Blakiston’s Fish Owl and White-naped and Hooded Cranes by Mark Curley

Tour Dates: Friday 1st – Wednesday 13th December 2023 (Tokyo to Tokyo) 
Tour Price: £4,999 estimated plus flights
Estimated International Flight Price: London to Tokyo approx. £900 return
Internal Flights: Tokyo – Kyushu – Hokkaido – Tokyo approx: £400pp
Deposit: £600 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £300 – £400
Minimum Number: 8 people
Maximum Group Size: 8 people

Target Species
Birds: Steller’s Sea Eagle, Red-crowned Crane, White-naped Crane, Hooded Crane, Blakiston’s Fish Owl, Black-faced Spoonbill, Harlequin Duck, Ancient Murrelet, Green Pheasant, Copper Pheasant, Japanese Woodpecker, Japanese Grosbeak, Dusky Thrush, Chestnut-eared Bunting, Black-faced Bunting, Japanese Accentor and many more!!
Mammals: Sable, Japanese Hare, Japanese Macaque, Japanese Serow, Racoon Dog and Common Seal

This 12 night tour visits three of the five main islands of Japan and focuses on the most iconic birds and bird rich spectacles that this fascinating country has to offer! A winter birding tour to Japan surely has to be on every birder’s bucket list!?
Japan has some of the most impressive birds in the world, whether it be Cranes dancing in the Snow, the spectacular sight of numerous Steller’s Sea Eagles congregating on the sea ice or seeing the huge Blakiston’s Fish Owl hunting an icy river at night, this tour ticks all the boxes!

ACCOMMODATION: 12 nights in Japan
1 night in Tokyo, 3 nights Kyushu Island (2 nights Kagoshima & 1 night Ryokan), 3 nights Hokkaido Island (1 night Tsurui & 2 nights Yuyado Daiichi), 5 nights Honsu Island (1 night near Haneda airport, 2 nights Karuizawa, 1 night Kasai Seaside Park & 1 night near Narita Airport.
Inclusive Meals: Full board

Day 1: Arrival
On arrival into Tokyo at Haneda International Airport we will take the short transfer to our hotel where we will check in. Dependent on flight times we may visit a local park for birding before meeting with our local guide at dinner. Overnight Tokyo

DAY 2: Tokyo – Island of Kyushu
This morning we will take the short transfer to the airport for our internal flight to Kagoshima and the southern most island of Kyushu. On arrival we will head towards the world renowned Arasaki Crane Reserve, but first we will make a stop to do some forest birding. Here, we hope to find species such as Japanese Buzzard, Japanese Woodpecker, Ryukyu Minivet and Olive-backed Pipit. A visit to a nearby reservoir should also produce some good views of Mandarin Duck as well as Northern Goshwak overhead.
By early evening we will arrive at the Arasaki Crane Reserve and we will be in position in good time to witness the amazing spectacle of thousands of Hooded Cranes and White-naped Cranes coming on to roost. The sound alone will be quite incredible and it is sure to be a memorable evening. Overnight Izumi, Kagoshima. 

DAY 3: Arasaki Crane Reserve
Today we will be up early for some pre-breakfast birding near our hotel and then we will return to the Arasaki Crane Reserve. We will have plenty of time to enjoy some spectacular viewing opportunities of the Hooded Cranes and White-naped Cranes and there will be good photographic opportunities also.
We will take time to carefully scan the huge flocks for other Crane species as there are often small numbers of Common Crane or Sandhill Crane amongst the commoner Hooded and White-naped Cranes. Rarer vagrants are also possible with both Siberian and Demoiselle Crane having been seen here in the past.
During the afternoon we will do some birding nearby where we hope to find species such as Russet Sparrow, Daurian Jackdaw and a good selection of Buntings such as Chestnut-eared, Black-faced and Rustic Bunting. We will also try for the sulky Ruddy-breasted Crake at another spot where we should also find Chinese Penduline Tit, Japanese Grosbeak and the hugely impressive Green Pheasant! Overnight in Izumi, Kagoshima. 

