Can rock’n’roll keep people safe from bear attacks? One Japanese region is hoping so, and has commissioned a cautionary anthem warning residents about the threat of its ursine inhabitants.
Bears are common across Japan and regularly spark frantic hunts when they venture into towns, where they have attacked and even killed residents.
A spike in the number of bear sightings in rural northern Japan has been met with a novel response: the Iwate prefecture government has commissioned a rock song that will be belted out across the region.
“So you think bear cubs are cute?” the song lyrics begin, as screaming guitars and pounding drums play in the background.
“Discard that naive way of thinking! Nearby that cub is a parent bear, and it’ll suddenly attack you! Roar, roar, roar, roar, roar, roar – it’ll suddenly attack you!”
The track was written and performed by a pair of local sexagenarian rockers and offers sobering advice such as “never turn your back and run away”, and “trying to play dead doesn’t work”.
Singer Yuuzen Taguchi, 69, said such advice served him well on the one occasion he encountered a bear near a field. “It’s very frightening when one just appears before you,” he told AFP.
“You want to run away, but my grandparents told me years ago that if you ever encounter a bear, don’t turn around and just back away slowly.
“I was taught that rural knowledge that comes from coexisting with bears when I was a kid.”
There were more than 3,300 bear sightings in Iwate prefecture in 2020, up from 700 in 2017.
Authorities hope the song, which is playing at local roadside shopping centres until 31 October, will teach people how to stay safe.
Songwriter Kaoru Toudou, 61, said he originally wrote it as a blues number. But Taguchi, who has played in bands for the past 50 years, gave it an up-tempo rock twist when he added his howling vocals.
“It’s said that bears are timid creatures, so I think if one heard the song playing outside it would run away,” Toudou said.
“That’s the power of rock’n’roll.”