1. Day 1 Depart UK

    • After arriving at Tokyo’s Haneda airport, we immediately transfer to the domestic terminal to catch our flight to Miyazaki in the south of Japan. We drive to Hyuga and spend the remainder of the afternoon birding in the area.
    • Accommodation: Hyuga, 1-night on full board basis.
    • Today we go birding along the coast at Kadogawa searching for common coastal species including Temminck’s cormorant and the eastern race of blue rock thrush, along with common and widespread Japanese species such as brown-eared bulbul, white-cheeked starling, large-billed crow, black-eared kite. In the afternoon we drive inland to Mi-ike where we overnight.
    • Accommodation: Mi-ike, 1-night on full board basis.
    • First thing in the morning we explore the forests around Lake Mi-ike. We then continue via the grand shrine at Kirishima to the Sendai river crossing to look for riverine species,
    • Accommodation: Izumi, 2-nights on full board basis.
    • Today’s target is the spectacle of approximately 14,000 cranes, mostly hooded crane, with many white-naped crane. Some searching may also reveal sandhill crane and common crane at Arasaki.
    • Local rivers host great cormorant, little grebe and flocks of Eurasian teal and Eurasian wigeon.
    • At Kogawa Reservoir there could be wintering mandarin duck, white-bellied green pigeon in the adjacent forest, and Ryukyu minivet.
    • Dependent on flight time, we may make a dawn visit to the crane roost at Arasaki before driving to Kagoshima Airport after breakfast. On the way to the airport we look for flocks of russet sparrows and white-cheeked starlings on roadside wires, and if very lucky green pheasant at field margins.
    • After arriving in Tokyo we transfer by road for three hours to Kambayashi Onsen where we overnight.
    • Accommodation: Kambayashi Onsen, 1-night on full board basis.
    • After breakfast we walk just over a kilometre to see the famous snow monkeys (Japanese macaque) at Jigokudani Yaen-Koen. The walk may provide us with the local races of coal and long-tailed tit, varied tit, goldcrest, Japanese pygmy woodpecker, and in the river – brown dipper.
    • While enjoying the bathing behaviour of the Japanese macaques we also look on the hillsides for the other endemic mammal of the area, the Japanese serow.
    • After lunch we drive to our hotel at Karuizawa and enjoy some late afternoon birding.
    • Accommodation: Karuizawa, 3-nights on full board basis.
    • This area holds most wintering forest species, including great spotted woodpecker (a potential split), Japanese pygmy woodpecker, Japanese green woodpecker, with possibilities of Japanese waxwing and accentor.
    • The reservoir in the Myogi valley often has a flock of wintering mandarin duck, and the surrounding forests there and at Karuizawa are the best chance of the scarce and secretive endemic copper pheasant.
    • At Saku Chosei-ike we look for wintering common pochard, tufted duck, eastern spot-billed duck and possibly Baikal teal.
    • Today is mainly a travel day but hopefully with a fine finish. We make the four hour drive back to Tokyo airport for our flight to Kushiro on the island of Hokkaido.
    • We then drive to our hotel in Yoroushi to look for Blakiston’s fish owl in the river behind the lodge. Usually regarded as the world’s largest owl, this magnificent but declining bird could be the highlight of the trip for some as we watch it catching fish in the wintry landscape. Our traditional Japanese lodge has hot spring baths, excellent food and Blakiston’s fish owls visiting the back garden.
    • Accommodation: Yoroushi, 2-nights on full board basis.
    • We begin the day at Yoroushi looking for brown dipper, crested kingfisher, great spotted and Japanese pygmy woodpeckers.
    • We then drive to Lake Mashu for spectacular scenery from the caldera rim (the most beautiful lake view in Japan), and spend time scanning the caldera for sika deer, white-tailed eagle, Steller’s eagle, northern goshawk, Eastern buzzard and northern raven. Steller’s eagle is possibly the world’s most spectacular eagle. If we are fortunate to see a Steller’s next to a white-tailed eagle then the size comparison will really highlight what a large bird it is with its huge yellow beak.
    • We go to the lake shore of Lake Kussharo for whooper swan and the adjacent woodland for thrushes, woodpeckers, tits etc.
    • After early birding near the river, we drive to the Notsuke Peninsula to look for both species of eagle, short-eared owl, Asian rosy finch, and offshore winter grebes and waterfowl.
    • Gulls are mostly slaty-backed but also glaucous, and glaucous-winged may occur. During our drive south to Nemuro we look for eagles and other raptors along the way.
    • Accommodation: Nemuro, 1-night on full board basis.
    • Weather permitting we take a boat trip to look for seabirds that could include ancient murrelet, least and crested auklets, spectacled and pigeon guillemots, harlequin, red-breasted merganser and sea eagles. If we are lucky we may find a sea otter close to the boat.
    • If the boat trip is not possible then the headlands and bays around Nemuro will be used to look for some of these species. In the afternoon we drive to our hotel in Tsurui.
    • Accommodation: Tsurui, 1-night on a full board basis.
    • We make an early morning excursion to a riverine roost of red-crowned crane. The river has geothermal water so doesn’t freeze and to see the cranes standing in the river with mist rising from the water is a truly atmospheric experience. We also look out for red fox, sika deer and crested kingfisher.
    • Woodland areas will be checked for roosting Ural owls before visiting the afternoon feeding site of red-crowned cranes at Akan Tancho no Sato for photography of cranes and white-tailed eagles.  A great way to finish our time on Hokkaido before we head to Kushiro airport for our flight back to Tokyo.
    • Please note: Due to an outbreak of bird-flu in January 2017, feeding at the Akan Tancho no Sato site is currently suspended until further notice. Whilst we will still be able to visit the site during this suspension our time here will be shortened and a visit to Kushiro City Museum will be included.
    • Accommodation: Tokyo, 1-night on full board basis.
  2. Day 15 Fly back to the UK

All prices are per person and include:

  • Services of the naturalist leader
  • Flights
  • Transfers
  • Accommodation
  • Meals
  • Guided activities


Mid-range hotels; all rooms have an en suite bathroom.


All meals are included.


With over 600 species of bird recorded in Japan, we will be exploring the varied habitats in search of spectacular cranes, and fascinating endemics which include Japanese woodpecker, copper pheasant and Japan’s national bird – the green pheasant.

  • Red-crowned crane
  • White-naped crane
  • Japanese murrelet
  • Steller’s sea eagle


One of most iconic wildlife experiences in Japan is a visit to Jigokudani Yoen-Koen to observe Japanese macaque, also known as snow monkeys, bathing in the naturally occurring hot springs.

  • Japanese macaque
  • Japanese serow
  • Sika deer
  • red fox

Boat trips

We will take boat trip at Nemuro to look for seabirds that could include ancient murrelet, least and crested auklets, spectacled and pigeon guillemots, harlequin, red-breasted merganser and sea eagles. If we are lucky we may find a sea otter close to the boat.


Photographic opportunities on this trip are good to excellent, especially when visiting the bathing Japanese macaque, and viewing the crane spectacles.


Most of the walking can be described as easy and is mostly on flat terrain.  The walk to the snow monkey site is 1.5 kilometres and although it is uphill it is on a good quality trail and is not difficult. Conditions underfoot may vary and, particularly on Hokkaido, this may involve snow at times.  We recommend waterproof walking boots with good tread for grip on snow, ice and mud.


Price includes return scheduled flights London – Tokyo – London. plus domestic flights between Miyazaki, Kagoshima and Kushiro.

Ground transport

Ground transportation is by minibus or 4 wheel drive vehicle, with driver.

  1. November 2016
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