Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hokkaido Bear Ranch

Shopping around in Hokkaido, Japan, you will find many memorabilia related to bears and foxes. Bears and foxes are the indigenous animals in Hokkaido and they still exist in the jungles of Hokkaido. The two animals have become the emblems of Hokkaido! The great brown bear of Hokkaido has spawned a number of memorabilia, with cups, T-shirts, keychains and more products ‘fronted’ by the animal itself. I believe Japanese and tourists alike have grown enamored of these two animals as they are always portrayed as cute in the many illustrations you see in the souvenir shops.

Another animal famous and unique to Hokkaido is the crabs: hairy crabs and long-legged crabs, which unlike its mammal counterparts, are loved for a different reason: they make for great mouth-whetting dishes!

On one great afternoon of our tour, we arrived at the Hokkaido Bear Ranch. As the name suggests, this is a place where visitors can come face to face with the Hokkaido bears! Singapore’s award-winning zoo, does have its fair share of bears: sunbears, polar bears and other Asian bears but definitely it does not have the great furry brown bears of Hokkaido and hence my wife and I were thrilled to visit the Bear Ranch!

Prior to entering the ranch, besides the purchase of tickets, visitors have also the option to purchase food for the bear: a bag of biscuits for 100 yen or 3 apples for 200 yen. I chose the biscuits as that there are more biscuits than the 3 pathetic number of apples so that if my Dear and I were to feed one biscuit to one bear, we can feed many bears!

The bears were so cute! The ranch hosted 3 or 4 large circular cavities, each containing a number of brown bears, averaging 10. And then there were cages for each of the 6 other brown bears or so on the flat ground. Wonder why are these bears kept separately? They look like criminals, oh poor things!

The bears stood up and really did waved to us like humans, when they saw us and the rest of the visitors who were armed with apples and biscuits, ready to ’shoot down’ to feed them. Each bear was frantically waving and beckoning us to throw the apples or biscuits to them. My Dear and I threw the biscuits one by one at different bears. Some bears picked up and ate it. One biscuit inadvertently went into a bear dung and a bear who seemed not to mind it, dug at the dung, and gobbled the biscuit immediately. Other bears were simply lazy, refusing to pick up the biscuit when it landed a distance from them.

There was a whole load of fun at the bear ranch! Time just passed and soon we bade goodbye to the cute lovely bears!