Japan deployed robot monster wolves in the city of Takikawa. Here's why

Oh, Japan: where tradition runs headlong into modernity as surely as Tokyoites can chug hot corn soup from a vending machine while watching futuristic anime on their phones. The island nation of about 125 million has had a profound impact on global popular culture, at once giving us romantic visions of Edo-era samurai and all the values of martial artsand at the same time gracing us with novelties/absurdities like maid cafes, giant Gundam statues, and paid cuddling time for the lonely.   

For all its reputation as a hub of neon glitz and hi-tech savvy, a lot of people don't realize that in many ways, Japan is surprisingly low-tech. The new Administrative Reform Minister, per the Japan Times, has vowed to do away with fax machines, because believe it or not, they're still common and overused in offices, slowing down work flow. Bills have to be paid in person, at convenience stores, using cash, and debit cards are relatively new to the public. News shows don't use CG to display infographics; they use their economical cousin: cardboard on paper.

Take a recent solution to a very old problem. In the Japanese countryside, people are often plagued by denizens of the natural world, especially bears, deer, and monkeys. Hiking trails always have "mind the bears" signs to warn folks. So what better way to approach this issue than through a feat of low-tech hilarity masquerading as hi-tech ingeniousness? That's right: robot wolves.

Robot wolves, brown bears, and farmland: oh my

You heard right: robot wolves. More accurately, "robot monster wolves." In Bihoro, Takikawa, a small rural area of Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, 20 robot monster wolves have been installed to protect home and hearth, as the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) reports. Takikawa is precisely the kind of far-flung location susceptible to intrusion by local animals, specifically brown bears, which pose a modest threat not just to people, but to foodstuffs. Hokkaido is largely farmland, and farmers, who tend to be elderly, simply can't monitor their land at all times.

Enter "Monster Wolf," which looks like a dollar store Halloween costume draped over a rotating tripod that flashes red and blue lights. It growls, barks, makes human voice noises, gunshot sounds: you name it. Every 30 minutes it rotates its head, and in between it selects from a battery of 60 sounds to terrify animals. And amazingly enough, as footage on YouTube shows, it actually seems to work. Bears, deer, and monkeys can be seen racing away from it and into the underbrush.

As The Mainichi reports, the devices were developed in 2016 by Ohta Seiki, a machine-making company in the nearby town of Naie, in conjunction with Hokkaido University and Tokyo University of Agriculture. They were subsequently installed in September, 2020 by the Takikawa Municipal Government to "avoid friction between residents and bears." Since then, have at least been absolutely zero sightings of bears near the robots.