When the world rang in 2019, it also prepared to usher in the Year of the Boar. But in Sasayama, a picturesque, historical city of about 42,000 nestled in rural Hyogo Prefecture about an hour by train from Osaka Station, the wild boar is a symbol of pride, part of a famous local dish and a bane to farmers. It's also a highly intelligent, aggressive animal that hunters like Yuji Enso have long pursued and respected.

"You have to be able to understand a wild boar's personality," says Enso, who heads a local hunting club. "You also need to thoroughly know the mountain terrain you're tracking the boar through. If you haven't mastered these two basic points, you won't catch them."

The hunting season for wild boar and deer began on Nov. 15 and finishes March 15. Enso and his friends, who have gun and trapping licenses, are out almost every day, tracking the animals, checking traps for any caught overnight, and trying to plot where — among Sasayama's fields, farms, forests, and mountain ranges — their targets might be heading.