Be Aware of Hunters!
Yes, I said hunters. The hunting season in Ibaraki and all the other prefectures besides Hokkaido began on November 15. You might be surprised to know that quite a lot of areas in southern Ibaraki are in the hunting zones. Did you know that a young man who was hiking alone on the mountain trail in the beautiful Okutama in Tokyo was accidentally shot by a hunter on November 25? The hunter shot this poor guy in the arm because he saw “bushes move” and thought it was a wild boar. The injury this hiker suffered was not life threatening but will take 3 weeks to recover.
This is the season a lot of people go to mountains or remote areas for hiking or for “秋の味覚” (aki-no mikaku, or autumn flavors), so the chances of ordinary people encountering hunters are high. Furthermore, according to the announcement made by Tsukuba Chuo Police Station on ACCS TV, Tsukuba’s cable TV company, there are some hunters who hunt (or more like end up hunting) in the non-hunting zones. A lot of hunters are coming to southern Ibaraki area from Tokyo and other surrounding prefectures, so it could just be that some of them are not familiar with the locale (or they are just selfish and irresponsible!). The Ibaraki Police are patrolling from the ground and the sky looking for those hunters who don’t follow the guidelines, but do call the police or the city and inquire about the hunter(s)/hunting zone if you happen to see a hunter(s) or happen to hear gunshots and are concerned. Apparently, the number of phone calls police stations receive from concerned citizens in southern Ibaraki are on the increase. The hunting/non-hunting zones change every year, and it looks like that the speed of re-evaluating non-hunting zones is not catching up with the speed of rapid residential area growth in Tsukuba and rest of southern Ibaraki.
So how do you find out if you are living anywhere near the hunting zones? I called the Tsukuba Chuo Police Station about this, and I was told that you can visit any 駐在所(chuuzaisho, or police substation) or Tsukuba Chuo Police Station to take a look at the map of this year’s hunting/non-hunting zones. The map is in Japanese, but the each zone is colored in different color and comes with the English explanation such as “wildlife preservation zone.” The map is generally called ハンターマップ(hunter map), so for instance, you can visit a nearby police station and say “ハンターマップを見たいのですが…(hunter map wo mitai no desuga…/I’d like see the hunter map).” If you are not sure if the koban you visit has the map or not, you can say “ハンターマップは置いてありますか？(hunter map ha oite arimasuka?/ Is there a hunter map (at this koban/police station)?)
The Ibaraki Prefecture’s Southern Ibaraki Office distributes the maps to area police stations every year, and the police stations in Tsukuba don’t have any extras to sell or give out. Southern Ibaraki Office is located in Tsuchiura, but you will have to visit the 行政情報センター(gyousei jouhou center, or government information center) on the third floor of Ibaraki Prefectural Government Building, a.k.a. kenchou) in Mito City if you want to get your own copy. The Southern Ibaraki Office only provides the map to the licensed hunters who register there. The map is 290yen, and you can purchase it by mail order if you don’t have the time to go to Mito. However, it may take a while for you to receive the map since you’ll have to mail the payment (plus postage) via registered mail and the Gyousei Jouhou Center has to “process” it which could take some time. Gyousei Jouhou Center is only open on weekdays, so it looks like the easiest way for us to check the hunting zones in our area is to visit a nearby police station after all.
Hunting season in Ibaraki and most of other prefectures ends on February 15 every year. Some prefectures with extensive bird or animal damages extend the end of the hunting season, for instance, to March or April.