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The bear as 'endangered pest': symbolism and paradox in newspaper coverage of the 'bear problem'

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This article presents an analysis of newspaper coverage of the so-called 'bear problem' in Japan during 2004 and examines the symbolism evident in the media discourse. During 2004, human-bear conflict involving the Asiatic black bear reached a crisis point in Japan, attracting an intense level of coverage in the media. Over the summer and autumn months, the normally elusive forest-dweller entered villages and towns, causing numerous human injuries and damage to crops, homes and other property. At the peak of the incidents, newspaper headlines announced bear attacks and sightings and carried warnings to beware of bears on a daily basis, reflecting the high level of concern and interest these incidents generated. The examination of this coverage provides insight into how the Japanese conceptualize the bear and the 'bear problem', and into the Japanese relationship with a 'wild nature', rarely explored in the literature.
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Keywords: Asiatic black bear; geomentality; human-bear conflict; media discourse; symbolism; tsukinowaguma

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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