• 2023.09.14
  • The Madrid Bear
I have already written in this blog about Spain’s unofficial national animal, “el toro,” (the bull), so this article is about the bear, the official animal of Madrid, where I live. The bear appears on different certificates issued by the local government where it is used in the city’s coat of arms and logos, for example. The bear, fruit tree, and 7 stars are eye-catching don’t you think?

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 1 shows the bronze statue “Osa y Madroño,” (“Bear and Strawberry Tree”), which stands in the “Puerta del Sol” (“Gate of the Sun”) in the heart of Madrid. Spain’s starting point for all roads is at the entrance to the building with the clocktower behind the statue to the left. Photo 2 is a copy of a resident register certificate issued by the Madrid local government.
There are various theories about the origin of the bear and the 7 stars, for example, that because the royal family and nobles who lived in Toledo, the capital before Madrid, went to the area around Madrid to hunt bears, the bear was made the city’s symbol when it became the capital, or that the 7 stars and bear were included in the coat of arms as a memorial of success by Spanish forces, having been guided by the Ursa Major constellation, which includes the 7 stars (the Big Dipper), as it shone in the sky when battling Muslims in the middle ages. The bear stands up with its front paws against a “madroño” (strawberry tree), which is a favorite of bears and used to be plentiful in the area.

Photo 3

Photo 3 shows the Madrid local government logo on a service vehicle from the city’s park management bureau, with the usual bear, strawberry tree, and 7 stars.
This symbol of Madrid with its 7 stars and bear prompted the question in my mind of whether there might be some unexpected connection with Hokkaido. I understand that the name “Nanatsuboshi” (“Seven Stars”), known as brand-name rice, is imbued with a desire for the brand to shine, like Ursa Major shining in a perfectly clear night sky. And then there’s Matsuko Deluxe, its brand ambassador, promoting the rice with her grand bear-like presence and the words “It’s got almighty features that go with everything, and tastes great even after cooling down”.

There is a well-known description expressing the terror of bears, “Armed with sharp, stout claws and teeth, Matsuko Deluxe will close in on you as fast as Usain Bolt,” so as suspected, there is a connection between Matsuko Deluxe, bears, and Hokkaido.

By the way, there have been a lot of reports about attacks by bears recently, haven’t there? A male brown bear just recently killed in Kushiro is known to have attacked 66 head of cattle, and possibly attacked more, over 3 years from 2019. The bear’s code name was “OSO-18.” “Oso” is Spanish for “male bear,” which begged the question why they used Spanish. But the “Oso” comes from the place name “Osotsubetsu,” which might be the location of the first confirmed attack, and the “18” comes from the 18-cm width of its footprint.

Ursa Major is “Osa Mayor” in Spanish, which is a feminine noun, so the symbol of Madrid is an “osa” (female bear), while OSO-18 happens to be a male bear.

So, as fierce heat continues unabated, this correspondent in Spain has ended up returning to a Japan-related topic, as usual.

Photos 4

Photos 5

Photos 4 and 5 are photographic proof of the intense heat. They show the temperature displayed at the closest bus stop on the evening of August 21.


  • Susumu Yamada
  • JobSpanish and Japanese Translation

It’s been almost 37 years since I received a residence permit and work permit from the Spanish government and paid my first tax and social insurance premiums. Now that I’m at that age where I will soon go and register at the senior human resources center, I’m grateful to have this opportunity to introduce you all to this country that has taken care of me these many years.

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