Bear was reportedly very rude.

A lot has been said about how Japanese children often commute to school by themselves at an early age. Proponents of the custom say its a good way to teach children to be independent and solve problems on their own. Opponents, however, argue that it leaves kids vulnerable to random bear encounters.

Alright, maybe opponents don’t argue that, but they’ll probably start now, after a group of kids in Oguni Town, Yamagata Prefecture had a harrowing encounter on the morning of 21 June.

At about 7:45 a.m. five elementary students were on their way to school, being led by the eldest girl in the group. They were about 180 meters (590 feet) from the school when they spotted a human-like figure on the road. Adhering to proper manners, the eldest girl gave a hearty “Ohaiyougozaimasu! (Good morning!)” greeting.

▼ Greeting people with a certain level of enthusiasm and formality in school and the workplace is a custom instilled in Japanese people at a young age

However, upon closer inspection the person turned out to be a bear, but thanks to its species’ notorious lack of social graces the beast was unable to summon a proper response to the greeting and instead fled into the forest.

Not wanting to tempt fate, the kids immediately turned back home and got a parental escort to school that day.

▼ The approximate location of the incident was easy to find as there’s only one school and about three streets in the area

Police were also notified and have begun monitoring the area for bears every day. According to the local board of education, the area around the school has been experiencing a significant bear problem and parents have been requesting transportation to keep the kids safe. Three days earlier, a bear was also sighted by a nearby resident mowing his lawn.

Meanwhile, readers of the news were equally amused and horrified by the close call.

“Wait a minute…that’s too scary!”
“It’s like a cheesy comedy sketch.”
“I know a few people who could be mistaken for bears, so this makes sense.”
“It’s not funny at all, but I can’t help but laugh a little bit.”
“Maybe the bear is socially awkward.”
“Asian black bears usually won’t attack people unless they’re raising cubs.”

According to the Yamagata prefectural government, based on past experiences, the best course of action when encountering a bear is to calmly walk in the opposite direction and keep a steady distance if it is following you.

Although there is no solid data on the matter, we should assume that saying “good morning” to a bear is not a recommended way to repel it.

However, the opposite sounds very promising. By that I mean you can probably get good results by telling little kids to always greet people properly because one day that person might actually be a bear and it will scare them away.

Source: Yamagata News Online, Yamagata Prefectural Government, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso
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