Can you Bear this Volcano?
Mt Showa Shinzen
Mt. Showa Shinzen is a volcano that came out from the ground in 1943. As some of the oldest volcanoes around are hundreds of thousands years old, this makes Mt. Showa Shinzen a relative baby in comparison. Showa Shinzen is constantly smoking, and nobody knows when its next eruption will be. As you can see from the bare peak, Show Shinzen is so hot that no greenery can thrive on it.
Noboribetsu Bear Park
It's time to feed bears! Located right in front of Showa Shinzen, this bear park houses baby bears, full-grown Hokkaido black bears, and a few raccoons. The bears sit around in large, deep, open-top boxes. For 100 yen (SGD1.60), purchase a pack of cookies and throw them to the bears like you're feeding really large fish.
The more aggressive bears usually come up to the front, while the meeker ones lurk in the background. If the weaker bears dare to go up front, the alpha males will attack them and put them in their place. Incidentally, because the weak bears don't get to eat as much, they stay weak.
The bears are smart and have learnt Japanese courtesy. They put their paws together, stand up on their hind legs, and pray to you with the hope that you'll throw a cookie to them. But there are some lazy old ones that just lie on the ground and wave at you.
Speaking of paws, the Japanese eat bear paws, and right paws can be ten times more expensive than left ones, because bears use their right paws to swipe at honeycombs. The saying goes that the beeswax seeps into the right paw and the meat is sweeter.
The Hokkaido brown bear is one of the most famous features of Northern Japan. In every souvenir shop, you'll see big yellow and black shirts and signs that warn you HOW DANGEROUS THEY ARE in bold Japanese letters. Then of course, there are these cute decals (stickers) that you can paste on your car windows or laptops.
The bears aren't so cute in real life though. They can weight hundreds of kilograms and stand up to three meters tall. Hundreds of people have died from bear attacks, and thousands more mauled. The Japanese have to fire shots at them to drive the bears back into the dense forests that cover Hokkaido.