Monday, July 6, 2009

Wildlife in Japan

Japan being one of the most densely populated countries in the world you would not expect to see much wildlife, wouldn't you? But there you would be very wrong..... Well, first of all there are of course all sorts of insects, mostly of the biting sort of course! There are a lot, a lot of ants everywhere and they can make cooking very uncomfortable. There are mosquitoes of course, but much worse is some sort of tiny sandfly that looks like nothing, but bites like hell. The worst about it being that the bites start really hurting and swelling after one day! The tame deer in the temple city of Nara were another interesting surprise.

Tame deer in Nara
But we had some more unexpected animal encounters as well. In the Japanese Alps one night we were camped pretty close too a road under some electricity lines when shortly before dark we heard something crashing through the bushes. After having been "evicted" only a couple of nights before I immediately thought of a person coming to chase us away, but big surprise: Passing 5 meters away in front of our tent was not a person, but..... a cute little black bear! After hiking the AT I was a little bit concerned about our food now, and especially worried that this little baby bear might come back with mama bear and the whole family, but nothing happened. There were no decent trees around so we could not hang our food anyway.

Next was a snake encounter. We were looking for a camp site on the banks of a big river when we nearly stumbled over a huge snake. I have no clue whether this snake was poisonous or if there are even poisonous snakes in Japan, but the thing was frightening enough. But as the camp sites were equally attractive we decided to stay there - and luckily the snake left us alone. But beside this incident we have seen quite a lot of snakes here in Japan - most of them victims of traffic accidents, but also quite a number of live ones.

Drying fish
I am used to snakes and bears from other trails, but the last animal encounter was new even to me: monkeys!!! To my big surprise there are a lot of areas here in Japan with monkeys - they even have a special road signs for them. But I have to admit that I felt a little bit strange camping right next to the living quarters of a big monkey colony. They were making a lot of noise when we arrived. Though they were not really shy and stayed where they were they never approached us either. To be on the safe side we chained our panniers together that night to prevent monkey theft and in the end there were no casualties on either side.

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