Hideo Suzuki, Tells the Tales of Matagi Culture

”Hideo Suzuki”
Inheriting the Matagi Culture

Matagi, Continued from the Heian period

We entered the mountains in the snow, fully prepared. Prepared for what? ”Matagi”. Matagi are hunters in the northeastern region and Hokkaido. The Akita Matagi is particularly famous. On our visit, we had Hideo Suzuki, an instructor at the Matagi school and a Matagi himself, navigate us through the mountains. Of course, you need permission to hunt. According to Suzuki, there are currently about 40 people enrolled in the hunting club. Hunting season starts on the 15th of November until the 15th of February. However since bears hibernate, they can only be hunted until the middle of December. After this, rabbits and other game are hunted, at times hunting for extermination purposes.

A Walk in the Mountains

Suzuki is a 9th generation Matagi. He has equipment that has been handed down in the family. On the day of the interview, it was snowing. Suzuki tells us ”Matagi and snow go hand in hand. You can hunt bears by looking for their footsteps in the snow.” ”Seems the snow was waiting for you, Nakata!”, he laughs. We walked in the mountains. Actual hunting takes about 2 hours, but the walk to the hunting grounds takes a long time. He usually enters the mountains early in the morning and walks in the mountains until late afternoon. He takes ”mochi” with him on his outings. He says that it is best as it doesn’t become hard. During the walk, Nakata asks why he hunts. Suzuki says he hunts for the meat but he also sells the hide and innards. Similarly to bear liver, the stomach can also be used for medicine.

Being Treated to Bear Soup

I could not tag along during the entire process, so we finished up after a walk around the mountain. We came back to bear soup. It is bear meat boiled in miso soup. ”It doesn’t have an odor,” Nakata commented. He is told that Akita bears do not have a strong bear odor. Suzuki points out that bear meat before hibernation is fatty, and that is exactly what we were treated to, a very tasty soup. When asked,”Which part tastes the best?”, the response was ”Actually that would be the innards.” We were also invited to try the butter ”mochi” that Suzuki always takes to the mountains. This is also an Akita original and was scrumptious. Matagi has a long history and is said to have existed since the Heian period. They have their own philosophy, religious belief, and is quite different from standard hunters. It is one of the unique cultures of Japan.


Matagi Research Museum
tel: 0186-84-2458, 67 Senbokuwatarimichikami Aniutto Akita-City Akita