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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!

Crane shaped Origami is Japanese symbol.

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).

crane migration places in Izumi

Cranes in Izumi

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.

Izumi City Crane Observation Center

the observation deck at Izumi City Crane Observation Center

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.

A pair of cranes in Izumi city

Cranes are flying in the sky in Izumi city

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.

Minshuku Shin Tsurumi tei in Izumi

My room at Ryokan in Izumi city

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.

Futon setting in my room at Izumi's ryokan

First, unfold it where you see fit the tatami floor.

lay out futon in my room at Ryokan

Then put the blanket and the pillow on top.

Futon setting

In winter, an additional futon cover is often added on.

futon setting


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.

Dinner at Ryokan in Izumi city

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!

sunset view in Izumi city


Getting there

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).

The Crane Sightseeing Excursion Bus


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:

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.)
Payment options Cash
Mathilde Heidary

Mathilde Heidary

Hello ! My name is Mathilde, I'm French. I left Paris in March 2016 for 1 year of traveling through Japan (thanks to the Working-Holiday Visa). On the agenda: discovery of the most secret little spots of Japan. Follow the guide!

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