"Bear" is not a word one wants to see on a sign in the woods! :O
A horde of schoolchildren tripping along the trail
A stretch of trail I wondered whether one could pass
On my first visit to Gifu prefecture a few years ago, I spent time in the picturesque village of Ogimachi over in Shirakawa-go. Among the more memorable experiences of that visit was my spotting a snake for the first time ever in Japan. Arguably just as memorable was a Japanese friend I told of this occurrence telling me that, in her home country, this was seen as a portend of good luck.
To be honest, I not completely convinced that this is true, or even if she was just telling me that to comfort me! In any case, since then, I've come across more of these reptiles on two more occasions in the Land of the Rising Sun (including the largest snake I've seen in the wild to date while hiking down Bitchu-Takahashi's Mount Gagyu) along with skinks and other wild critters that many visitors to Japan, the vast majority of whom tend to stay in the urban areas of the country, never do.
Although I do like making critter spottings when out in the countryside, I must admit to not being a great fan of snakes and also not caring to encounter any bears in the wilds of Japan! Happily, I've yet to come across the latter over the course of my travels in Nippon for even the sighting of bear warning signs (along with those for snakes) can stress me out some!
While I did end up enjoying trekking along Takayama's Higashiyama Walking Course, the portends actually weren't great early on since I came across a "bear attention" sign close to the trail head in Shirayama Park! In retrospect, I should have expected for there to be bears in the area since Yamanosachi Uribuoya's Masato Wakidani had told me that he hunted bears as well as deer and wild boar in the mountains near Takayama. Somehow though, I hadn't expected that the range of those animals could be so close to town!
Something else that I hadn't thought to expect was that the area would be one where schoolkids would be taken out on an excursion. But a horde of excited schoolkids being herded along by their teachers was precisely what I came across just a few minutes after I passed by the "bear attention" sign! And even while a part of me reasoned that the safest part of the woods probably would be where the school party was (since any bears would undoubtedly want to stay away from the loud noise emanating from the otherwise pretty well-behaved children), I still was glad when the school group went a different way from me at a point when the trail we were on forked into two.
As it so happened, the direction I was going led me through a section of trail whose side looked to have been rendered dangerous by a recent landslide. But just as I was mulling whether it was safe to pass along, another person came by and blithely went along it. And, after doing so and seeing what lay in store for me further along the Higashiyama Walking Course, I'm so glad that I didn't get put off going on it by the triple threat of bears, school parties and dodgy sections of trail! :)