Kiku noticed that the seasonal marker for the five days beginning on 12th December seemed to say something about bears. The three characters on their own read ‘bear’ ‘hibernate’ ‘hole/ cave’, [熊蟄穴] and so could be understood as ‘bears hibernate.’
In the bookcase at the Bamboo Bathhouse he found a book about the animals of Japan and learnt that there are two kinds of bears still to be found in Japan, the brown bear, found on Hokkaido, and the Japanese Black Bear (ursus thibetanus japonicas). There are around 15,000 of them still found on the main Japanese island of Honshū and the smaller Shikoku, but they are extinct on Kyushu. He asked Boss Panda if he knew of any in Tokyo.
“Well there are of course some ‘hidden’ bear characters to be found, but not the kind to bother humans” explained Boss Panda. “I do believe there are still black bears who live in the Tanzawa mountains in western Kanagawa prefecture, which is south of Tokyo. They eat pretty much anything and everything, but really love to eat acorns, chestnuts and beechnuts in the autumn before hibernating – however with more cedar and cypress being planted, this has affected where bears can find food.
They hibernate for about four months, making a den in a cave or the hollow of a tree. When they start to stir again in the spring they eat bamboo shoots, bulbs and tubers – and this can cause them to run into people, as many Japanese people do like to forage for the delicacies of the season.”
“They are black with a white crescent marking on their chests and so they are also known as tsukinowaguma (月の輪熊) which means moon circle bear. Interestingly although bears are the largest mammals found on the islands of Japan, they don’t feature in Japanese folklore as much as other animals such as foxes and tanukis, probably because they weren’t common in low-lying areas where most of the people lived. Although the Japanese folk hero Kintarō (金太郎) was said to have sumo wrestled against bears during his many adventures.”
When they had finished looking at the book and talking about bears, Kiku looked at his guardian. “Do pandas hibernate?” he asked tentatively.
 “No,” Boss Panda yawned, “but I do like a nap in the afternoon…”