Day 2 in Ashikaga: WILD BOARS

I am not sure whether I have a case of jet lag or excitement to wake up early and relish in the atmospheric culture of Japan. I am starting to find myself waking up early and reading about the things I witnessed the previous day; I am also starting to realize that many of my questions during the guided tours revolve around Japan’s local wildlife and environmental history. Yesterday Professor Shimizu of Ashikaga University guided us to Ashikaga’s Hogen Temple & Fuji Shrine. While witnessing these beautiful sites of divinity and worship, I began talking to Professor Shimizu about nature as the many shrines we visit are found upon forested hills away from human development. He explained to me how many festivities and traditions occur during Spring time – the boy and girl temples we went to yesterday are used to celebrate the birth and health of newborn children which rightfully coincides with Spring time, a time when plants and animals flourish. The intimacy of nature and tradition in Japan is beginning to become quite apparent in most aspects of Japanese life.

As my peers and I have been tirelessly hiking through the city of Ashikaga, we have noticed many signs, bulletins, and maps across the city. These signs have made our lives so much easier as they provide warnings, instructions, or directions. One sign in particular, however, caught my eye. It had an illustration of a wild boar on it. I asked Professor Shimizu about this sign and it uncovered a lengthy lesson about pest management, conservation, & Japan’s declining population.

I learned that wild boars are becoming quite a menace around Japan. It appears as Japanese population declines, wild boar populations increase. Many current Japanese youth are beginning to move away from the countryside and into large southern Japanese cities. This trend has left elderly Japanese farmers to fend for themselves. As the youth move into the cities and elderly Japanese farmers pass away from old age, rice paddies and other agricultural fields either become mishandled or entirely forgotten. In response to this trend, wild boar populations are surging as more land and food become available to wildlife. The effect of this population upsurge has damaged the yields of remaining agricultural fields.

In the state of Illinois, farmers are allowed to manage feral pig populations via hunting or trapping without the need for a permit as long as it is hunted on their land. It appears that Japanese bureaucracy has provided a difficult time for farmers to manage pests on their farmlands. It is a difficult and lengthy process to obtain a gun license in Japan and a trapping permit in Japan is also a lengthy process as one must take a semester of college work in order to obtain one. It appears for the time being that Japan’s wild boar problem will remain challenging. Wild boar populations are continually increasing and also migrating into new territories. As climate change is occurring (2018), wild boars are moving farther and farther into northern Japanese latitudes (Oda, 2018). The reproduction rate of wild boar is also concerning as they can have as many as 5 to 8 piglets in one litter – capable of breeding twice in one year. I can’t help but wonder how the Japanese people could resolve this problem. One idea is that since the Japanese are prolific fisherman and have a taste for wild-caught meat, why not open a market for wild-caught boar meat and ease the bureaucratic process of obtaining a live trapping permit.

Not only are these wild boar populations effecting rural agricultural areas, but they are also encroaching into urban developments. There is a long list of concerns in regard to wild boar in Japan. If anyone one has questions, please comment below my blog post!

2 responses to “Day 2 in Ashikaga: WILD BOARS

  1. Even in Illinois, where it is a little easier, boars are a nuisance. The situation is far worse in areas like Arkansas and Texas (and others). Mice can hide, but how do boars avoid detection?

    You might also ask Professor Shimizu about raccoons in Japan. (Another American export.)

  2. I agree Dr. Ruez. I met some folks at the Illinois Wildlife Society conference who work for the Department of Natural Resources and they explained to me the nuisances of feral pigs in Southern Illinois – some feral pigs have made it as far north as Sangamon county! Their wallowing and gluttonous appetite not only effect agriculture, but the habits and resources local Illinois animals depend on. I would not be surprised if the same problem is occurring here in Japan.

    I actually did ask Professor Shimizu about raccoons, but the question was lost in translation. However, the mistranslation taught me about the adorable Japanese raccoon dogs.

    I am witnessing plenty of wildlife here in Japan. Our hotel is situated along the Watarase River. I have seen plenty of birds such as cranes, herons, and cormorants. I also witnessed a large brown bird of prey plunging into the river, Professor Shimizu told me it was most likely an osprey.

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