Bear (kuma)


Bear (kuma)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: All winter and others
***** Category: Animal


Duffy was dressed up the Japanese traditional Kimono because of Children's day in Japan!
- Shared by Hiroyuki Yoshida, May 5, 2012 -
Joys of Japan, 2012


Wild bears can be seen in the Northern parts of Japan.
Most common are the tsukinowaguma, who is skilfull at climbing trees and the higuma, who can be found in Hokkaido.

bear, kuma 熊 (くま)

black bear, kurokuma 黒熊(くろくま)
Asiatic black bear, "moon bear" tsuki no waguma, tsukinowaguma
.......................... 月輪熊(つきのわぐま)

"dog bear", inuguma 犬熊(いぬぐま)
brown bear, higuma 羆(ひぐま)
red bear, akaguma 赤熊(あかぐま)
white bear, shirokuma 白熊(しろくま)
polar bear, hokkyokuguma 北極熊(ほっきょくぐま)

baby bear, bear cub, kuma no ko 熊の子


hibernation, sleeping in winter, toomin 冬眠 (とうみん)


bear entering his den to hibernate
kuma ana ni iru 熊穴に入る / (くまあなにいる)
kigo for early winter

kumamatsuki 熊突 (くまつき) hunting for bears and more kigo


kigo for mid-spring

kuma-ana o izu 熊穴を出づ くまあなをいづ
bear coming out of the den

kuma-ana o deru 仲春 熊穴を出る(くまあなをでる)


kigo for late autumn

kuma no tana 熊の架 (くまのたな) "bear on his shelf"
kuma dana o kaku 熊栗架を掻く(くまくりだなをかく)
bear scratching his shelf
kuma no kuridana 熊の栗棚(くまのくりだな)
bear on his chestnut shelf

In late autumn, bears feast on nuts to get fat for hibernation. They often sit in on tree branch (shelf), feast on their nuts and look down into the valley.


There are of course many varieties of bears, with different living habits.

grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis)
ヒグマ(羆、樋熊): brown bear

Bears (family Ursidae)
Check the WIKIPEDIA for more !

WKD : Bears of Japan
More Information


Bear hunting is a special activity of the MATAGI マタギ, professional bear hunters, of Northern Japan and Hokkaido.

Here are some in traditional outfits.

The word derives from

mata oni ni naru 又鬼 "I have to become a demon again" . . .matagi . . .
The matagi hunter only takes life when it is absolutely necessary to support his life and the forest. He apologizes to the forest for taking life, prays for the soul of the dead animal and gives thanks to the circle of mountain life.


Miyazawa Kenji wrote a famous book about a bear hunter
なめとこ山の熊 Nametoko yama no kuma
The bears of Nametoko Mountain

Kenji's story, "The Bears of Nametoko," begins like this:

It's interesting, that business of the bears on Mt. Nametoko. Nametoko is a large mountain, and the Fuchizawa River starts somewhere inside it. On most days of the year, the mountain breathes in and breathes out cold mists and clouds. The peaks all around it, too, are like blackish green slugs or bald sea goblins..........

At the entrance to Namari hot spring there is a sign that says "Bear's Liver from Mt. Nametoko." So there are definitely bears on the mountain. I can almost see them, going across the valleys with their pink tongues lolling out, and the bear cubs wrestling with each other till finally they lose their tempers and box each other's ears.

You know, the bears of Nametoko are interesting. Nametoko is a big mountain. Fuchizawagawa river flows from Nametoko Mountain. Most days of the year Nametoko is either breathing in or breathing out the cold mist or clouds. From olden days there's been a sign at the entrance of Namari-no-Yu Hot Spring that says "Nametoko Bear Livers Here." That's why the bears on Nametoko cross over the valley with their red tongues lolling out. The baby bears play at sumo wrestling and end up pounding on each other.

Excerpt from Once and FOREVER, the tales of kenji miyazawa,
translated by John Bester, published by Kodansha International


More LINKS about the bear hunters of Japan !

Here is a page about Ani town in Akita, famous for the bear hunting culture, still preserved today. It seems a maschine-translation. But the photos will give you an impression.
. . . . Ani Town in Akita

Bear stew, kuma nabe 熊鍋 is of course one of the more delicious things of the matagi culture !

