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West Japan islanders start selling boar tusks, masks online to cut waste

Mikihiro Shigenobu, right, wears a mask he made using real boar tusks. It is supposed to be worn over an ordinary mask. (Photo courtesy of Shimanami Inoshishi Katsuyoutai)

IMABARI, Ehime -- Farmers, hunters and others on islands in Japan's Seto Inland Sea have started selling wild boar tusks and masks, in addition to boar meat and leather, online in a bid to reduce waste from the extermination of the animals, which are considered pests.

    The initiative was launched by the Shimanami Inoshishi Katsuyoutai squad consisting of farmers, hunters and people with other professions on Omishima and Hakata islands in Ehime Prefecture, which fall under the jurisdiction of the city of Imabari.

    Masks manufactured by a member of the group feature real tusks -- which have a strong impact. They are produced on a made-to-order basis. Treated tusks are also sold, and the member said he hopes people will think of various ways to use them.

    The arrival of wild boars on Omishima and Hakata islands situated along the Shimanami Kaido road, which connects west Japan's Shikoku and Chugoku regions, became noticeable in around 2003, and the animals propagated rapidly on deserted arable land and in other areas. Farmers and hunting association members established the Shimanami Inoshishi Katsuyoutai team in 2010 to utilize the meat of hunted wild boars as food. Currently, they process some 250 boars annually.

    This photo provided by Shimanami Inoshishi Katsuyoutai shows an 8,000-yen (about $70) set of tusks taken from a male wild boar weighing 71 kilograms.

    Mikihiro Shigenobu, 41, who moved to Omishima Island from Tokyo in 2013, participating in a program run by the city of Imabari to revitalize the community, immediately joined the squad, and he has since paved the way to make effective use of boar leather.

    Shigenobu founded a boar leather brand named Jishac on the island in 2016, when he completed the community revitalization program. He has gone on to develop products such as wallets, bags, keychains and infant vests, utilizing the characteristics of the material, which he says is "not as hard or thick as cow skin, and tougher than the leather of cows or pigs at the same thickness."

    In addition, Shigenobu has taken charge of the sale of the wild boars' tusks, selling them through his online store at: https://minne.com/@jishac (in Japanese). The tusks are boiled as a pretreatment right after the boars are hunted. A set of four upper and lower tusks taken from the same individual boar is priced between about 4,600 yen (roughly $40) and 8,000 yen (approx. $70). Clicking on images of the tusks in the online shop shows their sizes, where each boar was hunted, its sex and the weight of the boar.

    Shigenobu said, "The tusks are pretreated well. I hope people will develop ideas for their use, such as for accessories like necklaces and smartphone stands."

    Inquiries can be made via email at: info@jishac.site (in Japanese).

    (Japanese original by Nobuto Matsukura, Imabari Local Bureau)

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