DAY 4: Kogawa Dam – Hikawa and Kumagawa Rivers
After breakfast we will drive just 30 minutes to the Kogawa Dam where we should find Mandarin Ducks and White-bellied Green Pigeon. We will also be looking for Crested Kingfisher, Japanese Woodpecker, Black-eared Kite as well as the robusta race of Grey Wagtail and more buntings.
By lunchtime we should have arrived at the river habitats where we should find a good selection of gulls including Black-tailed Gull, Vega Gull, Heuglin’s Gull and Pallas’s Gull. However, the key bird we will be looking for here is the very rare Saunder’s Gull and Black-faced Spoonbill. There should also be a good selection of wintering shorebirds to keep us busy! Overnight Onsen Ryokan

Harlequin Duck by Koji Niiya

DAY 5: Kagoshima – Hokkaido Island, Kushiro
After some pre-breakfast birding we will take a short drive to visit Lake Miike & Kirishima Jingu Shrine. The forest here is great for birding and we should find a good selection of quality bird including Ryukyu Minivet, both Pygmy and Japanese Woodpeckers, as well as a possibility of the much rarer White-backed Woodpecker. We will also look for Long-tailed and Japanese Tits, Grey Bunting, Yellow-throated (Elegant) Bunting and Red-flanked Bluetail.
After lunch, we will return to the Kagoshima Airport, for our flight back to Tokyo and another flight to Hokkaido Island. We should finally arrive at our destination in the early evening. Overnight in Tsurui. 

DAY 6: Tsurui – Lake Kussharo
This morning we head out early to Otowa Bridge, a site where we hope to add a new species of crown to our trip, the beautiful Red-crowned Crane. During the morning, the birds will be active after roosting and there should be some great photo opportunities. we will then return for breakfast at the hotel before heading to the Tsurui Crane Reserve where we will have more time to watch and photograph the elegant dancing displays in the snow of this iconic species. After lunch, we will visit a site where we can see Whooper Swans before spending the afternoon birding a woodland where we should find numerous interesting races of more familiar species such as Eurasian Jay, Eurasian Nuthatch, and Eurasian Bullfinch as well as both Grey-headed and White-backed Woodpecker.
Later in the evening, once we have checked into our hotel, we will be hoping that one of the key birds of the tour pays us a visit; the hugely impressive Blakiston’s Fish Owl! We have an excellent chance of seeing and photographing this very rare species just outside our hotel! Overnight Yuyado Daiichi. 

DAY 7: Lake Furen – Ochiishi Boat trip
Today we visit the Notsuke Peninsula and Lake Furen, where, once again, we will be searching for another iconic species and perhaps one of the most impressive raptors in the world, the mighty Steller’s sea-Eagle! It is sure to be one of the highlights of the trip and we should see numerous birds alongside White-tailed Eagles.
During the afternoon, we will take a boat trip in Ochiishi where we will be looking for Harlequin Duck and Long-tailed Duck, as well as various species of alcids including Spectacled Guillemot, Pigeon Guillemot (including the distinctive snowi form) and Ancient Murrelet. Red-faced Cormorant is also possible and for the gull enthusiast we should find a good selection of species including Glaucous Gull and Slaty-backed Gull.
Once back at our hotel, we will have a second opportunity to look for Blakinston’s Fish Owl in case we were unsuccessful the previous evening. Overnight at Yuyado Daiichi.

Steller’s Sea Eagle by Koji Niiya

DAY 8: Youroushi- Akan Crane Centre – Kushiro – Tokyo
This morning we will Explore Yoroushi, where two key species we will look for are Brown Dipper and perhaps Solitary Snipe. We will then head to the Akan International Crane Center where we have another opportunity to watch Red-crowned Cranes and to saviour the views as it will be our last time we see this stunning bird.
After lunch we will take another flight from Kushiro back to Tokyo and Haneda Airport. Overnight near Haneda Airport. 

