Since ancient times, mountain people known as “matagi” have supported themselves in the snow country of Japan by hunting bears. One of the last “matagi” communities that continues the traditional ways is located in the foothills of Mt. Chokai, a famous peak in the northern Tohoku mountains. There, bears are worshipped as messengers of the mountain gods, and bears that are shot are considered divine blessings that provide crucial sustenance. Today the “matagi” have nearly vanished because of depopulation and environmental changes that make it difficult to sustain their lifestyle. Yet, some continue to pursue the traditional way of life while seeking a harmonious relationship with nature.
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