CRANES IN JA­PANESE CUL­TURE

Bird Watching (UK) - - Bird The World -

As well as be­ing a sym­bol of peace, cranes – par­tic­u­larly the Red-crowned Crane, known lo­cally as tan­cho – have a huge cul­tural pro­file in Ja­pan. This has en­er­gised con­ser­va­tion ef­forts for the group. On Hokkaido, this all started with a sin­gle farmer. In the harsh win­ter of 1952, he be­gan feed­ing tan­chos on his land. Pub­lic in­ter­est was sparked, and feed­ing has con­tin­ued ever since. Tan­cho tourism has be­come a main­stay of the Hokkaido econ­omy, the thou­sand or so cranes ben­e­fit­ing the island econ­omy to the tune of $50 mil­lion per year.

Blue­tail flaunted its beauty. A mixed flock con­tained sev­eral re­gional en­demics: Ja­panese White-eye, Ja­panese Pygmy Wood­pecker, Ja­panese Tit, and the delectable Ryukyu Minivet. We con­tin­ued down­hill to a lake­side ‘camp­site’ com­pris­ing scat­tered hol­i­day huts. In sum­mer, this area would swarm with tourists; in win­ter, there was merely a hand­ful of Ja­panese bird­pho­tog­ra­phers and our­selves, all fo­cused on a feed­ing sta­tion. A For­est Wag­tail teetered along a log, sashay­ing its en­tire length from side to side: a ‘swish­tail’ per­haps, rather than a wag­tail. A White-backed Wood­pecker swept in, ur­gency on pied wings. Grey Bunt­ings de­murely munched on seeds, flanked by crisply el­e­gant Yel­low-throated Bunt­ings, re­plete with ban­dit mask and punky hairdo. And thus, via an­other night in that anony­mous Tokyo ho­tel, to east­ern Hokkaido. This bo­real island with a purview over Siberian Rus­sia dif­fered markedly from its south­ern cousin. Where Kyushu oozed warmth and bam­boo,

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