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Cranes (Tsuru in Japanese) are migratory birds that play a very important in the Japanese culture. They are often represented in old paintings, symbolizing fulfillment and hope. Unlike many other birds, cranes are much more difficult to observe. In fact, many of you have probably only seen the origami version of the bird!
But that can change! If you plan to visit Japan during winter, that is the perfect season to observe cranes. Even if you only plan to visit Tokyo, you can still easily organize a short trip to Izumi (see the article “How to Get to Izumi” for specific details).
Izumi City Crane Observation Center
The largest migration grounds in the country
Izumi is home to somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 cranes that make their annual southbound journey between mid October and December from Siberia. The birds remain here until around March every year. Estimated to be the largest both in number and types of cranes accommodated, the grounds designated as a Special Natural Monument and a Wildlife Protection Area is the official “home and migration grounds of cranes in Kagoshima Prefecture”. No one is really sure why the cranes choose this specific 245 hectares territory, but they seem to find everything they need!
For observing the migratory cranes, I highly recommend the Izumi City Crane Observation Center situated right in front of the roosting grounds. Equipped with the Observation Deck, the facility makes it an ideal spot for observing and discovering various facts about the birds.
About the cranes
Cranes ordinarily roam in a pair, a trio, or a quad – a pair being a couple, a trio and a quad being a couple with one or two chicks, respectively. The reason being that a crane stays with its mating partner for its entire live and can only lay two eggs at a time. If you spot a solo crane, this could mean that they are looking for a potential mate. It should make it even more fun to observe them with an imaginative narrative in mind as well. Fun fact: Cranes sleep with one leg in the water to help them with warmth and circulation so they can always be ready to move in case of predators. For further informations about cranes, you can check the really helpful Izumi city website.
Shin Tsurumi Tei (新ツル見亭) Ryokan
Right in front of the cranes
The best way to observe cranes is to spend the night. By booking a room at the Shin Tsurumi Tei ryokan, located just a short walk away, you will be able to follow the cranes activities until sunset and from sunrise (between 6:30am-7am). All the ryokan’s rooms have a view of the roosting grounds.
Observing the cranes is really entertaining! Their behavior changes with the sun. Just before sunset, all the cranes fly away while making a lot of noise! Once it is dark, there are no cranes left on the roosting grounds and everything becomes quiet. At dawn, cranes soar into the sky all together in search of the day’s feed ; the scene is absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful!
High class ryokan
Besides its perfect location, the ryokan is also quite comfortable! It is a family house runs by a mother and her daughters, all very welcoming! Like most other ryokans, it provides a tatami mats room with futon.
How to lay out futon
Futon is a traditional Japanese bedding. Most of time is it stowed in the closet.
First, unfold it where you see fit the tatami floor.
Then put the blanket and the pillow on top.
In winter, an additional futon cover is often added on.
I advise you to have dinner in the ryokan. First, because there is not much else in the neighborhood; second, because the food served is delicious! Both generous and light, the meal is served in the dining room with a direct view of the cranes.
It is quite unusual to live so close to cranes! I really appreciated the experience and I highly recommend it to all lovers of nature!
The Crane Sightseeing Excursion Bus goes around all the tourist attractions for ¥500 (from the beginning of December to the end of February). The Crane observation center is the second stop after Izumi JR station. The ryokan is really nearby (2 minutes on foot).
Cranes observation center: the entrance costs ¥210.
The Shin Tsurumi tei Ryokan : one night with the dinner costs ¥6,800. Add ¥1,000 for the breakfast.
Interested in visiting Izumi? You should check out the other articles dedicated to the city:
- How to Get to Izumi, Kagoshima’s Hidden Gem
- Izumi: Tea Ceremony Dressed in Kimono in a Old Samurai Residence
- Farm Stay Experience (Nouhaku) in Izumi’s Mountains
- Izumi Oyako Steak Gohan: Izumi’s Culinary Speciality
|Name||Crane Observation Center / Ryokan Shin Tsurumi Tei|
|Category||Observation Deck / Ryokan|
|Address||Sho, Izumi, Kagoshima Prefecture 899-0435, Japan|
|Access||[map]Sho, Izumi, Kagoshima Prefecture 899-0435, Japan[/map]|
|Opening Hours||Crane Observation Center：09:00-17:00 Open 7 days a week during the business period (closed from the fourth Monday of March to the end of October) / Ryokan： Check in: from 15:00; Check out: by 09:00|
|Price Range||Crane Observation Center：210 yen (Adult), 100 yen (elementary school students and junior high school students) / Ryokan：¥6,800 per night (Dinner and Breakfast incl.)|