In Japan it is a crime to own a gun; simple as that! …Okay, not quite. It’s not an easy task, but with proper training and a hard-earned permit, it is possible to become a legal gun owner in Japan. Down in Kumamoto Prefecture, we managed to share a word with one such gun owner. This 68-year-old man has had his own hunting rifle for quite a long time, but didn’t have many chances to go out shooting when busy with his full-time job and the daily grind. Now that he’s old and retired, he’s putting his gun permit to good use and making the most out of his remaining years. You won’t want to miss our full interview with this rare breed of gun-toting Japanese huntsman.
–Does being a huntsman turn much of a profit?
Not at all. I work for free. It’s better not having to think about earnings.
–What exactly do you do?
I volunteer my services for the extermination of harmful animals. If I meet a harmful creature, then I shoot and dispose of it.
–You carry out these “exterminations” in your free time?
Only in the six-month period from the start of October to the end of March.
–You’re okay with only working during the cold months?
As much as the animals that I kill are harmful, they’re still animals and are an important part of the ecosystem. So, in order to preserve nature I allow the warmer half of the year to be a time of growth and protection and only hunt during the cold months.
–So you basically spend every day of half the year shooting randomly at animals?
I work within the administrative bounds. It’s only okay to kill up to a certain number of big animals, so it’s not just random shooting.
–By the way, what do you classify as “harmful animals”?
Deer and wild boar.
–Could you give us a quick rundown of how you hunt?
There are two ways. The first is using my hunting dog only to follow the trail of the animal. Then, I carefully lure the creature into my sights and make the shot. The second is to let my dog engage the harmful animal in a fight and then shoot while it’s distracted.
–In either case you use the dog, huh?
It’s dangerous work, so it takes a team to accomplish it. My dog is my hunting partner.
–What do you do with the animals that you’ve killed?
I divide them up between my friends, and we eat them. Whatever’s left over is either frozen or fed to the dog. The public probably just assumes that I bury the bodies in the ground.
–How do you prepare the meat?
For wild boar, I always grill it. It makes for some great barbecue.
–Is cooking it really necessary?
Boars are omnivorous scavengers, and some of the things they eat can infect the meat with bacteria, so yes. Deer are herbivores, so it’s fine to eat them raw. I’d really recommend you try some deer sashimi (meat that’s sliced and eaten raw) or yukhoe (Korean-style raw meat that’s seasoned and topped with an egg yolk). The liver is also quite delicious.
–How can you distinguish the best-tasting meat?
It’s the same as what I’d say about people. Young females are the most delicious, if you know what I mean.
–Really? But why the females?
The meat from a female isn’t as tough; it’s tender and delicious.
–This has more to do with the bullets, but what sort of damage can they cause?
From point-blank range, these bullets can blow an animal’s head clean off, leaving nothing that resembles what was once there. Now, there are many different types of bullets, but when I’m carving the meat out of one of my kills, I always end up finding some pellets that have pierced through the flesh. The body becomes full of holes. There’s no way to save a creature once its been hit. It’s the same as if a human were shot.
–Man, I’d really like to own a gun.
It takes a lot of time and you have to pass a lot of examinations set by the police and public safety commission. There’s a practical skills test, an extensive background check, and a psychiatric examination as well. If even the smallest issue or abnormality appears in any one of these tests, then for the sake of public safety, you won’t be authorized to own a gun. It’s no simple process!
–Do you usually just keep your gun lying out beside the TV remote?
When I’m not using it, my gun is carefully disassembled and locked up in a safe that’s affixed to my wall.
–You’re quite serious about this.
I just do all that I can to prevent the gun’s misuse, should it ever be stolen from me. The disassembly alone is a helpful measure. No amateur would know how to put it together properly.
–But if any gun enthusiast were to get their hands on it, they’d have no trouble firing it, right?
Not really, since the bullets are kept in a separate room. They’re all locked away and really difficult to find.
–I wonder. Back when your son was younger, did he ever take note of where you hid the bullets?
At that time I kept the bullets inside of what appeared to be a thick and uninteresting book. My son never took notice. He probably never even realized that the book was actually a lockbox.
–One last thing. Do you have any interesting stories you tell us regarding your experience as a gun owner?
I don’t know if it’s all that interesting, but there was one time where I was attacked by a wounded boar. I bashed its head in with the butt of my gun and made a run for it. The boar chased me, but I killed it with a shot to the crown.
Wow! What a dangerous lifestyle for such an old man! That’s certainly not the kind of thing that you take up half-heartedly.
So what are your thoughts on gun ownership? Do you agree with the Japanese mentality of restricting ownership and usage? Is anyone willing to try for a Japanese gun license?