|City-dwelling hunters and huntsmen living in the mountains
|It seems that Kenji did not think well of people who killed animals for sport rather than because they had to to make a living. In "The Restaurant of Many Orders," city-dwelling hunters went through the frightful experience of nearly being eaten by a wildcat in a restaurant called Wildcat House--which they thought would be a splendid restaurant in the forest, not realizing that they were the meal to be served. But in "The Bears of Nametoko," the circumstances between animals and human beings are quite different, as seen in the relationship between the bears of Mt. Nametoko and a hunter called Kojuro.
|Kojuro's painfullness to kill bears for his living
|Kojuro lived in the mountains and knew the animals well. He felt terrible every time he killed one; but he had to, for it was how he made his living. As Kenji describes them, the bears of Mt. Nametoko knew of Kojuro's plight and loved and respected him deeply. As for Kojuro, whenever he shot and felled a fierce bear that had charged at him, he would approach it and say, "Don't think I killed you, Bear, because I hated you. I have to make a living, just as you have to be shot. I'd like to do different work, work with no sin attached, but I've got no field, and they say my trees belong to the authorities, and when I go into the village nobody will have anything to do with me. I'm a hunter because I can't help it. It's fate that made you a bear, and it's fate that makes me do this work. Make sure you're not reborn as a bear next time!"
|A mother bear and a cub standing in the moonlight, staring at the far-off valley
|Kojuro was also not one to kill bears randomly. One day, after taking the wrong trail several times--something unusual for him--Kojuro finally found his hut as nightfall approached. Walking down the hill to a spring, he came across two bears, a mother and a cub, "standing in the faint light of the still new moon, staring intently at the far-off valley with their paws up to their foreheads, just as human beings do when gazing into the distance." Kojuro was deeply moved by what he saw and the conversation he heard, and he retreated--taking care not to make a sound.
|The death of Kojuro and bears mourning for him
|At the end of the story Kojuro is killed by a bear. Feeling everything around him turn white, he hears what sounds like the bear saying, "Ah, Kojuro, I didn't mean to kill you" far off in the distance. Realizing that he is dying, Kojuro thinks to himself, "Forgive me, Bears."
Three days later, the night was crystal clear, "the moon hung in the sky like a great ball of rice," and stars glimmered as if they were breathing. "On the plateau on top of the mountain, surrounded by chestnut trees and snowy peaks, many great black shapes were gathered in a ring, each casting its own black shadow, each prostrate in the snow like a Muslim at prayer, never moving." The great black shapes were bears, of course, keeping vigil over Kojuro's body.