During the Edo period, poor country people started eating the meat of this "whale of the forest" and called the meat peony (botan). The meat of deer was maple leaf (momiji) and that of the horses was called cherry blossoms (sakura). Thus the pious Buddhists could pretend to eat vegetarian. The raw meat is arranged on the plate to look like a peony flower, see below. It is then put in a broth and boiled together with vegetables.
Wild Boar (inoshishi)

WASHOKU ... Meat from the Mountains  


Bear Festival of the Ainu people, Hokkaido
kuma matsuri 熊祭  くままつり

sending of the soul of the bear,kuma no rei okuri
kuma okuri 熊送り(くまおくり)
Iomante Festival イオマンテ
Kamui omante カムイオマンテ
nie no kuma 贄の熊(にえのくま)offering of a bear
kami no kuma 神の熊(かみのくま)"bear for the Gods"
hanaya 花箭(はなや) "blossom arrow"
kigo for mid-winter

The word literally means "to send something/someone off", and generally refers to the Ainu brown bear sacrifice. However, in some Ainu villages, it is a Blakiston's Fish Owl, rather than a bear, that is sacrificed. In Japanese, the ceremony is known as "sending off the bear" (熊送り, kumaokuri) or, sometimes, "the bear festival" (熊祭, kumamatsuri). The ceremony is the most famous part of Ainu culture.

Trappers set out to the bear caves at the end of winter, while the bears are still hibernating. If they find a new-born cub, they kill the mother and take the cub back to the village, where they raise it indoors, as if it were one of their own children. It is said that they even provide the cub with their own breast milk. When the cub grows larger, they take it outdoors, and put it into a small pen made of logs. Throughout their lives, the bears are provided with high-quality food. The cubs are treated as (and in fact believed to be) gods.

After the cub reaches one or two years of age, they release it from the cell and place it in the center of the village, where it is tied to a post with a rope. The males in the village then take shots at the cub with bows and arrows. Even at the age of two years, the brown bears are quite large, and it usually takes numerous shots before they fall. After the bear has been weakened from numerous arrow strikes and is too weak to defend itself, one villager will approach the bear and shoot it in the neck point-blank, to ensure that it is dead.

The villagers then slit the bear's throat and drink the blood. The bear is skinned, and the meat is distributed amongst the villagers. Its naked skull is placed on a spear, which is then rewrapped with the bear's own fur. This "doll" is an object of worship for the villagers. The bear has now been "sent off" to the world of the gods.
© Wikipedia

tabibito ni kumakari no uta kuma matsuri

the bear hunting songs
for a traveller -
bear festival
Naruse Chiyo 成瀬千代
Tr. Gabi Greve

mukkuri wa kanashi kuma matsuri wa kanashi

the mouth harp is so sad -
the bear festival is so sad -
Ookuma Kusafu (Okuma Kusaoi, Kusao, Kusabu) 大隈草生


Look at the Ainu mouth harp MUKKURI !


In Japan, many mountain climbers and treckers use strong bells to ward off bears before they attack, when they walk in the mountains in summer.
Here is one iron bell with my favorite Daruma design.

Worldwide use

North America

First bear in Alaska
kigo for spring



Maybe the most famous bear !!

And the well beloved Teddy Bear !

Things found on the way


Come and drink of this clear water,
And bears.

Tr. Blyth

kuma utte karazake katte kaeri keri

selling a bear
buying some dried salmon
then going home . . .

Tr. Gabi Greve


withered plants -
the poop of a wolf
the poop of a bear.

Tr. Gabi Greve


- - - haiku about bears by Masaoka Shiki
source : webmtabi.jp/201001/shiki_kigo

. WKD : Masaoka Shiki 正岡子規 .


summer treck...
. following the bear hunter's
..... skirt in the wind

Keiko Izawa, Japan, June 2007


shishi kuma to tonari-zukara ya fuyugomori

boars and bears
are my neighbors...
winter seclusion

Tr. David Lanoue


kuma o ou oosuzu hitotsu robashira ni

one large bell
to ward off the bears
on the pillar of the hearth

Yazu Sengyo 矢津羨魚
Tr. Gabi Greve

kuma oi no hitori fumoto ni kamaeori

Imai Fumino 今井文野

One bear hunter
at the mountain's foot

(Tr. Keiko Izawa)

bear hunting -
one hunter getting ready
at the foot of the mountain

(Tr. Gabi Greve) a more free version


kuma no ko ga kawarete tetsu no kusari kamu

Nurtured in a cage,
a bear cub licking away
at his iron chain.

Yamaguchi Seishi 山口誓子

trans. Takashi Kodaira and Alfred H. Marks
from "The Essence of Modern Haiku: 300 Poems by Seichi Yamaguchi."

