Bear festival recalls ancient Tohoku hunters

People in northern Japan are paying tribute to a vanishing way of life.

Each year, locals in Yamagata hold a bear festival that recalls a time when hunters roamed the area.

The purpose of the 300-year-old festival is to pray for bears’ souls and give thanks to the spirit of the mountain.

Participants reenact a bear hunt with shouts and calls.

One person even dons a bear suit to bring drama to the event.

Sales of bear meat are now banned in Japan.

Festival organizers were again unable to offer visitors traditional bear soup.