There are many places in the world where humans and bears have learned to peacefully co-exist. This takes a bit of consideration to know where the lines are drawn between bear and human territories.
There are many national parks where humans and bears co-exist. One of these is Jōshin’etsu-kōgen National Park in the town of Karuizawa. Karuizawa is located in the Chūbu region of the main island, Honshū.
The Japanese are an ancient culture that have a high respect for nature. Rather than hunt bears, residents of Karuizawa have learned to take great pride in their ability to live with bears and adapt their lives around that of bears. There is no doubt this high respect for nature is linked to the awesome scenic beauty that is the country of Japan.
A beautiful national park
Jōshin’etsu-kōgen National Park was founded in 1949 and has lush scenery that captivates the eyes such as Mount Kusatsu-Shirane. It continued in growth until the mid 1950s to include include the mountainous region, Myōkō-Togakushi mountainous formed several dormant and active volcanoes. Part of the Myōkō-Togakushi mountainous region has since been separated in 2015 as Myōkō-Togakushi Renzan National Park.
Although Jōshin’etsu-kōgen National Park is a popular tourist destination for hiking, mountain climbing, skiing, mountain climbing, hiking, and an onsen hot spring resort, its lush, forested areas are an open invitation to bears.
The location of Karuizawa
It should also be noted that the town of Karuizawa is not far from Nagano where the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics, officially referred to as the XVIII Olympic Winter Games.
In autumn, the small town of Karuizawa is home to leaf peepers. Leaf peepers is the term for travelers who seek places with the most colorful fall foliage. Leaf peepers come to Karuizawa to take photographs of the scenic beauty found here.
In addition, Karuizawa has many interesting spots such as elegant wooden churches, souvenir shops and opportunities to shop with locals. One of the other attractions is the famous cherry blossoms in late spring and you can still catch a light snowfall in the month of March.
Bears roam Karuizawa
The seasons and interesting highlights may be one of the reasons bears head to Karuizawa. With so many tourists visiting in seasons when bears are hungriest, the famous Honshu Island black bears know where to find a ready feast.
The people of Karuizawa know the black bear is struggling to survive amidst a small town population and Jōshin’etsu-kōgen National Park where much of there natural habitat no longer exists.
Bear life among the people
Japanese black bears have seven subspecies two of which occupy the region of the national park. The Kyushu subspecies is likely already extinct.
With the introduction of cedar and spruce trees to the Honshu region, the number of black bears in western Honshu has been reduced dramatically. These two tree species produce no acorns that black bears feed on.
The place where people live with bears in Japan has observed much about these animals. For example, black bears hibernate four months of the year beginning in the month of November. Black bears in this region find skunk cabbage, sprouts and fruits to feast on when food supplies are short. Thus, people study the lifestyle of these bears and learn to adapt.