Man Killer Kesagake

As I have mentioned in a previous list, the most dangerous wild animal in Japan is usually considered to be the Japanese Giant Hornet, which kills 40 people a year, on average. However, the largest, most powerful land predator in Japan is the Brown Bear, and, perhaps the most brutal bear attack in history took place in the village of Sankebetsu, Hokkaido, in 1915. At the time, Sankebetsu was a pioneer village, with very few people living in a largely wild area. The area was inhabited by brown bears, including a gigantic male known as Kesagake. Kesagake used to visit Sankebetsu to feed on harvested corn; having became a nuisance, he was shot by two villagers and fled to the mountains, injured. The villagers believed that, after being shot, the bear would learn to fear humans and stay away from the crops. They were wrong.

On December 9 of 1915, Kesagake showed up again. He entered the house of the Ota family, where the farmer’s wife was alone with a baby she was caring for. The bear attacked the baby, killing him, then went for the woman. She tried to defend herself by throwing firewood at the beast, but was eventually dragged to the forest by the bear. When people arrived to the, now empty, house, they found the floor and walls covered on blood. Thirty men went to the forest, determined to kill the bear and recover the unfortunate woman’s remains. They found Kesagake and shot him again, but failed to kill him. The animal fled and they found the woman’s partially eaten body buried under the snow, where the bear had stored it for later consumption.

The bear later returned to the Ota family’s farm, and armed guards were sent after him. But this left another village house unprotected, and Kesagake took advantage of this, attacking the Miyoke family’s home and mauling everyone inside. Although some of the people managed to escape, two children were killed and so was a pregnant woman, who, according to surviving witnesses, begged for her unborn baby’s life as the huge bear advanced. Of course, it was all in vain; Kesagake killed her, too. When the guards realized their mistake and returned to the Miyoke house, they found the bodies of the two children, the woman and her unborn fetus all laying in the blood covered floor. In only two days, Kesagake had killed six people. The villagers were terrified and most of the guards abandoned their posts out of fear.

A famed bear hunter was informed of the incidents, and he identified the bear as being Kesagake and informed that the bear had actually killed before the Sankebetsu attacks. At first he refused to participate in the hunt but eventually he joined the group and on December 14, he was the one to finally kill Kesagake. The bear was almost three meters tall and weighed 380 kgs. Human remains were found in his stomach. The horrible incidents didn’t end there; some of the people who had survived the attacks died of their wounds. One of the survivors drowned in a river. The region was soon abandoned by villagers and became a ghost town. Even today, the Sankebetsu incident remains the worst animal attack in the history of Japan, and one of the most brutal of recorded history.

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