Photo/IllutrationA wild boar hogs a road near Nanzenji temple in Kyoto’s Sakyo Ward on Dec. 4. (Masato Nishida)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

KYOTO--Long used to foreign tourists roaming city streets, residents of Kyoto must now contend with an unwelcome visitor: wild boars.

There have been 10 confirmed wild boar sightings in central Kyoto this year, eight of which occurred in October or after. Some of the animals encroached on the Higashiyama and Gion district tourist spots. One person was injured.

Around noon on Nov. 27, a boar with a body length of about one meter wandered into the grounds of Heian Jingu shrine in Sakyo Ward.

It barged from behind into a man doing construction work in front of the shrine, causing him to tumble over and fracture a bone in his arm.

The startled animal ran off in the direction of Kyoto Gyoen National Garden, plunged into a Nijo Castle moat three kilometers away and drowned. The castle in Nakagyo Ward is a World Heritage site.

On Dec. 4, five wild boars were spotted near Eikando Zenrinji temple and Nanzenji temple in Sakyo Ward.

The wild boar sightings have mainly occurred in the city's eastern areas, prompting some experts to speculate the animals were throwing caution to the wind to forage for food.

This is because there is no farmland between Higashiyama mountain, located on the eastern side of the city, and central Kyoto.

Others suggested the sightings increased because a ban on hunting wild boar in Kyoto Prefecture was lifted Nov. 15.

“Some of the animals were probably fleeing to Higashiyama mountain, a sanctuary for birds and animals where hunting is prohibited, from surrounding areas where hunting is allowed,” said Sadao Okuda, chairman of the Kyoto prefectural hunting association.

Yuji Kodera, a professor of agriculture at Utsunomiya University who is knowledgeable about wild boars, said that when humans enter mountain areas in the hunting season "some wild boars get startled and move to different places.”

Wild boars tend to congregate near water. Five of the eight recently spotted in central Kyoto were captured, and the other three drowned after entering areas with water, such as the moat or pools.

“Wild boars can swim. In conventional cases, they do not drown. It seems likely the three that jumped into the water were extremely agitated and died from shock,” said Hajime Tanida, a professor of animal medicine at Hiroshima University’s graduate school.

According to Hidefusa Sakamoto, vice director of Kyoto City Zoo, wild boars are basically timid. But they can become dangerous when they are in an agitated state.

“(If you encounter one,) you should not turn your back to them. While facing them, you should step back slowly and flee to a safe place, if possible, to inside a building or a car or a high place,” he said.

(This article was written by Masato Nishida and Yuka Honda.)