The largest land animal in Hokkaido is a bear and this Japan’s northernmost island has really big bears. The Ezo Higuma, also known as the brown bear lives only in Hokkaido and currently is the key species for conservation.

Sahoro Bear Mountain is a bear sanctuary that gives you the opportunity to observe these Ezo Bears in their wildlife environment.  Unlike the zoo, there are 2 ways to enjoy bear watching here, one is using the Jurassic Park style bus ride and the other is via elevated walkway right through the heart of the park.



Electric fence surrounding the park


Located next to the Sahoro Ski Resort, this 15 hectares of forest land has been fenced and home to currently 12 adult male brown bears. According to our guide, they only keep male bears because female bears will attract other male bears outside the sanctuary and this could cause trouble.



This ‘bear watching bus’ tour can sit 30 passengers and runs every 1 hour around the 1.2 kilometer loop. Although the recorded voice information is in Japanese, there are english printed materials that can help us understand better about the bears. Besides, the bus driver spoke good english and was very eager to ensure we have an enjoyable and informative tour.


Along the route, every time there is a bear in sight, the bus will stop and we could really observe these bears up close in their natural state from the comfort and safety of our armored bus.


Leaving the bus, we were then led to an enclosed observation area with only big glass walls that separated us from the bear. Standing so close to the bear, we could really see and appreciate the huge size of the Ezo Higuma.


The glass wall observation area where we the humans are the ones in the building.






When standing, a male Ezo Bear could reach over 2 meters in height, weigh close to 400kg and can run at a speed of 50 km per hour.




From the glass wall observation building, we then headed towards the elevated walk way. Walking at 5 meters above ground totally gives a different perspective of bear watching. Though it is harder to spot a bear from up here, the walkway offers a beautiful view of the mountain and you could see the whole park.






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Ezo bear cubs in confinement area

Ezo bear cubs in confinement area





The entrance to Sahoro Bear Mountain

The entrance to Sahoro Bear Mountain


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  1. wow, interesting post but so bizarre. i live in a place surrounded by wilderness and many wild bears so my feelings about this place are very conflicted. i sure know the notion of “sanctuary” is really sad for the bears (an adult male has about 50 square kilometers of territory in the wild), not to mention suspect given that it’s a commercial operation.

  2. Hi Shellie, we have the same concern as you…and we did ask our guide about this….we were told that this sanctuary is more like a retirement home for the Ezo Bears….averagely the bears here are around 18 to 20 years old….life expectancy of the bears are 20 – 25 years and they can live longer in captivity…the oldest here is 32…they took the old and weak bears from the surrounding mountains and make sure a very minimum numbers of bears are kept in the sanctuary at one time. From our observation, being there once…the bears are well kept.The sanctuary is run by Sahoro Resort and their purpose is to educate people about Ezo Bears…from what we saw and heard…the people of Hokkaido are very proud of their Ezo Bears 🙂

  3. Ken Wong says:

    Very nicely written article with lots of nice photos! Looking at the bears and their living conditions from your photos, I am almost sure that this sanctuary is more bear-friendly than the Noboribetsu Bear Park.

    • Thank you Ken….we could not personally compare because we did not go to the Noboribetsu Bear Park…we were told that Sahoro Bear Mountain is a better place to go if you want to see the bears…but from the pictures in your blog, it does seems to be a bit overcrowded

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