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Day Fourteen: Hokkaido

August 14, 2006

Mr. Crumpet and Orange Bear’s travels in Japan took them to the northern island Hokkaido, home of the last remaining Ainu people, Japan’s first residents. The island is also home to a less famous resident: the higuma, or Hokkaido brown bear.

The higuma are close relations to Orange Bear’s Kamchatka brethren, having long ago crossed a land bridge where the Kuril Archipelago is located today.

“Just like Risk,” says Orange Bear. “I must protect the Kamchatka sea-line at all costs!”

Orange Bear was very upset about the bear park atop Noboribetsu’s Mt. Kuma (“bear”) where over 100 bears were kept in a concrete enclosure.

“No good!” cried Orange Bear.

Much better to go to the 98,000-acre Shiretoko National Park in northeastern Hokkaido. There, the higuma are free to roam in a place where road access is minimal and other wildlife — like sea eagles, foxes, sika deer, and sea lions — abound.

Another good place for higuma watching is Daisetsuzan National Park in central Hokkaido.

“If you’re in Hokkaido during winter, don’t miss out on the skiing,” says Mr. Crumpet, himself an avid cross-country skier.

“Avid doesn’t mean good, does it?” asks Orange Bear.

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