The country of Japan has a startling variety of animal shows to enjoy all year long. Japan’s natural-history excursions, which were established in the early 1980s for foreign tourists, give you the chance to see more of the nation than just its typical cultural hubs. Every season of the year is a fantastic opportunity to observe nature. To see the incredible sight of 10,000–15,000 Hooded Cranes and White-naped Cranes at their annual meeting, travel to Arasaki in Kyushu in the winter. There, you can explore subtropical forests in search of endemic plants and wildlife.

A trip to Honshu in the winter is not complete without exploring the lovely mixed forests, possibly at Karuizawa, and seeing the hot-spring monkeys in Nagano Prefecture’s Hell Valley is a must. If not, head north to the Shimokita Peninsula to observe the Snow Monkeys and Japanese Serow close to the settlement of Wakinosawa. Japanese Serow may be found here. Visit Izu-numa, a sizable shallow lagoon in Miyagi Prefecture, where the majority of Japan’s geese spend the winter, on the way.

This is an equally impressive sight at dawn and night as the cranes in Kyshu. If you’re still in Hokkaido, timing your trip to coincide with the Sapporo Snow Festival in early February is ideal for visiting Akan-Mash National Park to witness Whooper Swans floating in dreamy morning mist. Visitors can observe sea ice on the Sea of Okhotsk, sea eagles, Japanese deer, red fox, and famous Red-crowned Cranes while touring the Akan-Mash, Shiretoko, and Kushiro Shitsugen National Parks.

A comparable trip timed to head north during the azaleas’ blooming season is exquisite in the summer. In contrast to the stark monochromatic of winter, summer flowers and summer birds bring the forests to life with color. While the Arasaki crane flock, swans, and sea eagles will all have moved north, there are flycatchers, warblers, cuckoos, and shrikes to hunt for instead, and the forest’s botanical diversity exceeds that of all of Europe.

A fascinating hobby that can occupy hours or even days at a time is birdwatching. In comparison to other outdoor activities, it has two key advantages. It can be done anywhere, not just in wild places, but also from a balcony or in a garden, and the equipment needed is minimal—just a field guide, a notebook, and a pair of binoculars.

In the city, you can always find birds if you go to a park, pond, or tree grove. Outside of the city, there might be farms, streams, woodlands, or mountains to discover; if you’re close to the coast, there are also options for birdwatching at sandy and rocky coasts, headlands, estuaries, and bays. Birds may be observed anywhere, including metropolitan parks, crowded airports, high-rise buildings in cities, and remote mountains. Observing them can teach you a lot about the differences between species and their preferred environments.

Most importantly, it highlights intriguing aspects of their behavior. Although unique species can migrate into urban areas, the more widespread, common generalist species tend to predominate there. On the other hand, once the city has been abandoned, various species communities will be discovered, depending on the habitat.

Being perceptive and inquisitive is essential for successful birdwatching. Even if the only species that frequent your balcony feeder are the common Eurasian Tree Sparrow and Brown-eared Bulbul, learning about their behavior will keep you entertained for hours. On the other hand, if you visit different parts of Japan, you will notice that the species vary from island to island. For example, trips from Hokkaido to Okinawa in the winter and summer may turn up 300 or more bird species.

Timing is important for some organisms. Visits to east Hokkaido in February and again in July will result in the discovery of entirely other species. On the other hand, because the majority of species are resident there, Okinawa and the Nansei Shot may be visited virtually year-round.


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