DAY 9: Snow Monkeys – Karuizawa
After breakfast we will travel to the Japan Alps where we will visit the world famous “Snow Monkeys” or Japanese Macaques as they pose in the snow and bath in the hot springs. This is a very popular site visited by locals and tourists. Although the main focus of the morning will of course be the monkeys there will also be some bird distractions too with various Tit species, Eurasian Treecreeper and sometimes even Alpine Accentors.
After we have had our fill of Snow Monkey photo opportunities, we will then we continue driving up into the mountains of Karuizawa where we stop for the night. Overnight Karuizawa

DAY 10: Karuizawa
The mountain forests of Karuizawa hold some excellent birds in a scenic landscape. Here, we will look for Japanese Grosbeak, Japanese Woodpecker, Pygmy Woodpecker, Eurasian Long-tailed Rosefinch, Japanese Tit, Varied Tit and with a little luck, we may find the shy and very attractive Copper Pheasant. Other commoner species include Hawfinch, Eurasian Siskin and Bullfinch.
After lunch we will visit Chikumagawa River where we will make a specific effort to find Long-billed Plover and the striking Japanese Wagtail. A nearby reservoir may produce the odd Smew among the more common Tufted Duck and Common Pochard and the rarer Baikal Teal is also possible here. Overnight Karuizawa.  

DAY 11: Kazruizawa – Uramyogi – Tokyo
After a final morning birding in the mountain forests of Kazruizawa we will head towards Tokyo stopping en route at Uramyogi. The scenery here is very impressive and a look at the river May reveal Brown Dipper and with luck, Japanese Accentor and Mountain Hawk-Eagle too.
We will continue our journey and should arrive back in Tokyo during the evening. Overnight Night Kasai Seaside Park

Japanese Woodpecker by Mark Curley

DAY 12: The Greater Tokyo region – Kasai Seaside Park – Ukishima Marsh
This morning we will be birding the Kasai Seaside Park where we will turn our birding attention to wildfowl. Greater Scaup, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck and Eurasian Wigeon are commonly found in large numbers as well as Eastern Spot-billed Duck. The parkland has good populations of the commoner Japanese species and photography opportunities are excellent. Species we should find easily include Dusky Thrush, Brown-headed Thrush, Pale Thrush, Bull-headed Shrike, Daurian Redstart, Japanese Bush-Warbler, Japanese White-eye, Brown-eared Bulbul, White-cheeked Starling and Asian Azure-winged Magpie.
In the late afternoon we will visit Ukishima Marsh which can be a good site to see raptors such as Hen Harrier, Merlin, Eastern Marsh Harrier and Eastern Buzzard. Overnight Narita Airport area.

DAY 13: Departure
Dependent in flight times, there may be an opportunity to visit the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple before transferring to the airport where our Japanese adventure concludes.

Leader: Wise Birding leader and local guides
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin en-suite rooms, all meals, bottled water, all entrance fees, ground transport, boat trip and services of leaders
Not included in cost: International airfare and internal flights, travel insurance, alcoholic drinks and any airport/visa fees
Accommodation: Very comfortable hotels / lodges
Single Supplement: TBC
Transport: Coach and driver throughout
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
Much of the birding will be just short walks from our transport ( 1-2 Km) and any walking will be on relatively flat roads or wide tracks. On some occasions there will be walks on narrower forest trails. Snow and ice are regular hazardswhen walking anywhere. The longest walk we are likely to take is when visiting the Snow Monkey site and this is approximately a 5 km round trip.
Climate: Cold and some snow is likely. Temperatures ranging from 0°C -10°C in the coldest areas and warmer on Kyushu with average temps. from 4°C to 10°C
Tour Start Point: Tokyo airport, Japan
Tour End Point: Tokyo airport, Japan
Suggested Airlines: British Airways or Japan Airlines