Searching for ‘tanchos’ Our primary goal was to spend time with another globally threatened bird – one that epitomises Japan in winter. Red-crowned Cranes or tanchos are block-painted with a minimalist colour scheme of ivory, black and scarlet. Tanchos walk loftily and stride gracefully, routinely bowing serpentine necks, much as Japanese people indicate respect. When hormones rage, cranes leap into the air, transforming their wings into origami creations. These tanchos were the overriding reason for our trip. We saw 300 birds, including 100-strong groups at Tsurui and Akan – and they were just as sensational as hoped. Our only regret was that weather conditions conspired against us enjoying the spectacle of a frozen dawn overlooking the Kottaro River: as light seeps in, dissipating river mist unveils hundreds of roosting cranes. A reason to return. From the tanchos, we headed north. En route, we bumped into the soughtafter Pallas’s Rosefinch and fearless, shaggy-coated Red Foxes. Arriving at Yoroushi Onsen shy of dusk, we took tea (quite some ceremony!) and awaited the Blakiston’s Fish Owls. Following their inimitable spectacle and the ensuing banquet, we retired. Surely things could not get better. How wrong we were.
We saw 300 birds, including 100-strong groups at Tsurui and Akan – and they were just as sensational as hoped Hooded Cranes form in huge flocks on Kyushu Hokkaidos great birds are not just the big ones