Last fall, the big concern in Yamanaka—a hot-spring town in the mountains of Ishikawa, Japan—was not the coronavirus. It was bears.

One let himself into a shopping mall a few towns over. Another took a nap in my friend Nimaida-san’s persimmon tree. Every evening, an announcement over the town’s loudspeaker urged residents to gather the persimmons and chestnuts in their gardens so they wouldn’t attract the bears. It turns out the bears were hungry because of an acorn shortage.