Hokkaido Bears

“There are dozens of bears in the hills around the lake. They come down almost daily to the road over there.”

He pointed at the road I had just walked along, and I said “Oh really?” with a great deal of nonchalance.

“You want to whistle or sing when you walk,” he said, “or have a bell and ring it from time to time, or bang a stick. They won’t come near you unless they’re really hungry, and then it’s only your food they’ll want.”

I nodded pleasantly, having no food.

“If you turn a corner and you see a bear and it’s thirty meters away from you, you’ve no need to worry. The bear will run away. It’ll be far more frightened than you are.”

“Well, well!” I said, and sipped my tea.

“If you turn a corner and you see a bear, say, twenty meters away, there’s still a good chance it won’t bother you. It’ll roar a bit just to let you know it’s there, but if you stand quite still it’ll probably get bored and go back into the forest.”

“Mm,” I said, giving the forest a very uncursory glance.

“And then, of course, if you turn a corner and you see a bear and it’s five or ten meters away from you…”

“Then, presumably, I should start to worry,” I said, chuckling my most British chuckle.

“Not really,” he said. “You’ve no need to worry. Bears are the most predictable of animals. If it’s five meters away it’ll certainly kill you. There’s no point in worrying at all.”

— From Chapter 2 of The Roads to Sata: A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan by Alan Booth

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