It was the scariest night of my life. I was curled up in my sleeping bag in a one-man tent, on the edge of a forest in the hills of Hokkaido. Outside it was pitch black and eerily quiet. The only sound I could hear was the scraping of bear claws. The beasts of the north, lurking in the woods, were sensing a greasy dinner.
To scare the bears off, I tried singing; it`s an effective tactic with humans. Unfortunately, singing and sleeping are difficult activities to combine.
Unable to bear the tension, at 2:30am I packed up my tent and pedaled furiously for 60km before passing out exhausted on a roadside bus-stop.
I needed to show bears more respect, preferably from within inhabited and sturdy buildings. That was my first and only night of camping in the woods of Hokkaido.
That nightmare was 5 years ago. I now live in Tokyo, a city of 13 million people crammed together, a command centre of the world economy, with a modern public transport system to match. You would not think bears could make a life for themselves here.
I discovered yesterday I was terribly wrong. Wild bears live in Tokyo. Alright, they don`t commute in on the Chuo line wearing heavy business suits and getting pissed in the evening with their work-colleagues, which is a shame.
The bears make their living in the hills in the outer-suburbs. Adjust your travel plans accordingly. Attacks are rare, but not unheard of.