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Weekend hunting boom as rising number of city people acquire licenses

16 Comments
By Michael Hoffman
Photo: Dai/Pixta

This country needs hunters.

In former times they roamed woods and mountains, keeping wildlife in its place. Then came industry, commerce, supermarkets and other marks of progress, and hunting came to seem redundant. Hunters are a dying breed, and we’re paying the price: 15.6 trillion yen in 2022, the agriculture ministry calculates, measuring damage by proliferating birds and beasts to crops and livestock.

Then there’s the human toll: Over 200 people attacked and six killed in 2023, the worst year ever, by bears unhunted and going hungry in their deteriorating natural environments, driving them into ours.

Weekly Playboy (Feb 12) sees hope in the “weekend hunter” – latest offshoot of an ancient breed. It arises from the camping boom. The 1990s saw a sharp rise in auto camping, still ongoing, with some 10 million auto campers a year. Then came solo camping. How nice, more and more are discovering, to get off all by yourself into deep nature, alone with your tent, your food, your book and your thoughts.

One natural discovery leads to another. Campers gained experience and grew curious about hunting. A “gibier boom” followed, gibier being the French word for game, a whole new food experience, the ultimate reward of a whole new life experience – new to us, though ancient otherwise – that of tracking, pursuing, shooting and (last but by no means least) dismembering your own food.

Can weekend hunters reverse the decline of hunting? In 2017 the environment ministry counted 200,141 licensed hunters; in 2019, 215,417. It’s a significant rise, young weekend hunters accounting for most of it. The trouble is, Playboy finds, most are mere “paper hunters,” licensed but inactive. Why? Because most are urbanites, 20,000-odd living in Tokyo, who, having acquired a license, aren’t quite sure what to do next.

Enter a group called Hunter Bank. Its aim is to smooth the path of these novice hunters into the countryside, where farmers harassed by marauding deer and birds – bears are probably best left for more seasoned trackers – wait to accord them a very warm welcome.

Another barrier: Playboy claims the preliminary education required by the licensing process is inadequate. It teaches law but not technique. This is astonishing, given Japan’s notoriously strict gun control. Be that as it may, Hunter Bank helps fill the gap. Hunting locales, hunting techniques, the use and maintenance of guns, traps and dogs, the subsequent carving of the day’s kill, are taught under its auspices. Often it’s a case of weekend hunters teaching weekend hunters, an indication of rapid spread.

With that we proceed to our rousing conclusion: Playboy’s reporter goes off on a weekend hunting adventure of his own.

Leading the expedition is Saitama businessman Kazuo Yajima – a weekend hunter himself but evidently a seasoned one. It’s a party of five, rounded out by a car salesman, an architect, and Yajima’s son. Yajima has a hunting lodge (and dogs) in the mountains of Yamanashi Prefecture.

They fan out in the V-shaped valley. Yajima knows the terrain, a decided plus – in fact an essential, and Hunter Bank recommends and promotes cooperation with locals. Yajima knows, too, what to look for. “Deer!” He knows deer droppings when he sees them. He alerts the others by wireless. He unleashes the dogs. There’s the prey – a full-grown female. They advance on it. The reporter’s blood races. “Damn – no good!” Yajima calls out. The ground is slick with sleet. The dogs can’t get a foothold up the mountain. The deer can. Off she goes.

Never mind! says the reporter, happy all the same. He’s had his fun, he’s got his story, what more does he need? Game? Maybe next time!

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

16 Comments
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Bring back the wolves - Japan has such a large area of forested land. Hiking is growing rapidly again and does not mix well with guns. Several times we met a hunting club around the Nikko area and received a few kilos of fresh venison but the quality varies greatly depending on the sex, age of the animal, and the cut.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Aly Rustom

You can have snake up in mountains of Gunman.

Crocodile meat available in a fair few izakayas in the cities.

Basically like chicken,but with more bones to deal with.

Here in the Ryukyus,the boar are smaller,but sweeter.

Feral goats are good in stew,and their blood as soup.

Wish we were allowed to catch the pheasants,though.

Sea kraits are caught ,too,but I feel sorry for them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Thunderbird2,

Land management is a sound practice to protect livestock.

It is the question of hunting sports/fox hunting with hounds, a tradition in the UK/France that causes the most controversy.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Aly Rustom

I'd love to go deer hunting.

Venison is my favorite meat of all

So just buy it from a supermarket or specialist butcher

@bass4funk

I grew up hunting, my favorite meat are the ones that I kill, can't beat it, especially goats, feral pigs, boar, deer, racoon, gator, crocs, good meats.

Sure, Rambo... "macho macho man...."

As I said above, if people keep invading the wildlife's territory then of course they are going to come into conflict... not the bears' fault

3 ( +4 / -1 )

 I grew up hunting, my favorite meat are the ones that I kill, can't beat it, especially goats, feral pigs, boar, deer, racoon, gator, crocs, good meats.

With the exception of racoon, I agree. Especially deer and wild boar. Never had crocs or gator. Would love to try. Would also love to try snake.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I get wild boar in my garden.

Why not fence'em out?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I get wild boar in my garden. I wish someone would shoot them because they leave it like a ploughed field. They will even dig in deep gravel and push up buried drainage pipes.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The wild game can contain worms and parasites. Trichinellosis. Needs to be well worked.

Well, if you don't know what you are doing, then don't go hunting. I grew up hunting, my favorite meat are the ones that I kill, can't beat it, especially goats, feral pigs, boar, deer, racoon, gator, crocs, good meats.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

The countyry doesn;t need "more hunters:. It needs "more younger hunters". Because of the very struct rules to go even from smoothbore shotgun to rifle, there are too many old hunters. The kind who shoot their hunting buddies by accident. Too many "Hunting Clubs 猟友会" are headed by these types.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Just to make clear I have never hunted shot anything with a pulse in my life.

I have used French fire arms shooting clubs, some private with a full range of hand guns, automatic assault rifles, etc, one with a heavy machine gun course.

I have also joined hunting parties with French farming communities.

I would advise against it.

It is invigorating, addictive, and costly.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Then there’s the human toll: Over 200 people attacked and six killed in 2023, the worst year ever, by bears unhunted and going hungry in their deteriorating natural environments, driving them into ours.

Not for the likes of city boy weekend warriors....

In my times in France, the game masters carried serious firepower, hand guns for speed, but also 12/20 Remington's. Pump action oo/slug loaded.

Not for the vegan nervous Nerys, a hungry bear, hog is fast.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

You can buy venison without going hunting.

For sure. But its really expensive. Hunt a deer and you can pack your freezer with tons of Venison.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

You can buy venison without going hunting.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

The wild game can contain worms and parasites. Trichinellosis. Needs to be well worked.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

I'd love to go deer hunting.

Venison is my favorite meat of all

2 ( +5 / -3 )

So, increasing habitat loss by humans is driving bears into conflict with those same humans... and it's the bears' fault? Here in the UK we wiped out wolves and bears, lynx and beavers because they were a threat to farmers... and so we were left with foxes as the apex predator in the wild... and that lead to deer increasing in numbers... and so land owners get other poshos to pay to effectively keep the numbers down.

Better land management might be more effective. Nutters wandering around killing things will only lead to more accidents, animal suffering and probably more bear attacks

1 ( +7 / -6 )

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