Composed 1968. "Here is a bear caught in the interior of Mount Hakusan. He spends his days in an iron cage, tied by an iron chain.He licks his iron chain, the chain that restricts his freedom."
note by Seishi


kuma o matsu yoru no sanmyaku no tottan ni

Toyama Chikage 豊山千蔭

waiting for a bear
at the edge of the mountain range
at night

(Tr. Keiko Izawa)


waiting for bear
near the mountain range edge --
at night

"waiting for bear" or rather "loaded for bear" has a double meaning in English in that it can be literal or an idiom. Literally, it means waiting for bear (usually meaning one or more) as prey or game for the hunt; and, the idom is "being prepared for the worst".

(Tr. Chibi)


Michinoku wa sokoshirenu kuni oyaji iku

Michinoku is
an immeasurable land --
great bears harbor

Satoo Onifusa 佐藤鬼房
(Tr. Keiko Izawa)

Michinoku is a famous part of the Northern area of Japan. In the Edo period, this was Mutsu no Kuni 陸奥国(むつのくに).

. Michinoku, Mutsu 陸奥 region in Tohoku .


Yamazaki Masao 山崎雅雄

More Japanese haiku with 熊


first bear--
snowdrops bloom
under a cold sun

© Billie Wilson Alaska


Ursa Major--
by starlight, a black bear
raids our trash

Billie Dee


looking at the air
where the bear passed
last night

Paul O. Williams 1935 — June 2, 2009

Related words

***** Wild Boar (inoshishi)

***** ..... . Winter Seclusion, hibernation (fuyugomori) Japan

***** The Poet Miyazawa Kenji

WASHOKU ... Japanese Food SAIJIKI


. Hokkaido Bear Carvings - Toys .



Anonymous said...


In my family, 'bear' is a summer kigo. My daughters vacation every summer on the western shore of Lake Superior, in Wisconsin.
Here is my favorite image, based on their experience:

bear tracks in the sand
moose drool on tap
at the corner cafe

Johnye Strickland

Anonymous said...


I grew up in the United States with Smokey the Bear. He was a cartoon-like bear created for public service television announcements about fire safety in forests. He wore a broad-brimmed forest ranger's hat, carried a shovel, and told us," Only YOU can prevent forest fires!"

Here is a link to Gary Snyder's "Smokey the Bear Sutra:"


I was wondering why there would be professional bear hunters in Japan. Then I read about the use of bear gall bladders in traditional and folk-medicine, right up to the present day. *sigh*

In the tri-state area where I live (Connecticut, New York, New
Jersey), as suburban sprawl encroaches on wilderness areas, there are increasing reports of bears invading backyards of houses in search of food.

The fortunate bears are tranquilized and returned to the wilderness. The unfortunate bears are shot. As population in the U.S. continues to grow, this problem could very well get worse.


Anonymous said...

cow and calf
moose eat lilypads
in shallows


anonymous said...

after the bear–
the silence of
broken spider webs

(Jack Barry)

more BEAR haiku

Gabi Greve said...

territories polar bears
silence of ices

Gennady Nov

Haiku - Culture Magazine

Gabi Greve said...

Masaoka Shiki


withered plants -
the poop of a wolf
the poop of a bear

Gabi Greve said...

Aoi Tokugawa wrote:
Matagi'kanji is 又鬼 . 又(again)鬼(oni, orge.devil).
Matagi kill bears for a living. When hunting, if they think that bear is poor, they would be killed by the bear. They make their heart Oni when they hunt bear. Everytime they hunt bears, their heart become Oni. So they are called Matagi .
and a book
マタギ奇談(Matagi Kidan)
By Takao Kudo

Gabi Greve said...

matagi 又鬼 - マタギ と伝説 Legends about bear hunters
kodama nezumi コダマ鼠 / 小玉鼠 Kodama Nezumi Yokai monster - Little Ball Rat

Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Miyagi 宮城県 .....

yamanokami 山ノ神
If the Matagi bear hunters do not find an animal, the leader takes a piece of Okoze wrapped in white ritual paper out of his pocket and offers it to Yamanokami.
And - oh wonder - they soon find their pray.
legends about okoze 虎魚 / 鰧魚 / オコゼ / ヲコゼ stonefish

Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Akita 北秋田郡
once on a snowing night Yamanokami took the form of a pregnant woman and asked for shelter at the hut of seven woodcutters, but she was turned away.
At the next hut of six woodcutters she was taken in cordally. So Yamanokami gave them four 大熊 great bears as a present.
Then Yamanokami turned the group of seven into 小鼠 mice with no special color.

Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Yamagata 山形県

daija, orochi 大蛇 the huge serpent, great snake .

In the village of Kaison in the Okitama district 羽州置賜郡開村
there lived a huge serpent which had swallowed a kuma 熊 bear. The bear tore off the mouth of the serpent and run away.
But the bones of this serpent remained. People were afraid of the bones and nobody dared to touch them.
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