SEMBOKU, Japan — A remote Japanese town has taken to selling bear meat from a vending machine, sourcing its supply to Asian black bears, listed as a vulnerable species, caught in traps or in the mountains by hunters.
Bear attacks are an increasing problem in parts of rural Japan due to a shortage of food in the forests that brings the animals into inhabited areas to forage.
“The bears can be dangerous when they come into town, so hunters will set up traps or shoot them,” said Daishi Sato, who placed the vending machine outside his soba noodle shop near the railway station in Semboku, 250 miles north of Tokyo in Akita Prefecture.
Asian black bears are listed as vulnerable, but not critically so, and it is legal to eat bear in Japan. Meat from trapped bears is tastier since the blood is drained immediately, according to Sato.
Vending machines throughout Japan offer everything from drinks, snacks and surgical masks to more exotic fare such as edible insects and whale meat.
“Bear meat isn’t very common, so we want tourists who come to visit the town to buy it,” Sato said.
In an average week, he sells seven to 10 packs of 250 grams costing 2,200 yen (about $17).
Last year, 75 people were injured in Japan in encounters with bears and two were killed, according to government data. One of the deaths was in Akita.