is higher in the food chain than all of the previously mentioned creatures.
Are There Bears In Japan?
To answer the original question, yes. There are bears in Japan, but they’re not all dangerous.
One type of bear that resides in Japan is the Japanese black bear. It’s thought that there are around 15,000 to 20,000 of these furry creatures dotted about the country on various islands.
This specific bear type grows to around 47-55 inches long and is considerably smaller than lots of bear types located in countries like America and Canada.
Belonging to the Ursus genus, the Japanese black bear has a diet that mainly consists of grasses and herbs. This bear is well-adapted to its surroundings and can climb bushes and trees to find nuts and berries.
Ussuri brown bears are another type of creature that can be found roaming the Japanese forests. It’s reported that there are less than 10,000 of these animals left in the Japanese wilderness due to the illegal hunting and capture of the bear.
Hunters and poachers will track down these bears and use their fur for various uses, as well as wanting their body parts and skin. On top of this, the bear is driven to move because of the loss of its natural habitat.
Unlike the Japanese black bear, Ussuri brown bears have been known to be very confident around human beings, often recorded to approach and spend time with people.
Fishermen have frequently told stories of females and bear cubs both approaching people and leaving them unharmed. It’s thought that females take their cubs to spend time with fishermen so that they can avoid confrontations with aggressive males.
It’s thought that these two species of bear are the only two that reside in Japan due to the country being positioned over the ocean, away from the mainland.
The black variation of bear is typically found on the islands of Honshu and Shikoku. People of the area have even reported seeing these beautiful beasts roaming the streets of Kyoto.
Bear attacks are fairly uncommon in Japan, with around 10 to 20 attacks each year. Of these attacks, only one or two are usually fatal. A lot of these bears are docile unless provoked.
If you’re near a bear’s den or they feel threatened, then they may lash out to defend themselves and their cubs. Many of these attacks usually occur in spring when people collect bamboo shoots, which is a big part of the bear’s diet.
What To Do When Spotting A Bear
If you’re far away from the bear, then it’s always best to slowly leave without running. Keep your eyes on the bear whilst avoiding making any loud noises.
If the bear isn’t excited then they’re less likely to attack you. These bears are just as scared of us as we may be of them, so make sure that you don’t startle or provoke them.
Always keep a distance from bear cubs. Bears are very protective and will make sure their cubs are safe, no matter what.
Steering clear of their young offspring greatly reduces the chances of a bear attack. If you see a bear before they notice your presence, stand and observe quietly, before slowly leaving in the opposite direction.
There are lots of different animals in Japan (see also ‘Are There Squirrels In Japan?‘), but for the bear-enthusiasts out there, it’s interesting to know that there are only two species of bear native to the Asian islands. Whilst it may seem like there are many, the numbers are dwindling due to destroyed habitats and hunting.
A lot of these bears have preliminary diets of fish, berries, and other forms of plants, however, they have been known to attack humans when threatened.
Try your best to stay out of their way and they’ll stay out of yours. Bears are beautiful creatures and want to live in peace, much like us!