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Horrific Hokkaido Bear Attack Repackaged as Cute Japanese Tourist Attraction

weird japanese tourist attraction

Image source: Twitter user @onoboy2011

The scene of one of Japan's worst bear attacks has been turned into a rather unique — and horrifying — roadside attraction.

In 1915 (Taisho 4) a Japanese brown bear (higuma, or Ursus arctos lasiotus) attacked a small hamlet of Rokusensawa in Sankebetsu, which is now incorporated into the municipality of Tomamae, about 100 kilometers northwest of Sapporo, the largest city on the island of Hokkaido.

The bear killed seven people in what came to be known as the Sankebetsu Brown Bear Incident. The township of Tomamae has attempted to capitalize on this gruesome part of its past by creating a “bear road” and a detailed reconstruction of the bear attack itself.

Visitors to Tomamae often express their bemusement on social media.

A sign for the “Bear Road” in Tomamae, Hokkaido Prefecture. The sign marks the outskirts of the village of Sankebetsu where the bear attack took place about 100 years ago. I'm not sure if the warm and friendly image of the bear here is quite appropriate here…

Took a drive this morning along the coast. ((=(*゚▽゚)ノ I was able to visit the Sankebetsu Brown Bear Incident Museum, something I've always wanted to do. The bear attack here served as the basis of Akira Yoshimura‘s short story “Bear Attack” (羆嵐), which was later turned into a movie.

Bear Road is sure… cute. /sarcasm

While Bear Road looks cute, visitors report that the actual reconstruction of the bear attack itself is pretty grim:

There was one place I promised myself I would check out if I ever made it to Hokkaido: the bear attack museum in Tomamae. The museum is about 20 kilometers from town along an old farming road that perfectly preserves the atmosphere back then when the bear attacked the village. In other words, the ride out was terrifying!

The inside of the display is even more horrifying:

The Sankebetsu Brown Bear Incident is when a giant brown bear attacked a village. It's pretty scary.

The museum features a life-size reconstruction of the attack, which occurred over two separate nights. It was launched in 2001, and is likely the local government's attempt to capitalize on a popular book and movie and draw tourists to what is a pretty isolated community in Japan.

Brown bears, once common in northeast Asia from Kamchatka to Hokkaido, are now listed as a vulnerable species.