Animal Abuse (Ainu Museum) update

The caged bears which have caused outrage amongst visitors on Trip Advisor (photo Jann Williams)

Regular readers of Green Shinto will know that we previously featured the cruel and inhumane conditions in which bears at the Ainu Museum in Hokkaido are being kept. This is particularly egregious because of the deep connection of bears with Ainu spirituality in former times.

Green Shinto tried previously to raise awareness of the problem with animal welfare groups, and letters of complaint were written to the relevant authorities. We were not the only ones, because there has been a stream of complaints from tourists (presumably in English and not reaching the ears of those who matter).

Because of all this, the case has been taken up by the Japan Animal Welfare Society (JAWS), based in the UK and operating through Japanese representatives.  Three members went to visit the museum on the shores of Lake Poroto near Shiraoi in Oct last year. As well as the museum building, there are five thatched houses, a botanical garden and animal housing in concrete cages.  Here is an extract from the official report.

Three overweight-looking brown bears are being kept in an ageing, cramped and dirty cage without clean water to drink and with no enrichment to prevent boredom and allow natural behaviour. The bare concrete floor is caked in faeces. According to the handlers, the bears are fed leftovers from the canteen of an elementary school nearby.

There are also five dogs in another old dirty cage nearby, which contains plastic kennels without any bedding, causing some of the dogs to have callouses on their legs. Again the dogs have insufficient space to be able to exercise properly, are being fed mainly school canteen leftovers and have no enrichment or adequate protection from the cold in winter.

One of the bears at the Ainu Museum in Hokkaido

The Tokyo representatives of JAWS later had their impressions confirmed by an animal expert that the conditions were totally unacceptable. An official complaint was lodged, and the following response from the Ainu Museum was received on Dec 27, 2016. “In 2020 the Ainu Tribal Museum will be merged into the ‘Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony’, but the government plan does not include the animals currently residing in the museum.”

As a result the museum is apparently looking for a new home for the animals, though it has made no change to the present conditions. It is possible that the dogs will go back to their owners or to new homes. (Hopefully the latter since the owners clearly don’t care about them at all.).

Meanwhile, JAWS has approached Sahoro Bear Mountain to provide a decent home for the three bears, with an offer to pay for their transportation and donate animal feed.  Let us hope for a swift improvement to the conditions of these innocent and suffering poor animals!!


Show your support for JAWS by emailing them in the UK at Their representative in Tokyo is Osamu Uno, General Secretary, at 020 7630 5563. For more information and details of financial support, please see the website:

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Animal Abuse (Ainu Museum) update — 4 Comments

  1. It is encouraging to hear that the conditions the bears and dogs live in have the potential to improve. Hopefully soon. Thanks to JAWS and all involved for their care and concern.

    • Hopefully a solution can be reached very soon to allow these bears and dogs to live out their lives in a much more natural environment. This is so cruel.

  2. I hope the bears can be moved to a better home soon! There is an “Alternative Bear Park” sanctuary in central Germany where they take bears that have been rescued from cruel and unsuitable zoos and similar and keep them in a large, natural habitat. I’m not sure whether they would take any from as far away as Japan but it could be worth asking if all the bears can’t be accommodated in Hokkaido. (I don’t have any connection with these peope, by the way – I just know the place exists). The organisation is called Stiftung für Bären

    • Thank you Victoria for the thought. The institution in question has been contacted about alternatives, but I’m afraid they are not very flexible in their thinking and the suffering of the animals is not their prime concern. The animal rights group is doing what they can…

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