The only aspect of this bizarre famine that historians really know for sure is that the Hachinohe chroniclers of the day remembered it as the “wild boar famine” (inoshishi kegachi) of 1749. From what can be pieced together from the few available sources, thousands of peasants from Hachinohe died when an intensification of slash-and-burn farming, fueled by economic growth during the Tokugawa period (1600–1868), combined with terrestrial and climatological environmental changes and converged on this small northeastern domain. This convergence disrupted local agricultural cycles, caused food shortages, and, ultimately, pitted the human population against wild boar in a life-or-death struggle for survival. Like other domains, Hachinohe had faced worsening economic conditions throughout the eighteenth century, and so it took advantage of the commercialization of the economy by sponsoring cash-crop farming in the form of soybean cultivation to meet the growing financial demands of doling out retainer stipends and paying the other high costs of life in the Tokugawa polity. As peasants cleared new swaths of land for soybean cultivation, however, they in turn sparked changes in the land that led to an explosion of the wild boar population. Wild boar thrived in the newly deforested terrain—a terrain that, with its ample brush and many tuberous plants, supplied them with shelter and food.

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